It’s not easy holding your own on songs with lyrical powerhouses like those in Griselda, let alone on stage at their shows. Armani Caesar has been doing that for close to a decade, and now she’s starting to get used to the love fans are giving her at her own shows.
“I once saw a Caucasian guy really rapping my verse word for word. That was amazing to me. When it happened, I lost track of what I was even saying because I was thrown off (laughs). I’m getting used to people knowing my lyrics,” Caesar told REVOLT.
For this installment of “Tour Tales,” the first lady of Griselda explains how she stands out while on stage with the rest of her team and how her live shows help her sell her clothes. She also talks about being ready to finally headline her own tour in 2023.
Let’s take it back. What was your first live show?
Well, I went to a performing arts school from fifth to 12th grade. So, I’ve been performing pretty much all my life. But, as far as hip-hop shows as Armani Caesar, I can’t even remember. It was definitely back in the Buff City days. But it really wasn’t a show. It was more like a club thing. We were still getting our feet wet in the game and the business in Buffalo. This was when we were still all under DJ Shay. I wasn’t even old enough to get into the clubs we were performing at (laughs). I was, of course, a little nervous, but it was also fun because I was with my ni**as. This was around 2012.
Speaking of the late DJ Shay, what advice did he give you for your live show?
His thing was telling me to do my best to kill s**t. He would just be on me, telling me I have to go hard. I have to kill it. He was more there to pull out of me what was already there and make sure we were moving with excellence. There was no formal training. We didn’t really go and practice for shows back then. We just did our thing. We just had to figure it out with trial and error.
What did you have to iron out as a performer to get to where you are now?
I’m still ironing out stuff. Looking back on my performances would be so cringy. I’ve been blessed not to really have to go through the levels of doing too many club shows. I probably did one or two. When I signed to Griselda, my first real show was a packed venue of about [500 people]. I had to learn how to read the room and interact with the crowd because they were there to see me. So, instead of looking at a sea of people, it hits differently when they think you’re looking at them; they feel that. That’s what I noticed at Rolling Loud. Girls were pulling out their phones, going crazy, saying, “Oh, s**t, she’s looking at me.” It’ll turn them up even more. Also, you must learn breath control because nobody wants to hear somebody rapping out of breath. Griselda is not really one to use the background track.
Speaking of Griselda, how do you make sure you stand out when you perform with the rest of the team?
I know how to control the crowd. Normally, they bring me out on a song and the crowd goes crazy because it’s like, “Oh, Armani is here.” I tell the crowd they have to turn this bi**h up because they will be looking at ni**as. This is the first time you will hear a female rapping like this and looking like this, so you have to turn up. I command respect.
How was performing at Rolling Loud New York?
It was good. I did the first Rolling Loud in 2021, but it was virtual. This recent one was live. That was fun, and they had me going on during primetime. I wasn’t at the beginning of the day or anything like that. I had so much fun. I could do my performance and then double back and hit the stage with Griselda, too. It was really like the Armani show.
What other interesting fan reactions have you seen when you’ve looked out into the crowd?
I once saw a Caucasian guy really rapping my verse word for word. That was amazing to me. When it happened, I lost track of what I was even saying because I was thrown off (laughs). I’m getting used to people knowing my lyrics. I’ve had guys break down saying, “Yo, I love you so much. You don’t understand what your music has done for me and helped me get through.”
What was the first tour you were on that you had to adjust to?
The Griselda tour started after Coachella this year. That was the first tour I had to adjust to because this was the first tour I actually got paid for. I had to learn about being prepared and booking things in advance instead of last minute. I would book my flights and hotels last minute, and that can be expensive. It can also be hectic when you are already preparing for the show and finding what to wear. As a woman, you must worry about hair, nails, makeup, and everything else. Preparation is key.
What’s the vibe like backstage with those three personalities — Benny The Butcher, Westside Gunn, and Conway The Machine — in Griselda?
They’re funny. Everybody is in their zone, and it’s different in different dressing rooms. I’ll go into Conway’s dressing room, and he may have Bob Marley playing with everybody drinking and cooling. We go to Benny’s room, and he probably has everybody in the city visiting him. West is probably chilling with his family in there with him.
What are your favorite songs to perform?
Definitely “Drill a RaMa.” I also like “Mac 10s for Everybody” because that’s pretty much the one where I drop the beat at the end and go acapella so people can actually hear what I’m saying and not just be enthralled by the production of the song. I want them to hear that I’m talking that s**t.
View this post on Instagram
You definitely make sure you come out in undeniable outfits like that full bodysuit with the ski mask. How do you pick what you’ll wear at shows?
I have an online women’s clothing store called Armani’s Closet. I like to rock my own clothes. On most of the tour and a lot of my biggest shows like Coachella and Rolling Loud, I always rock my stuff — even if it’s not the whole outfit. I always got a little bit of Armani’s Closet on there.
Have you seen a boost in sales for your outfits when performing?
Absolutely. We couldn’t keep those black Coachella pants with the booty crack out in stock. Those were selling like hotcakes. The same was true for the jacket I wore for Rolling Loud recently. The guys asked me about that because it was a high-quality jacket. When you have other big brands that capitalize off of hip hop culture but may not really support it like that or understand it, it’s important to rock my own.
View this post on Instagram
What are some last-minute adjustments you’ve needed to make before a show?
The same show where I had the ski mask outfit on, I literally grabbed that on my way to the airport from the warehouse. I didn’t think I would make it on stage because the show started at 8, and my flight didn’t land until like 7:30. So, as they played the song I was on, I walked into the venue. But, we do a lot of things last minute.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year going into 2023?
There are going to be a lot of different shows once The Liz 2 drops this year. Next year, I’ll be setting up my own tour. I’ll probably be collaborating with somebody on that just to solidify everything to promote the album. I’ll have more features. I will still be with the gang so whenever they have shows, I will always pop out when I can. But, nine times out of 10, they’ll pop out on mine this time.