Checking in with Ari Berne


What were you doing when we called?
Sleeping. You woke me up.

Tell us about your day job.
I don’t have a job. Every day, I wake up, and then I write and practice lyrics for at least two hours. And then what I usually do after that is go to the Music Resource Center, to volunteer there with the kids. Then once that’s closed, I stay after hours and continue to edit what I’ve been working on, or come home and practice my material. That’s been my life since I started working on this new album. On the weekend I’ll go out and have a little fun.

What are you working on?

This new album that I started working on about two months ago. It’s called The Waterbearer II. The entire thing is produced by Damani Harrison, as was the first one. The first one was finished in June 2008, and it was semi-released, but to those who we released it to, it was really enjoyed. I think among a small cult following, that is considered one of my best albums. We decided to start the second one three years later. Once we release it—for free, via my Facebook page—we’ll re-release the first one if it catches on.
What is your first artistic memory from childhood?
When I was about 10 my cousin came to visit me. He had this rap he’d written, and there was this line about Gatorade. I mean, it was really corny. But as a kid I’d barely even heard of rap, and I thought it was crazy and wanted to try it. So I wrote my first rap in math class.
Tell us about a work of art that you wish was in your private collection.
I did this album back in 12th grade called The Fool In Love and the main inspiration for that album was this MF Doom album, Mm.. Food—it was crazy, a bunch of heavy metaphor that no one understood very well unless you paid attention. I wish I had it in my collection, because my copy is a burnt one from a friend. Back then, nobody liked MF Doom. Most people didn’t even know who MF Doom was, so I felt like I had my own rapper.
What’s an item you’d splurge on?
CDs. It slowed down a little bit recently because I’ve been broke, but in high school it was literally two or three a week. I download a bit, but it’s all stuff I bought in high school but lost my copy of somehow. I am a struggling artist, and I do have a problem with downloading. I plan on buying [Goblin, by] Tyler, the Creator. He’s gotten a bit of a buzz, but it’s still underground, it’s independent. I feel like he deserves the money.
If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I’m gonna go with Thom Yorke. I’d really like to pick his brain. Radiohead makes incredible music, and they’re huge, but their fandom is still on a very cult level.
Tell us about a recent concert, exhibit or show that inspired you.
When I saw Tech N9ne in D.C. I had never heard of him before. He got on early, so there were maybe 50 in this big auditorium. We were all standing in front and watching him and I was just blown away. Like Busta Rhymes does, everything was organized, every movement he made, every word he said. He looked like he had practiced it a million times. It inspired me because when I do a show I get out on stage, barely practicing, and just walk around and move my arms a little bit and recite my words. But there guys had every moment pinned down, organized and practiced. I had never seen anything like it, as far as hip-hop goes.
What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
I’ve been rapping every day since 10, and I didn’t always do well in class because I was writing raps the whole time. This is my life. So I would just burn thousands of CDs, hop in my car, and go to every city I possibly could and just hand them out until I get that phone call.