For “Studios Sessions,” we delve into the stories behind the long hours in the studio and all that goes into making an album by talking with artists, producers, engineers, photographers, and more who are intimately connected to the recording process with some of the biggest artists in the world. These are the stories that rarely leave the booth.
Arsonal Da Rebel is on the shortlist of rappers who have been the faces of the growing battle rap scene over the last decade, but his love of competition is secondary to his love of music.
“Music is my passion, that’s my life. The battle shit is my job and my career. I record any chance I get. I’ve done features the night before a battle. I’ve shot videos the night after I have a battle. I’m back in the studio the day after a battle,” he told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” Arsonal explains why recording with Chris Brown blew him away, what it’s like recording his daughter, and making his new album Underrated during a pandemic. Read below.
How did the pandemic affect the recording of Underrated?
The pandemic actually helped me focus a little more with me in the crib. I did a lot of the recording myself... and mixed myself. It took a little while. This is a year or two of work. We wanted to keep it short and sweet, straight to the point. We wanted to keep it real raw and authentic.
You were in the studio with Wyclef Jean for this album. What was the session like recording with him?
I’ve been sessions with ‘clef for a while now. We had [Tsu] Surf and [Shotgun] Suge in there when we did “Proceed With Caution.”
That shit’s crazy (laughs). We were in the studio with ‘clef. I eat all type of shit. ‘Clef was like, “Nah, nephew. You have to get in shape.” So, he ordered some tofu and it was my first time eating tofu. I didn’t know what to expect. The shit was amazing. It was some of the best shit I ever had in my life. That shit put me in a zone. I smoked two blunts after that and we came up with “Proceed With Caution,” “Product of my Environment,” “Karma,” and a bunch of other shit in the tuck for y’all, man.
What’s your creative chemistry with him in the studio?
He’s the teacher, I’m the student. I’m the sponge trying to soak up the information. From the day I met him, he told me he was a fan and started rapping my lyrics to me and shit. It was crazy. The chemistry is definitely there. I’m blessed to have Wyclef Jean hands-on being an executive producer on my project.
What do you need in the studio to make your best music?
I smoke. I might need a little Remy [Martin] here and there. That’s really it. It’s more so a vibe than anything else.
How do you balance your battle rapping career with recording?
Music is my passion, that’s my life. The battle shit is my job and my career. I record any chance I get. I’ve done features the night before a battle. I’ve shot videos the night after I have a battle. I’m back in the studio the day after a battle. I shot a video for “Dreams” last December right before I battled Chess on URL. I went into the battle and feel like I 3-0’ed him on that shit (laughs).
You were in L.A. working on Underrated and was in the studio with Chris Brown. What came from that?
I was in L.A. doing some business with my battle league the [UW Battle League] and we were courtside at The Big 3 game. After the game, Chris Brown was like, “Ayo, Ars!” I turn around and it’s this nigga. He’s like, “Come take a pic.” That shit fucked me up. I was like, “Damn.” We took the pic and we had a short conversation. That was it. Two months later, I’m in the crib at about three in the morning on my Instagram and it said, “Chris Brown followed you.” I clicked and it was his official page, so I shot a DM saying, “Thanks for the follow, bro.” He was like, “It’s been a while since we chopped it up. Let’s talk. I want to work with you.” We exchanged numbers, I hit him, and he said, “When you come to L.A., tap in with me and we going make something happen.” I scheduled a flight and told him I’d be there in two days.
When I got there, I hit him, and he shoots me the [address]. I’m thinking I’m going to the studio, but when I pull up I’m at the nigga’s crib. This shit was blowing my mind because this is Michael Jackson of my era. I was with my producers and my cousin. It was surreal that niggas from the bottom was in Chris Brown’s crib. I played him songs from Underrated. He heard “Jodeci Sex” that night. He was listening to all my shit. We sat, chilled, and smoked a couple of blunts. Then, we made “Can’t Fight.”
What’s his studio like?
Fuck the studio, his house is crazy. It looked like a Dave & Busters. Games and shit everywhere in the living room. He painted all the walls in his house. The studio feels like you’re in a cave. It’s so futuristic. He has this big ass, life-sized Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I think that shit is 6’2 (laughs). Shout out to Chris Brown. He’s a good nigga.
Speaking of “Jodeci Sex,” you got a fellow Jersey native on that song: Raheem DeVaughn.
That’s big bro. He reached out to me when I was in L.A. a year and a half ago. I was in the studio in project mode. I had two 24-hour sessions booked out there where I slept in the studio. I had Fetty [Wap] and Lady London come through. Raheem saw me working and was always a fan of the battle rap culture. He reached out to me and said, “I want to give you a hook. Send me something.” I told my producers Sharke, X and Fatty [the Producer], “We need something for Raheem DeVaughn” and they started working on something from scratch. We sent it to him with the Jodeci sample on it and he brought the hook back crazy.
You have a 6-year-old daughter. How do you balance being a father and recording music?
I got a studio in my crib and I put my daughter in the studio. She’s actually a recording artist called Kiley Rebel with a record called “Good Girl” that’s streaming on all music platforms everywhere. It’s in her blood. She’s in the studio with me and be asking me when she’s going to record her next song. She’s a real personality. She’s going to be somebody real special.
One day we were at the mall and mad people kept running up to me and she was like, “Why does everybody keep stopping you?” I said, “Because daddy’s famous.” She was like, “I want to be famous.” I told her, “Kylie, you’re going to be famous. I promise you.” She said, “No, daddy. I want to be famous right now!” I took her to my producer Fatty’s studio that night and we did her first song which is “Good Girl.” Her second song is called “All About Me.” I didn’t put that one out yet, but that’s the one I recorded. It’s fun.
You’re a passionate artist. Are there any songs that made you cry while you were making them?
“Never Trust Again” on Underrated. That song came from the heart. That song right there was a real emotional song. I didn’t even write that. I punched in that song. It was so real and I was going through so much at that time, I was like, “I have to go to the studio.” I went to the studio with the beat, pressed record, and the melody came to my head.