Mass media has identified hip-hop music from Philly over the past 20 years with acts like Eve, Kurupt, TLC, Beanie Sigel, Boyz II Men, The Roots, Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff. A new wave of musicians are radically transforming the scene, revealing that The City of Brotherly Love’s talent still thrives, garnering international notoriety for new school acts like Meek Mill, Tone Trump, Young Chris, and even Santigold whose fusion of reggae, electronic and hip-hop are changing the landscape and the perception of the Philadelphia music scene. Enters Arch Millie, whose candid music is interwoven with authenticity and straddles the line that maintains the essence of gritty rap music, while staying true to ideas and concepts that educate through compelling and sometimes heart wrenching life experiences. This incites his die hard fans, both locally and internationally to identify and grow with him—and it’s no minor feat. With an aggressive ambition to make a mark in the industry, he’s got a few tricks (and tattoos) up his shrewd sleeve. Arch Millie has a disarming presence, and as he scoots the chair back and sits across from me in this downtown Philly coffee shop, he firmly shakes my hand like the perfect gentleman. On the surface he’s badass—the groupies would agree, but his charm, perceptiveness and charisma are that of an authentically noble leader. This quality is what makes him extraordinarily different. He is riding the crest of a wave at the forefront of not just hip-hop music, but a culture. We exchanged a word or two about his humble past, intriguing present and promising future music. Read on.
JOI JETSON: Tell me a little bit about the beginning of your career. How long have you been rhyming?
ARCH MILLIE: I’ve been in love with rap since before I could walk. I was inspired by artists like Rakim, Boogie Down, Doc, NWA, Run DMC, Special Ed and all of them…
JOI JETSON: Tell me about your first experience in the studio.
ARCH MILLIE: I think his name was Al, the first guy I was in the studio with. Me and my little brother, we had a group. We were getting ready for a talent show, and then I started working with a guy named LE Square, and he was doing a lot of production for me. So my first experience was marvelous. I was around a lot of older people that were into music and I was just motivated to compete with that at a very young age.
JOI JETSON: How old were you?
ARCH MILLIE: I think I was around 12.
JOI JETSON: Was your family very supportive of your choice in music as a career?
ARCH MILLIE: They were all very supportive of me and my little brother—my whole family was. I mean we would go to every talent show in Philly, to every single talent show that they had, you know those talent shows—the ones were whoever sells the most tickets—I mean we were there, we would win every talent show.
JOI JETSON: Did you and your brother have a group? What was the group’s name?
ARCH MILLIE: Me, my brother and my two sisters we had a group, it was called “2 plus 2.” [Laughs] We were called that first, then me and my brother Jihad formed a group called Collision… and from Collision I became a solo artist. My love for my craft showed me was that music was my life, it wasn’t everybody’s life. It was like everyone that was doing it at the time, they grew out of it while I grew into it. The more they grew out of it, the more I grew into it.
JOI JETSON: Did you always know that you were going to be an artist? Was there any point in your life that you were like ‘Yeah, I’m going to go to college…’ and pursue a corporate route?
ARCH MILLIE: I never felt like I was going to go to college, even though I went—I went for like a year. My world was around music. I felt like music is just me. I never saw myself doing anything but music. I think just by me taking music so seriously, and doing it for so long, I developed a corporate mentality and a business mentality to understand and speak the language in the music and entertainment industry.
JOI JETSON: Let’s go into that. How did you develop those skills.
ARCH MILLIE: I developed those skills through trials and tribulations, by paying my dues, and making mistakes and going back to look at the mistakes I made, and correcting them. Through that process, you start speaking the language. From paying studio time, to paying for beats, to telling producers that it’s a mutual benefit—where if, I’m wrapping on your beats why should I pay for them? When I still have to pay for pressin’ up CDs, and to put them out— ‘So I’m pretty much branding your name, so why am I payin’ you for your beats?’ And it made sense to them, because they saw that I was investin’ in myself at a young age.
JOI JETSON: Young age like what?
ARCH MILLIE: Young age meaning, I was like 14, 15—
JOI JETSON: So you’re still in high school at this point right? Where you selling CD’s to people in school, or was it just like in the street?
