When Drake spit, “I waited four days, nigga, where y’all at?/I drove here in the Wraith playin’ Ar-Ab,” on his Meek Mill diss track “Back to Back,” a spotlight was placed on Philly street rapper Ar-Ab — a light that has yet to dull. Although it still remains unclear why Drake actually shouted out the “Who Harder Than Me” rapper on the response track (likely to get under Meek’s skin), the ordeal has certainly boosted Ar-Ab’s stock.
In March, the OBH Records CEO unleashed Who Harder Than Me 3, his third mixtape in the series that garnered over 340,000 streams. And his movement continues to go strong. Two months later, in May, he unveiled his Kevin Gates-assisted single “How I Do It,” an effort many thought would appear on the upcoming fourth installment of Who Harder Than Me. By late May, Ar-Ab signed a deal with Cash Money Records and had Birdman singing his praises. “My nigga AR, got the green light from me,” the mogul on Instagram.
With a co-sign from Birdman, rap fans are wondering what’s up next for Ar-Ab. XXL caught up with the rapper, who has been a stalwart artist on the Philly rap scene for years, to talk about the past, present and future.
XXL: So you have a lot going on. Word on the street is that you just signed a deal with Cash Money. Can you tell us a little about that?
Ar-Ab: Compton Menace who’s over at Cash Money had called my phone. He said, “You know, we bang with you and we fuck with you. I’ve talked to Birdman and [he] fucks with you. He wants to talk to you.” On the phone, he told me straight from the door that, “I like you and I fuck with your shit. I want to know if you want to get down with what I’ve got going on?” I told him, “Hell yeah.” He actually was out here in New York and then I drove here from Philly. I went back to Miami with him. We took care of a lot of business. [We] did a few songs together and everything.
Speaking of what Birdman’s got going on, it seems he has a new label situation going on with Rich Gang. How would you describe the current Rich Gang/Cash Money movement?
I’m going to keep it real. It seemed to me like it’s on some gangster shit. He signed a whole bunch of guys like me. He signed a bunch of gangsters. We’re going to work hard to push it. He told me it seems like the game is turning back into that. So, he wants to be ahead of the curve. He signed a bunch of real niggas.
Yeah, it’s like a good 15 or 16 of y’all over there right?
It’s a lot.
There was all that talk about you and OVO. Then all of a sudden the Cash Money news comes out. Is there any connection there? And what happened with all the OVO stuff?
I don’t know what happened with the OVO stuff—politics I guess but I’m sure that when Drake said my name, it opened up Birdman’s eye wide. It had the whole world’s eyes wide. So, I’m sure it opened up his eyes. That’s probably one of the reasons [why I got signed]. They connected so we’re going to have fun with it. I need a verse from all of them.
Did you ever get any clarity on why you were name-dropped on “Back to Back” or did you ever meet with Drake?
Nah, I’ve never got any clarity but it was a lot of tension going on in Philly before but I never thought Drake knew about it. He must have known about what was going on in Philly. He dropped my name like that so I’m thinking he must have knew. It stirred up a lot of controversy, a lot of bull crap. But I got rewarded, I’ve made a lot of money. I’m not even going to lie to you. That was a blessing.
I’m assuming that the controversy is over because a few months ago, it was reported that you and Drake are on good terms. How did that come about? Can you tell me a little about how you and Meek mended broken fences?
It’s no issues with Meek. We’re from the same city, from the same stomping grounds basically. We’re from like five minutes apart. If it was an issue we would have—I’ve known Meek for years. I knew once we saw each other, it was going to be love.
So it was all fun and games?
Yeah, I mean it wasn’t really fun and games because it got serious but it was like when you’ve known a guy for so long, you know all the capabilities. I knew it wasn’t really going to get bloody between me and him. So we talked and we’re good again.
So it’s all good. Have you guys linked up and hit the studio?
We talked on the phone, we haven’t linked up.
Speaking of Philly rappers, there’s a lot of new and up-and-coming rappers coming out of the city. What do you think of the current Philly hip-hop scene? There’s Lil Uzi Vert and PnB Rock out here.
It’s leaning more towards the southern sound. It’s more melodic now and singing, rapping with melody. It’s more based on that and they’re getting money so more power to them. I see a lot of rappers in Philly having melodies in their raps. It’s sounding more melodic. They’re making money. God bless them.
You have been too. Can you tell me about the past year for you?
I’ve got a really core following. So, I really don’t have to put music out and I’ll still be on the road. My followers just bang with me. I did two years in prison recently and I came home, they were banging with me even more. Every weekend I’m booked to do something. I’ve been in Austin. I’ve been to Miami, all over the country.
You’ve been working as far as recording too. You have the song “How I Do It” with Kevin Gates. How did that collaboration come about?
It was down at SXSW. I met him in a mall. We’ve been talking on the phone. We’ve been texting each other and all that before. So when I met him in the mall, we just linked and he was talking that shit I wanted to hear and I was talking that shit he wanted to hear. We just clicked. He’s a good nigga, a real nigga. We got a lot of the same beliefs, spiritually so that’s what we talk about sometimes—religion and all types of shit. It ain’t always about rap.
You’re Muslim right?
How does your religion play a role in your music?
Well, I’m not supposed to be doing music. I’m on the wrong path basically. It’s positive when it comes to the streets and legitimizing your craft but in my religion [rapping] is wrong. You’re not supposed to rap. They believe music is the devils music. So you’re not supposed to make any music but I do it because I gotta feed my four kids.
It’s kind of a rock and a hard place. I know Dave East is also Muslim, Kevin Gates too. There’s a gang of y’all out here.
Have you ever met with the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan? It seems like a lot of rappers are doing that these days.
Nah, he has different beliefs than I do. We’re two different types of Muslim.
When can we get Who Harder Than Me 4? I heard your working on it. You just dropped Who Harder Than Me 3.
Right now I’m still on the road with Who Harder Than Me 3. I’m still working on [Who Harder Than Me 4.]