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Why You Should Listen to R-Mean's New Album

Anyone - especially a creative individual - who breaks away from the pack takes with them their skeptics. R-Mean's steps into the hip hop arena undoubtedly brought him his trail of skeptics, both from inside his Armenian community and out. I myself was one of them. 

At its core, “good music” is “authentic”. While the nuances of those descriptors will be socratically debated until the world’s end, it is often the recurring theme of criticisms for any typical skeptic of a musician's work. 

“Do I believe them?” 

R-Mean’s West Coast bravado was in the beginning quite stark. Who is this Armenian with the glistening chains and tilted hats, selling “Our Wounds Are Still Open” t-shirts flashed in front of fellow rappers, all while putting out YouTube videos of Armenian cyphers from on top of downtown LA buildings? 

It certainly does not include the whole of who R-Mean is and what he has accomplished, though it is what comes up in the cultural conversation around him, sometimes even before his actual music is discussed. Reputation trumps all. 

A few weeks ago when R-Mean, born Armin Hariri, announced Nas had a feature on his new song “Candle of the Devil”, it caught my attention. Pushing aside the business end of securing a feature from a staple artist and the accompanying marketing strategies behind it, this seeming co-sign from a hip hop legend of the old guard could not be seen as something superficial. 

Perhaps my perspective of his authenticity was wrong, though I wasn’t convinced. Whether it is “good music” will determine if it is “authentic”. 

At midnight on Friday, April 28th, R-Mean’s new 15-song album, simply titled “MEAN”, released on all platforms. 

It is “good music.”

From start to finish, the album is a reflection of where R-Mean is at in the deep corners of his life, not just in his hip hop career.

“MEAN”, the album cover brandishing an extremely close shot of Armin’s laughing smile with a full display of his humanizing crooked teeth, is a collection of vulnerable stories, both from his troubles to his aspirations.

Songs like “H.O.P.E.” find you sitting next to R-Mean in a cemetery speaking to the grave of a young fan about all he has felt since his passing. With a flow and production that is akin to Eminem’s “Stan,” R-Mean unleashes about how he was too broken to perform at the fan’s funeral, how proud the fan would be that R-Mean secured a Nas feature, and how he couldn’t believe cancer could take someone so young. The whole album is dedicated in the memory of the fan, Joshua Torosyan. 

“Lonely Day”, which cleverly samples the System of a Down classic of the same name, feels like an evening walk with R-Mean as he vents about not being understood and his concerns for his mother, a relatable feeling for some Armenians. His rage arranges up from confused and wandering thoughts to a clear cut passion for the purpose of his life.

The album opens with “Triumph” with the keys of Scott Storch, the legendary Grammy-award winning producer whose fingers created the piano notes on “Still D.R.E.” He is also the producer of “MEAN.” On the track, R-Mean opens up about his father passing away when R-Mean was one years old, along with sharing his shifting perspective of his powers. 

“I put in my 10,000 hours, twice over // I went from the devil’s puppet, to God’s soldier.” 

The thoughts of maturing from a troublemaker to a more poised man continue into his song with Nas on “Candle of the Devil,” with a shared chorus and verse from Nas that is another reminder of Nas’s street poet prowess, as they both rhyme about their souls being tested by the world.  

R-Mean smartly keeps his big features lined up back-to-back, with Offset coming on “TBS”, an acronym for “Talkin’ Bout Shit,” ringing with Offset’s iconic ad libs.

While “TBS” falls a little flat, the album picks up again with YG on “Charles Barkley”, which is truly a quintessential West Coast hip hop bop. Scott Storch knows exactly what he is doing, crafting flutes and snares that make you sway your shoulders without even realizing. R-Mean and YG both rhyme about how their lavish lifestyles will continue into their old age, just like Charles Barkley. 

On "Rising Son", perhaps a reference to Nas's 2002 "God's Son", R-Mean samples both Biggie and Nas as he sets the record straight on who he and his people are: a tight-knit family that can't be broken, with apparent homages to his hip hop idols sprinkled in.

The album finishes with bonus tracks of R-Mean’s popular recent singles, with playoff-ready “King James”, featuring Jeremih, and summer jam “Yalla Habibi”, featuring French Montana, the rapper who is of Moroccan descent.  

“MEAN” will not be breaking any records. But that is not the point. 

From the first impression of his album cover, seeing R-Mean take a deviation away from his polished presentation of himself is refreshing. He's unafraid to speak on his rhymes about being a pharmacist by day, in fact refines it to be a strength of his, a facet of his life that often feels sheltered from the world. Perhaps it is a sign of growth, a constant idea throughout his album, and one that makes him more “authentic” to us skeptics. 

He can now effortlessly shift his rhyme speed and structure from track to track, with his voice now fitting right into any song, symbolic of what this album means for him as an artist. 

You should give “MEAN” a listen. 

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