Rapzilla Freshman Arrow: 17-Year-Old Producer is Shaping the Future Sound of Christian Rap
The Rapzilla 2020 Freshman list has had the honor of a couple of debut interviews this round. We continue the pattern with our lists’ only producer this year. Arrow was born for beats, or so it seems for this 17-year-old, self-taught producer, who researched and finessed his own way into learning this craft.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I started listening to music about four or five years ago. I got into it from TobyMac and NF. Then from there, I found out about people like Lecrae and Andy Mineo. I really liked everybody in CHH, and I just really liked music.
I got into production about two and a half years ago. Actually, I wanted to be a rapper, and I was fifteen at the time so I didn’t have a job, and I couldn’t pay for beats. So I tried to make my own. I found out that I suck at rapping, but I liked the production part of it. So I stuck with that. I got really obsessed with it.
That’s how I learned – I just spent every spare minute I had if I was in school, I’d bust out my homework, and then I’d go on the computer and watch a YouTube tutorial or sort through drum sounds and stuff like that or read an article. I was just always, always working on it. So not long into it. Just about a little over a year ago, I became public with my business and everything.
What does the process look like for you?
I will just start clicking around until I get inspired by something. Sometimes I have a plan going into it of what I want to do like I want to make up a certain type of beat, or I’m inspired by a specific artist. I’ll go in looking to make something a specific way, or I’ll have a melody in my head that I want to use. But a lot of times I really just go in, and I will immediately start just throw down the drum pattern or throw down some chords and build from there. And I just keep building until I have a fully fleshed out beat.
It seems like it would be difficult to make timing and everything match up, is it?
For me, it really clicked. It’s just a lot about learning rhythm and how to fill the pockets of sound and make sure that you’re not overcomplicating it, but also having something for the artist to vibe off of. So it’s definitely a learning game. I’d still say I’m learning about just finding a balance for every single beat because you have to have a balance between complexity and simplicity. You want to be different than everybody else, but you also don’t want to overdo everything to make it to where it’s hard for people to sing or rap on the beat. So, yeah, it’s definitely a learning experience.
So when you said that you started listening to music five years ago, you literally meant listening to music?
My parents only really let me listen to Contemporary Christian Music, and I wasn’t really a fan. I’m still not a huge fan of it, it’s all very similar. Then when I got to about middle school, they let me listen to TobyMac and that’s the time when I actually started listening to music on my own. Prior to that five years, the only time I’d ever listened to music was in the car if my parents turned it on or in church. I would never listen to it on my own.
So at that point, that’s when I started listening to TobyMac, and I found NF from a TobyMac song and then I dove super deep into CHH and like I said, I kind of became obsessed with it. I knew all the big guys, I knew all the little guys at the time. I got really into the underground of CHH as well. So I really just explored every corner of it. But I was very specific, and I only listened to rap music. Only in the last year have I expanded. Now my favorite artist is Charlie Puth. I listen to a lot of Pop, Jazz, R&B and even like old-school Hip hop, not just the new stuff. So now I try to be diverse in what I listen to. But it was really only five years ago that I started to listen to music on my own.
So what’s the most important thing you’ve learned in this process so far?
Relationships are key. When I went into it, I was very business-minded, and all I wanted to do was make money. That was really a pretty shallow goal. But that’s all I wanted to do to be 100 percent honest with you. I liked music, of course, but I wasn’t focused on furthering the kingdom of God or making relationships with people or making impactful music. I didn’t care who I sold my beats to, and I didn’t care who was buying them, whether they’re Christian or secular or whether they were good or bad. It’s j, I ust wanted to make money.
Meeting great people like Nic D., like Swaizy, like JXHN PVUL, and making really good friends and being able to have fellowship with people like Tank McCoy and Avila and Wow Eli. All of these people have been great because it’s taught me that music is more than just a business, which is an awesome thing. It’s taught me and it’s given me friends that I feel will be lifelong friends and that the relationships are really what inspires people. And what allows there to be movements and trails to be blazed. Because one person can’t really do it alone.
But when you have 10 people who all have the same end goal from the beginning of ‘God through music’ to inspire people to plant seeds, it makes the process so much larger, easier, better. It makes it to where we’re all going to face struggles and we can talk to each other…
How has doing this impacted your faith?
It’s definitely strengthened my faith because, you know, I’ve always known God was real. I’ve never had to struggle with that. My struggle has been having a relationship with God. Personally, I’ve never really had any doubts. I mean, everybody has their doubts. But I’ve always been very strong in the fact that God is real.
I just have had trouble building my own personal relationship with him. Having people like JXHN PVUL especially and Tank McCoy – they’ve helped me grow my faith a bunch, not only with their testimony, but always being a good influence and making sure that I have my mindset in the right place, and that I’m not getting my intentions twisted. That has probably been the biggest help.
But also just in general, music gives me a way to be a disciple because I’m not sure how else to do it. I feel music is my reason. Music is my purpose in that and the way that God told us to go out and make disciples and music is my outlet for that. My way to do that is to plant the seeds and meet other people through music.
Well, first of all, I would like to thank you guys at Rapzilla because a lot of my success that I’ve had so far has in some way, shape or form come not just from you guys but has been fueled by your events or your artists.
I mean, Swaizy has been a huge blessing to me because we won that competition at A3C with our song. I’ve co-released a few songs with Rapzilla and just everything that you guys have done. Then the whole freshman opportunity, this interview. Everything has been super supportive from your guys’ side. You don’t really benefit from doing that for me at all. So I really appreciate what you guys do. Shout out to you, to OB, Chad, Steven, and Justin.
Listen to Arrow Below:
Are you excited to hear who Arrow works with next?
Check out more from Arrow: https://prodbyarrow.com