Armani Caesar was introduced to Griselda Records’ fans in March as the independent record label’s first female signee. For fans of the gritty raps and boom bap beats that have become commonly associated with label leaders Westside Gunn, Benny The Butcher and Conway The Machine, Caesar’s breezy hooks, suggestive rhymes and dance-ready sound may have come as a surprise. However, for Caesar, her fans and Buffalo natives, the partnership was the natural next step in a collaborative history with the pioneering trio that spans over a decade.
“When I first started rapping as a teenager, I met Benny and Conway at a studio and we ended up in a booth together, all rapping together,” she told HipHopDX. “So, a lot of people don’t know that we’ve known each other for 10+ years, and it’s kinda like working with family now.”
“It wasn’t like a big transition, and they are some of the top lyricists, to me, period. So, it was good that I was able to get that training young and sharpen my pen, for me to be the artist that I am now”
After taking a break to build up her online boutique, Caesar came back into the music industry full-force, releasing her Pretty Girls Get Played Too EP in 2018 and linking back up with Westside, which led to her newly inked Griselda deal.
“We went off on our own separate ways for a little bit,” she explained. “Everybody wanted to do their own thing. And then we came back to the drawing board, it just happened that way. I guess it was God’s plan.”
As a Buffalo native herself, Caesar says hometown heroes Westside, Conway and Benny have had a major impact on the area’s local Hip Hop sound.
“It’s definitely more of the Griselda-style [in Buffalo],” she said. “I think Westside did a great job on honing that lane that we’ve tapped and started to make it a lot more popular.
“Really, I can’t say that anybody’s been doing that [style] before [them]. That style is kind of like an A$AP Mob, or Wu-Tang Clan, but there wasn’t really a lot of people that were doing it. So, it’s good to be part of a movement that’s actually innovating a whole style of sound.”
On her most recent releases, Caesar confidently shows out for the female experience — gliding across springy beats as she raps about leaving her unfaithful man on Pretty Girls Get Played Too, lusts over sparkly jewelry in “Follow The Diamonds” and flaunts her sexuality in “Yum Yum.”
Although Caesar says Westside is counting on her to expand Griselda’s reach with party-ready hits and a new perspective, she considers herself first and foremost a lyricist — a value that’s especially evident in her freestyles.
“I grew up rapping on Alchemist beats, so it hasn’t been a huge transition. But I’ve been doing a lot [more fun] songs, like club songs or like female songs. And the vision that West had was, he wanted somebody that was able to do everything,” she said. “They’ve already been placed in spots, so they’re able to, now, kinda make me the wildcard, because I can do anything. I can do hard beats, I can get on a trap beat, or a pop beat.
“[Westside] trusts my ear and I trust his vision. From the beginning, I never wanted to be put into a box or just be one type of artist. I love sampling sounds and trying out different cadences and rhyming styles and I think that it’s important for me, as an artist, to be completely well-rounded. I wanna be able to conquer every genre and every style.”
Later this year, she plans to show off that versatility with her Griselda Records debut album. However, the project will be preceded with a collaborated EP with the boys, to “shut everybody up real quick.”
“I’m dropping an EP first, that’ll be strictly for Griselda fans, and then my album will be a mixture of that,” she explained. “I’ll still have the features from the guys, and I’ll have features from different [genre] artists and it’ll be more of the sound that people are used to hearing from me.
“I think that it’s important the people remember that although I can make the fun songs, I am a lyricist first and I do like to rap. Like, I love Hip Hop, period. This first [EP] — because there was such an uproar about be getting singed to Westside — this first project will just be, let’s shut everybody up real quick.”
Check back in on HipHopDX for Part 2 of Caesar’s interview soon.