Prince Armani wasn’t optimistic when he submitted his song “Another Cold Summer” to be in an upcoming Spike Lee project. The 24-year-old Eastside rapper had entered that kind of cattle call before, and it always ended in disappointment.
“At first I thought, ‘I know how those things work,’ ” Armani said. “But then I called my dad and he said, ‘Why not take a chance?’ ”
Lee, who solicited songs through his various social media outlets, hand-picked “Another Cold Summer” to use in She’s Gotta Have It, Lee’s upcoming TV adaptation of his 1986 debut film.
“Spike’s actually a really cool dude,” Armani said. “His manager called me and told me he loved the track. … The rest is history.”
Armani’s most recent mixtape, Mo Black Vibes, draws inspiration from Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues, a 1990 drama set within Brooklyn’s African-American community. His preceding mixtape, Black Vibes Matter, released last year, dealt with issues in the black community such as class, police relations, and family.
Armani’s work resembles sounds you’d hear at a ’90s house party: The drums have boom-bap undertones that set the backdrop for his storytelling style reminiscent of a time when the biggest argument in the hip-hop community was Nas vs. Jay Z.
In “If Pac Was Alive,” the Eastside rapper calls himself “king of the lyrics and the wordplay” while mirroring Tupac’s message of love and power to the black community.
It is no surprise that Armani cites Shakur as his biggest influence and the ’90s as his favorite era of music to sample. Throughout his seven mixtapes, he’s sampled greats such as Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder, A Tribe Called Quest, and more.
“I sample pretty much every time [I make a beat] because that’s what hip-hop started on,” he said. “ I never particularly liked the radio, but if it’s dope, I’ll sample it.”
In 2011, Armani had a deal on the table with a label in Houston that fell through due to various reasons outside his control.
“I wanted to quit because that made me feel like [a rap career] wasn’t meant to be,” he said. “But after a while, I took that as me needing to work harder.”
Since then, he’s performed at local at venues like Tomcats West, The Aardvark, Dallas’s Quixotic World, and other clubs. He said he has a love/hate relationship with Fort Worth and admits that he hasn’t always vibed with the hip-hop fans in the city.
“People just don’t really care about if your music is great,” he said. “What I’m trying to do doesn’t necessarily fit, so I don’t get much recognition.”
Because of this perceived slight, he said, he’s making an effort to get out on the road. Last year, he performed outside of Texas for the first time, at Brooklyn Mecca in New York. He’s also been busy recording his debut album, The Concrete Rose Theory, themed after a Tupac poem that describes a rose growing through concrete. On the record, Armani rotates the point of view among the characters he’s created. The songs, as the album’s title suggests, are first-person narratives about overcoming your circumstances. The album is set to be released later this month. Last week, Armani released a B-sides album, Flowrs (Side A), featuring songs that didn’t make the cut for The Concrete Rose Theory.
“I want [the recording] to be bigger than just an album,” he said. “It’s going to be a message: It doesn’t matter where you come from. You can be successful. If the impossible, like a rose growing out of concrete, happens, then that shows to me we can all be roses.”
Armani hopes that his Spike Lee encounter and new album will take his music to new heights.
“When people start saying my name along with other greats, then I’ll feel like I did something,” he said.