ARCH MILLIE: The people in school, the people around the neighborhood… until we were able to get them pressed up on CDs. We would record and put all of the songs up on tape, put a little cover on them and I would sell them for like $3 a pop. When CDs came out I graduated to CDs.
JOI JETSON: So let’s take ourselves out of the ‘in the beginning’ phase of your career where you’re paying your dues… and tell me where did music take you geographically? What cities and countries did music take you to, that you never would have been to had you not decided on a career in music.
ARCH MILLIE: It took me to New York for the first time. I was on tour, a Spring Fling tour… Chicago. Atlanta, Cleveland, Baltimore, Miami, Cancun… and I have a fan base out in Belgium. The first time I was ever known out of Philadelphia though, was through MySpace.
JOI JETSON: So you networked on MySpace, how were you introduced to it? What made you move from grassroots promotion in the school and around your neighborhood, to the internet?
ARCH MILLIE: At the time I had a friend who had a MySpace, he pretty much had all his music on it. He had a buzz and his music was doing really well, and then I felt like I can use this a channel to put my music out. I didn’t know that people were going to take to it, the way that they did. This created a silent enemy with that friend of mine, because mine did so well. After the MySpace took off I was inspired because the fans were requesting the music, and I developed a whole ‘nother lane for it.
JOI JETSON: So you touched on something that I find really interesting, that’s a reoccurring theme in your music—regarding enemies, snakes, and people that backstab. A lot of these issues seem to repeat themselves in your music—whether we’re talking about Talk of the City, or some of the stuff that I’ve sampled from your new project. So tell me, what’s the inspiration behind this overwhelming topic of someone doing you dirty.
ARCH MILLIE: A person I truly believed in, supported, and was a friend to—I sacrificed my talent for an individual so that he could advance—and in the midst of me doing that, a lot of my music was being robbed. He would take the verses off my songs, and steal my hooks and write new verses around my hooks, and then put the songs out. That was a moment of betrayal by a friend… one that I would have given anything to, to see win. I think when I pulled off from that situation, I came back and I was left by myself with everything, and I was kinda like at my lowest with it, because I had to figure out how to create Arch Millie and identify him within the industry. I wasn’t piggy backing, or ridding off of anybody. That’s when I woke up and realized if I wasn’t going to do it, no one was going to do it. I realized by leaving the situation, how talented I was… and it wasn’t that I ever doubted myself, it was just that I was a team player, and I felt like if one person wins, then we all win, but that wasn’t the way the other person perceived it. It was like ‘I’ma keep takin’ from him and then I’ma win, and I’ma leave him dry in the desert with no water.’ That was the way that played out.
JOI JETSON: So is that situation that birthed Talk of the City, your first major release?
ARCH MILLIE: Yup. I came back to Philadelphia. I was stayin’ out in Edgewater, New Jersey—and when I came back it was like starting all over because everyone in New York, New Jersey and those areas were familiar with my music, and I wasn’t a part of that Philly scene. So when I came back to Philly, I put together Talk of the City to let them know that I really wasn’t just talk of Philly, but I was the talk of every city that I touched base in—that I touched down in, and that was the whole concept.
JOI JETSON: When you got back to Philly, are there any artists that you connected with? I know I’m asking you to name drop here, but it would be cool to hear the roster of some of the people you’ve worked with that we’ve come to know and love. ARCH MILLIE: I always had a lot of respect in my city, so when I came back to Philly, I reached out to one of my homies, a dude by the name of Gilly da Kid, and I did a song with him on Talk of the City, it was called ‘Bout My Paper. I reached out to Tone Trump, and I did a song with him called ‘Killadelphia Pistolvania’.
JOI JETSON: Since then have you worked with any other artists in Philly?
ARCH MILLIE: I haven’t, but I did put a group of players, like my own little team—The Kool Club.
JOI JETSON: Are there any artists that you want to work with in Philly?
ARCH MILLIE: Actually I had a situation with Sickamore at one point, and Assylum records, and they wanted me to come back to Philly and put all of the rappers underneath one umbrella, underneath my label which is called Break Bank Records. This is before Meek Mill got signed, so I reached out to Meek, and Meek gave me some music, and a couple of other artists gave me their music to put together this label, to go up to New York with. This was after Talk of the City was released.
