I’ve met a lot of Philadelphia artists in some pretty fun scenarios, A.Rob being one of them. After hearing him on a track with a mutual friend of mine, we connected over Instagram. It’s always fascinating to find South Asian and Middle Eastern rappers who incorporate their culture into their artistry, whether it’s through their clothing, their word-choice, or their instrumentals. A.Rob’s managed to utilize all 3, creating a persona that embodies his upbringing and values that have shaped him while rapping with complete ease. Turns out, A.Rob and I had quite a few mutuals, and had even been in the studio once together after a friend’s show. Not only that, but we’re neighbors! Everything fell into place, and I knew that he was one artist that I wanted to feature under my Philly’s Phinest section.
Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Ameen Rahman, known in the music world as A.Rob, is a Palestinian-American rapper, producer, and audio engineer. He’s been writing, recording, and producing music for over 10 years, and has collaborated with artists such as Mickey Factz, Mir Fontane, 2nd Generation Wu, Waheeb Nasan, Saüd, and many others. A.Rob’s uses his music to fulfil his vision of pushing for change and equality across both art and civil rights. He gives a voice to the people of Palestine as well as anyone else who has been treated unjustly across the world. These themes are extremely prevalent in his EP, Land of the Free, which was released in 2019 with the Philadelphia record label, The Giving Groove. He’s also used this as motive to fuel his self-released studio albums, 21, Abstract Blessings, and 42. His newest project, 42, is now streaming everywhere.
A.Rob’s newest album, 42, is a continuation of one of his earlier albums, 21. Similarly to the structure of 21, A.Rob recruited 42 artists around the world to feature on the album, including Ill Doots, one of my favorite Philly groups. The first track that I heard off the album, which is also what lead me to working with A.Rob, is “30,000,” featuring Mike Voss, another dope Philly rapper. The album covers a range of sounds, from the production to the features. No two songs sound alike, and there really is a track for every mood that you could be in. The biggest consistency? A.Rob’s flow, which is fire on every single track. He molds his flow to fit the beat perfectly on every single track, providing intricate wordplay with multisyllabic rhymes. Whether the song talks about snapchatting in the club, practicing Muslim faith, or standing for racial injustice, it’s going to be a dope track with a strong lyrical performance. Although no two songs sound the same, each track works with the next to fit the larger narrative of sharing the different sides of A.Rob’s life, while simultaneously highlighting 42 incredible artists. There honestly wasn’t a single song on this project that I felt like skipping, and while I usually dislike longer albums, I was entertained by every track.
“Music has an insane amount of power. It teaches, brings out emotion, inspires, heals, and really makes change in the world. That’s why it’s so important to me.”—A.Rob
I’ve been lucky enough to be in a studio with A.Rob while he was freestyling, and his ability to put on a strong performance even on the spot is impressive. His flow and presence is effortless and representative of who he is, even if he’s just messing around with a small group of friends. His individuality and dedication to the causes that he is passionate about are engrained in everything that he does, and it’s extremely inspiring. His lyrics make it apparent that he wants to be a part of the change, a quality that is extremely necessary during these times. His songs are full of substance, including the ones that could be played in clubs, and the production always includes small, intricate details to stand out from what’s playing on the radio. 42 is no different. His approach for each song is similar to that of when I was sitting on the couch, listening to him and our friends freestyle after a show. Although each song on the album is calculated and thought-out, his flow is genuine and free, showing just how much he cares about the issues he’s rapping about.
A.Rob and I got a chance to talk about his career as an artist and 42, which can be found below:
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions I have about the project! I really enjoyed every single track, and I loved the ideas behind the small details. But first, I have a couple of questions about how you got started as an artist. What made you decide to go by the name, ‘A.Rob’?
A.Rob: “A.Rob stands for ‘Always. Remember Our Blessings’. I’m a big believer in optimism and positive thinking, the Law of Attraction if you will. I think it’s really important that we all remember to count our blessings. Plus “A.Rob” sounds like “arab” when you say it out loud and I wanted some Arabic representation in Hip Hop.”
I love that! Definitely cool to incorporate your culture. Speaking of, how has your Palestinian culture influenced your sound and the music that you create?
A.Rob: “I’ve always liked to talk about Palestine in my music to inform people who might not know about the injustice, the war and the occupation over there. This year I really leaned into my culture even more though. I incorporated Arabic sounding beats, worked with Palestinian and other Middle Eastern musicians and I even spoke some Arabic in my songs. I just hope my music can help keep the name of Palestine and my people alive.”
I respect that a lot. I think it’s also super inspiring for young kids to see that representation and to have something to relate to.
If you could collaborate with any chart-topping artist, who would it be and what kind of track would you make?
A.Rob: “This is really tough. I’m having a hard time choosing between Chance, Kendrick, Cole and Drake. Can I choose them all? Haha ok I think I have to go with Drake because I think it would help my career the most. But it would be have to be an actual RAP RAP song like that true passionate Hip-Hop that we don’t get from Drake too often anymore.”
I think that’s some sound reasoning. That would be a dope collab. Now, this is something I’m always curious about, especially since we got introduced through it; how has your experience been in the Philly Hip-Hop community. Would you say that it’s generally more collaborative or competitive?
