Brite Winter 2015 Artist Spotlight: Archie Green

By Jacqueline Bon

“Whoever wants to be great, stand up right now. Now repeat after me, If you want to be great and successful, you must walk hand and hand, side by side with great and successful people.”

This is the opening line of independent Cleveland rapper/producer Archie Green’s song titled “C.O.S.” The song pays tribute to author and scholar, Dr. Dennis Kimbro through a soundbite of him instructing a classroom.

“Repeating it is a way of subconsciously getting yourself to get to believe it,” said Green, with natural self awareness and calmness to his demeanor, as an eclectic mix-up of songs murmured in the periphery at JUKEBOX bar.

His first official release, “The Greatest Pretender” is a diverse and thoughtful glimpse into the mind and inspirations of a rapper who isn’t rhyming about coming from rags to riches. Instead, he writes about his authentic reality — breaking through the glass ceiling to follow your dreams and doing it with dignity.

“In rap until recently, you always had to have street cred. You either had to come from the street or talk about the street to have the credibility in hip hop. For me, most of the people who buy or listen to rap music grew up in the suburbs just like me,” said Green, who grew up in Chagrin Falls.

He aims to bring CLASS back to hip hop. “The major underlying theme in all of my music is CLASS, which stand for Creatively Learning to Achieve Sustainable Success,” Green said. If you listen carefully, he has an affinity for paying tribute to his inspirations through his choice of soundbites.

Green is a complex multi-faceted dude with a ton of influences coexisting in his art. He’s inspired by the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” He also cites jazz & soul classics including Thelonious Monk, Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye and a tons of modern artists — Kid Cudi, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and of course, Kanye West, just to name a few.

“I’m currently working on an EP called “The Black Pharaoh.” It’s inspired by paying homage to pioneers of African American culture and to my grandfather,” he said.

During visits to his grandfather’s home, Green frequently records their long conversations. His father also recorded conversations with his grandfather as a way to commemorate him permanently. In “The Greatest Pretender,” Archie uses a sample from a skit with his grandfather about chasing dreams.

“I feel like my grandfather is one of my heroes, and I talk to him all the time. He came from a third grade education, moved to Cleveland as a teenager, ran away from home and built the house he lives in now. In the skit he talks about his third Mercedes Benz,” he laughed. “This is a guy who was once sweeping the floors but when he retired he was one of the highest paid in the building.”

Green started rapping at 13 and used to spit rhymes at school talent shows. By 18, he began producing, when he got to college he became serious and decided to take hip hop to the next level. “I thought rap was the coolest sh*t out of everything I did as a kid,” he said. “I used to write stories and I used to record radio shows on my Dad’s old tape recorder. Rap just seemed to be the coolest and it was something I was the best at.”

He lived in Atlanta and New York City before returning to Cleveland’s East Side. In Atlanta, he completed his undergrad at Morehouse College — an all-male historically black college that is the alma mater of Martin Luther King, Jr. He recently earned his Masters’ Degree in Music Business at New York University’s esteemed Steinhardt School.

“One of the reasons why education is so important to me is to look out for all my brothers and sisters. It’s sad to say that as an African American male that you’re a target. I try to lead by example when I wear suits and hard-bottomed shoes and by how I treat my elders and women,” he said. “How you carry yourself is how you combat.”

After college, Green had no intention of returning to Cleveland. “Originally I was planning on staying in New York but I couldn’t find a job and I was broke,” he said. “I came back home and the vibe that I got that was that Cleveland was different from when I left,” he said. He was pleasantly surprised to return to a city with Uber drivers, Lebron James and a new attitude. He is proud to call the city his home.

He will hit the stage with a full band and plans to perform a few new unreleased songs from his upcoming EP, “The Black Pharaoh” during his set at Brite Winter.

“Sometimes things happen on stage and you have to be a comedian — you have to always keep things going. You have to have a lot of passion. You want the artist to actually look you in the eyes and tell you something,” he said. “When I’m on stage people can tell I love what I do,”

Keep up with him on Twitter and Instagram by following @ArchieGreen.