JOI JETSON: What year did Talk of the City drop?
ARCH MILLIE: ‘Talk of the City’ came out in 2008
JOI JETSON: So since then what have your fingers been in?
ARCH MILLIE: I have been fortunate enough to have a company who’s sponsoring my whole music career which is Industry All Access. I also had a mentor, Tone Capone who was the Vice President of Sony EMI at the time who offered me advice and guidance in the beginning stages of my career.
JOI JETSON: So tell me a little more about Industry All Access
ARCH MILLIE: Industry All Access is a full featured entertainment consulting firm, and they also have a magazine division called IAA Industry News. IAA navigates artists through artist development, because we don’t have artist development in the industry anymore. What they do is they get artists industry press, they consult, help artists create their brand, develop artist websites, develop artist’s digital presentations, and show them how to make money off of their product. They introduce performers as artists and help them be more aware of what they are. The key is, they aren’t just an artist, they’re a product, and they need to brand themselves as a product to the consumers.
JOI JETSON: So it’s been four years since Talk of the City, what else have you been doing on the music side of things?
ARCH MILLIE: On the music side, I put Break Bank Records together, and I pretty much just finished up a new project that I’m working on. I branded Arch Millie. Created a digital press kit and a website. Now I have a new mixtape coming out, ‘ called Four Finger Rings & A Kangol. With that particular project I just went back to all of the old school beats from the 80s and 90s and introduced myself on those beats. The reason I called it Four Finger Rings & A Kangol is because I didn’t want anything too cliche. I wanted it to be something that complimented me as an artist, and then in the midst of doing that I put together 2 EPs that are completed called Meet The Kool Guy and Loyalty is Vintage. Meet The Kool Guy will just introduce you to me, since that’s what they call me. Loyalty is Vintage talks about everyday life; friends, frenemies, jealousy, envy—and explains how loyalty is vintage, it’s not the way loyalty used to be. Right now it’s about every man for himself. People just don’t have morals these days, so I’m just taking you back to explaining that everyone has been betrayed by a friend at one point or another by someone who they really didn’t expect to do them dirty—but it really just talks about how you have silent enemies, people who are around you that envy you on the low. I’m explaining what to look for because I went back in the rubble of my experience and was able to identify the things that I didn’t see then, but I see now. It’s hard to see the picture, when you’re in the frame, and I was in that frame so I couldn’t really see the picture of how I was being betrayed by someone who I thought was close to me…
JOI JETSON: So, those two projects are going to come out this year?
ARCH MILLIE: Yeah. Everything is scheduled to drop this year. We going to run through the summer with Four Finger Rings & A Kangol. There is also a DJ in New York, named DJ Royalty, that’s putting together this mixtape called Starting 5, which has me, Lil’ Wayne, Drake, Ross and T.I. I guess he felt as though my lyrics and the content of my music qualified me to be recognized. I do it for the underdogs, but he felt as though my talent was on that level, so…
JOI JETSON: Where can people find your music when they are ready to look you up? ARCH MILLIE: When they’re ready to Meet The Kool Guy, they can navigate over to archmillie.com, and everything is there from videos, to Twitter, to Facebook, to interviews, to my bio, and everything is sponsored by Industry All Access.
JOI JETSON: Is there anything else you want to leave the audience with?
ARCH MILLIE: Make sure y’all check out the music and leave your feedback. Just pay attention to what I’m doing. The new music from Talk of the City is a lot more mature. It’s more graphic, more detailed, more emotional—it’s serious. I’ve found myself through life experience, and once I found myself I was able to introduce myself to the world. The music says that, every real person shares a similar story, because if you are real you had to have experienced some of the stuff that I’m talking about. I’m not just talking about streets, guns and drugs etc. I’m talking about a lot of things that happen, whether you’re in a situation. I’m talking about the thoughts that come when you are going through those kinds of things. The music is more so personal. It ain’t just rappin. You can relate to it. I’m in the moment with all of my songs, and that lets you know that that’s a moment I was in, whether you are from an urban city, or a suburban city, you can relate to those moments… Warm regards and well wishes
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