May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It's a subject that rapper Archie Green has become very familiar with over the past few years. It was his song "Layers" that catapulted him from solely an emcee to a full blown mental health advocate in the city of Cleveland. Accolades and notoriety soon followed, and that's something that Green still finds himself getting used to.
"Something I worked so hard for was to be recognized and respected for what I do on the mic, including the songs I've written such as 'Layers,' 'Black Excellence' and 'Blacks Only' and speaking from the black male experience in the 21st century and for people to connect with that," Green says in a recent email exchange. He performs with Dom Deshawn, Feed the People, H9RU, Luvabstact and Sam Supreme at 9 p.m. tomorrow at the Grog Shop
. "But now with me being recognized by Cleveland Magazine
as one of Cleveland's most interesting people, that takes it to a whole new level. I'm at the point now where people know who I am. When I go place to place and introduce myself, people either already know me, or they heard my name somewhere, and it's a surreal feeling that people know and appreciate me for my music."
While thankful for the opportunities, Green is quick to point out that it took a good amount of pain and tons of dedication to make it to this point.
"I'm grateful. I worked my ass off to get here," Green insists. "I faced a lot of rejection. I faced going broke. I quit my day job and chased my dream full-time. Next thing I know, [the mental health awareness program] Peel Dem Layers Back starts up, and my life totally changed. Just from telling my story, I've been able to save some lives. Carrying that kind of purpose, it's hard to put into words. I'm grateful to God to be able to do what I do."
Doing what he does has allowed Green to do some things he may not have been able to do from rap alone. He's doing his best to not lose himself in the process.
"Now, I'm being asked to speak at graduation ceremonies," Green says. "I'm being asked to speak to youth. I'm being interviewed by youth organizations. I'm being asked to be on certain government committees and boards and all that other stuff. To me, the hardest thing is saying no. I can't do everything. I can only do what makes the most sense to me as far as my goals, my brand and financially. I'm not afraid to say that because at the end of the day, I'm not only an artist, I'm an entrepreneur."
Green has also seen some changes on the music side of things as well. He sees himself on the verge of a new role as he gets older and wiser in the industry.
"I got a team in place," Green says. "I'm working with a collective now. ALOOF recordings, it stands for Alls Lost Outside Our Fantasy. It's such a diverse multifaceted team. There's myself, Case Barge, Unknown Phrazes, Mellow-XZACT, Tim Lowe, Stoke and Clif Supreme. We're artists, visual artists, videographers, directors and so forth. There's a lot that ALOOF has to offer. I'm not just working with them as an artist, but I also want to support the artists that are there. I want to kind of come in as one of the OG's and school someone on how to perform or how to write songs and help with image and presentation.
His aspirations are lofty, but they are rooted in Green's real life experiences.
"I've learned a lot," Green says. "I've got a master's degree in music business. I didn't just get that and throw it to the side. I applied it everyday, not just at NYU. That's how I got to where I am now. I'm at a point where I want to give back, and I still want to foster a community here in Cleveland."
Green also has a team in place to assist with his continued mental health advocacy also.
"As far as Peel Dem Layers Back, my team is growing as well," Green says. "I've got my homeboy JD Caminero as well as the lovely Julia Keith helping me put together my programs. With that, it's strength in numbers. I'm not just relying on myself anymore."
Towards the end of 2017, Green began working for the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland as the Community Engagement Programs Manager.
"I love my job," Green says. "It's going great. I never thought I will be saying that in a million years. One of the things I told them when I applied and interviewed for the position was that I am a culture addict. Part of the beauty of this job is that it's just like being an emcee, beatmaker or producer, it's just that now I'm not making songs, I'm making programs. I'm coming up with different programs that can bring different types of people together that can intersect cultures and push forward. Outside of the eCLEctic events, one of the other events I'm proud of is the NEOCH benefit concert we did in January. I was able to have a wide array of artists from Dolfish to Wesley Bright to Jul Big Green to Morgan Mecaskey. We raised almost $2,000 for the homeless community. To be able to do that and it's your job? I can't even put into words how grateful I am to work for an institution like MOCA."
The first event he put together, eCLEctic: Wax Poetics, was focused on the history, present and future, of sampling in hip-hop.
"We had over 100 people come out," Green says. "DJ Forrest Get Em Gump gave a TED talk on sampling, RA Washington was making live beats and we had Amani Cove there. We had other producers there in a sampling competition. Part of the eCLEctic series is engaging the local artists.
The second eCLEctic event, Soles on View, took a look at the sneaker culture and the attendance was over double that of the first event. Just as before, there were panel discussions about the impact of sneakers not only in the city but around the world.
"What I did was kinda add on top of that (the first eCLEctic event) with the sneakers," Green says. "It's more sophisticated than what people think. Sneakers have stories behind them. My Jordan Bred 1's, those are my hustling sneakers. When I was out here broke, whenever I would go somewhere, those were my go-to shoes."
Green's job with the museum and work with Peel Dem Layers Back are both time-consuming but he has still managed to work on new music. Green is mulling over the idea of these perhaps being the last projects before shifting into a different role.
"I still have a couple of projects I'm working on," Green says. "The first being a mixtape called Keep Shining
. Basically, the title comes from a hashtag I was using on social media, just encouraging friends as well as talented younger men and women doing amazing things in the community. I just feel like pushing some inspiration to the hustlers and up & comers. It's a little bit more street, kinda along the lines of J. Cole's K.O.D.
project that just came out — on some sophistaratchet shit. Then I've got an EP coming called I Like to Be Wierd
[sic] that I'm working on with my boy Perry Wolfman who produced 'Layers' and a bulk of The Black Pharaoh Project
. I don't know if I'm going to be releasing anymore projects after these. I've gotten to a place where I'd like to start developing artists and coaching a bit in the background."
Green's Peel Dem Layers Back initiative also plans to keep the momentum going with its continued outreach.
"We've got two programs coming in the summer, one in June and one in July," Green says. "They're both in conjunction with the Cuyahoga County Public Library. It's called Strength in Numbers, and it's focused on dealing with friends and family that suffer from mental illness. In July, we've got Peel Dem Layers Back: What's Up With Her. We'll be having Renee Jones, who is a trailblazer when it comes to anti-human trafficking and we've got Donnie Lynee, a beautiful and talented singer who has her own story of what she's had to do to get where she is today. We're highlighting the women's perspective and the women have a lot to say."
The Grog Shop show will be a celebration of his recent successes as well as a testament to his fans.
"I'm going to be doing some new records but it's a celebration of everything the past 20 years has yielded," Green says. "With these new projects, the Cleveland Magazine
thing, and I'm getting married! I'm celebrating love, I'm celebrating everything that Peel Dem Layers Back has brought to me. This is for the Archie Green fans who have been with me since 2007 when I did 'Soul Exploitation' when I was going by SoulKlap up until now. It's crazy. I started when I was 13 recording in my parents basement and fast forward to 2017, and I'm on stage in front of 20,000 Clevelanders at Brite Winter. My story has evolved, and I'm just grateful."