A.Rob: “I moved to Philly in 2017 and so far it really feels collaborative. I’ve worked with a lot of musicians from here already and connected with so many creative people. I’ve formed true friendships with some of the Artists I met. It’s all love and working together in the Philly music scene from what I can see so far.”
I couldn’t agree more. That’s just one reason why I love it so much. In terms of the last year, would you say 2020 put a stump on your creativity, or did it help to motivate you?
A.Rob: “The beginning half of 2020 motivated me. I started working on “42” at the beginning of the year and had 20 songs with 42 artists done by July. The pandemic gave me the opportunity to lock myself in the studio and work hard on my craft every day. All the craziness going on was motivational at first, but by the end of the year it started to feel draining. I hit the stump, or a creative slump in like November and I’m still slowly climbing out of it now.”
I feel that. Thank you for the honesty. Whenever I ask artists that question, it’s always the first half of that answer, but never really the hardships behind it. I know that I get exhausted, but I also think that’s natural. What has been the most difficult part of everything for you as an artist?
A.Rob: “I think making a business and a real financially successful career out of the music has been the hardest thing. I have no manager, no agent, no team really. So creating a strong brand and successful business on my own is definitely the most challenging part. And the marketing aspect of all that is really tough. To be honest I suck at social media so I’ve been having trouble successfully promoting and marketing my work online by myself.”
I know what you mean. I am not great at marketing myself. Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite; I try to provide artists with tips on how they can grow their brand but never seem to follow it up myself for my own site.
Switching subjects just a bit, I want to talk about your political activism because I think this is so important for your music and who you are. While some rappers like yourself are extremely vocal about current affairs in politics, others choose to stay quiet. Either way, they seem to be criticized. What pushes you to comment on the issues we face as a country? Do you fear backlash?
A.Rob: “Well as a Palestinian who grew up with mostly black friends it’s always been important for me to talk all about injustice. But I try not to get too wrapped up in politics because I really don’t know much. I think it’s a lot easier to fully speak your mind and be vocal about those types of things when you already have a big platform. That’s the backlash I fear. Making it harder on myself to get major exposure because of the things I decide to be vocal about. It’s a really tough line to walk.”
Oh man, do I know how that feels. I just had to ask because I honestly think that it’s extremely admirable, especially when you have those fears. The way that you’ve incorporated these topics into ’42’ was really cool though. Can you explain the premise of the album and what inspired it? Why choose 42 artists? And was it difficult to collaborate with that many people? I don’t even know if I have 42 friends hahah.
A.Rob: “When the pandemic hit all the sudden I was able to be in my home studio like all damn day. Every day. I just locked myself in there and got to work. I started creating songs with open verses and contacting people who I hoped to get on those songs and it really all just came together smoothly. Last year I did ’21’ which was an album featuring 21 other musicians so this year I challenged myself to double that. I think I got lucky but it really wasn’t that difficult to work with 42 artists. I mix and master my own songs so that definitely made it easier. People just recorded their parts, sent them over and before I knew it the album was done.”
Well you picked some super dope artists. And kudos to you for doing all your own mixing and mastering! Do you have a favorite collaboration or song off of the project?
A.Rob: “My favorite collaboration from the album is ‘Long Way to Go’ because the beat is made by Saüd, an amazing Saudi Arabian producer and the song also features Waheeb Nasan, a fellow Palestinian from Chicago who does a lot for my culture. It’s an honor to work with those guys.
My favorite song overall is the last song, ‘Hope’ because I spill my heart out on it. The song is dedicated to my baby cousin Ezra who unfortunately passed away last year so it’s just close to home and means a lot to me.”
I love that you chose other Middle Eastern artists. The influences in that song are amazing! And in terms of the subject matter for ‘Hope’, that’s a beautiful way of paying tribute to your baby cousin. That song really sticks out, it was extremely vulnerable.
Can you touch on how you incorporated the social injustices that occurred in 2020 in your album?
A.Rob: “I mean racial injustice and police brutality is spoken about throughout the album, Palestinian occupancy is talked about, and maybe a few shots at POTUS in there too. But the album was mostly meant to bring some light into our lives during a tough time and help us have some fun. There are a lot of songs on there just made to vibe to.”
I think we all need that. And sometimes I just want to throw on something grimey and feel like I’m back at the clubs! Similarly to how you mentioned that you want it to bring some light, what’s the one thing you want people to feel when they hear this album? What’s the biggest takeaway for you?
A.Rob: “Hope! I want people to feel hope. Hope that real Rap is not dead. Hope that positive change is coming. If a listener gains newfound hope and optimism from listening then I think I did my job.”
Yes. To all of that. Lastly, what can we expect from you in 2021? What are you working on?
A.Rob: “I’m working on a lot! I have a rock inspired project, a solo Hip Hop project and some more collab stuff on the way this year. I’m excited to take my music to another level this time around. Also more music videos for sure.”
I can’t wait to hear all of that! How can fans reach out to you or find out about your newest projects?
A.Rob: “I’m @ARobsMusic everywhere. Instagram has been my go to recently. Anyone can follow me at “A.Rob” on Spotify too and keep an eye out for the new music! And of course the album “42” is out on all streaming sites.”
Awesome! Keep up the amazing work. ’42’ is definitely worth checking out, it was a lot of fun getting to sit with this project!
A.Rob: “This was a lot of fun. Thank you for taking the time and interest in my art. It’s people like you who are helping keep real Hip-Hop alive!”