Platinum hip-hop artist Nas said it best, “Hip-hop is dead.”
With the plethora of catchy club music, it seems that hip-hop is becoming more about one-hit wonders than lyrics and genuine talent.
Although legendary hits by Tupac Shakur and Easy-E are being replaced by songs like Da Shop Boyz’ “Party Like a Rock Star” and DJ Unk’s “Walk It Out,” there is an artist who is clawing his way through the meaningless tunes and trying to bring back the old face of rap.
Glendale resident R-Mean, 27, born Armin Hariri, has had his hand in the rap game for almost 10 years and his lyrics are comparable to those of Eminem and Kanye West.
His first album, titled Broken Water, was released in April 2005 and sold nearly 11,000 copies. Hariri boasts these sales numbers occurred without the help of a label or distributors.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about R-Mean, aside from his songs, is the fact that he’s not your typical from-the-Bronx up-and-coming rapper.
Although he was born in California, when he was less than a year old, Hariri and his family moved to a small city in the Netherlands called Nijmegen, which is about 70 miles from Amsterdam, where his father’s family lived and where he owned his business.
R-Mean’s Iranian Baha’i father passed away when he was only a year old leaving his mother, of Armenian descent, to raise him and his older brother.
Growing up, Hariri’s big passion was basketball.
He was so dedicated and talented on the court that at 15, he was chosen to be drafted to the Pre-professional Dutch National team.
“I was completely into basketball,” said Hariri. “I was a baller.”
Unfortunately, because Hariri started playing basketball at such a young age, the strain on his developing knees caused serious damage.
A season before joining the Dutch National team, his condition became so bad, he was unable to participate in a game without sitting down between plays.
Despite the pain, Hariri put his passion for basketball before his health.
“I didn’t want to quit,” said Hariri. “I was stupid and hard-headed and I kept playing and my knees just got worse.”
Because of his decision to ignore his deteriorating knees, the condition worsened and he was forced to quit playing basketball forever. The knee braces he has worn for 10 years are reminders of his early passion.
When asked if his decision to continue playing despite his knee problems were his biggest regret, Hariri said, “It’s part of my life and it makes me who I am. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change anything.”
After dealing with the devastating reality that he would not be able to pursue his dream, Hariri’s other love, music, began to play a bigger role in his life.
“At the time, I never thought I would find anything I would love more than basketball, then I started writing for myself here and there and next thing you know, I was rapping,” he said.
At 18, after his high school graduation, Hariri and his mother moved back to California and he began taking his musical career more seriously.
His debut album sparked doubt among those who had never heard of an Armenian rapper, but regardless, it was an instant hit.
In his controversial song “Open Wounds,” R-Mean expresses the pain and years of suffering endured by the Armenian population during the Genocide in 1915.
“They had us walking and walking in the blistering sun/ sands of the deserts as far as our vision can run/ They had us walking in circles/ Walk till we starve/ Oh Lord, I hate ’em/ Forgive me, it’s wrong but I’m scarred/ They planted the seeds of hate in my heart/ It keeps growing/ My heartbeat’s slowing/ My heart just keeps hoping/ Cuz we’ll never, ever, give up on our cause/ Cuz we owe it to all the people we lost.”
Although the powerful words portray the message imbedded in the hearts of most people of Armenian heritage, this song sparked negative remarks from some fans who claimed that R-Mean did not have a right to discuss an event like the genocide because he himself was not fully Armenian.
“Yeah, I made a song about the genocide and it was something I did from the heart,” said Hariri. “I am Armenian, whether they want it or not.”
Despite the negative energy from skeptics, R-Mean is here to make history in hip-hop.
“I’m not trying to represent [myself] as an Armenian rapper,” said Hariri. “They put me in that box and now it’s hard to get out of it.
R-Mean has collaborated with several well-known artists including The Game and Chino XL and has opened shows for Nas: Bone, Thugs ‘n’ Harmony and Tyrese.
Hariri entered a contest last August held by G-Unit Records and YouTube.com which gave aspiring rappers the chance to enter a music video and have it voted on by judges, including 50 Cent, and fans. The first place prize was a single deal with G-Unit.
Out of thousands of contestants, R-Mean was chosen to be in the top 20 by judges and finally won second place through fan votes.
Featuring his newest mix tape album “Jackin For Beats,” R-Mean will be holding a concert on Saturday at Beyond The Stars Palace in Glendale at 417 ´ N. Brand Blvd.
The show will be hosted by Tha GoodFellas from radio station 93.5 KDAY and will include other up-and-coming stars such as Josephina and Duce One.
Tickets are on sale for $20 and can be purchased online at
www.myspace.com/pentagon and www.ItsMySeat.com