Strong Arm Steady: Get Your Bars Up

    Progress is always made one step at a time; a lesson the members of Strong Arm Steady are more than familiar with. After grinding for years in the streets of California’s underground circuit independently, the collective group of Krondon, Mitchy Slick and Phil Da Agony are ready to prove to world what many West Coast enthusiasts already know.        With their individual style’s representing hoods from San Diego to L.A., the crew is the epitome of Cali’s unique mesh of gang culture, hard rhymes and kush-blowing lifestyle. But when a wrench was thrown into their spokes with the departure of their fourth and best-known member Xzibit, the future of Strong Arm Steady was in question.        Even after taking two steps back, their latest single “One Step” is catching fire across the country, and their first label effort, Deep Hearted, released in late August. With a gang of like-minded artists showing up for support on the studio album, and stage performances alongside Talib Kweli on this summer’s Rock the Bells tour, it’s clear that Strong Arm is truly a movement to be reckoned with. In other words, get with the team, or get behind them.AllHipHop.com: It’s almost hard to believe Strong Arm doesn’t have an album out with so many tracks already recorded and released. How does it feel to have an official release coming after so many mixtapes?Phil Da Agony: It always feels good to have something coming to stores. We’ve been on projects before that have been officially released outside of the mixtape thing. But we like doing the mixtape thing, it keeps us on our toes and it’s been a habit of ours in Strong Arm Steady ever since 2003-2004. AllHipHop.com: So is Deep Hearted the official album, because I thought you had the Arms and Hammers project coming later in the year?Phil Da Agony: Deep Hearted is like our street album, and Arms and Hammers is our album coming through Blacksmith/Warner Brothers.AllHipHop.com: What’s the chemistry like between you guys when you’re in the studio, such as tonight? Is there a certain formula you guys have developed after a few years of rocking together?Phil Da Agony: Man, at this point it’s a lot of beats. There’s a lot of s**t loaded in the computer, a lot of songs we’ve made collectively that we’re just consistently knockin’ out until we get ready to turn in the Arms and Hammers album.Mitchy Slick: And every now and then, if one of us be on our solo s**t and we come up with something hot that we think would be good for the group, we bring it to the table. Right now, we so fluent with this s**t, homie, it’s like we the [Harlem] Globetrotters. It ain’t even no one way to do it, we pros at this s**t. We might all sit down and come up with some fresh s**t. We’re real comfortable with it.AllHipHop.com: Nowadays, it seems everybody with Fruity Loops or Pro Tools has their own mixtape in stores or on Myspace. Being a gang that’s been heavy into the mixtape scene the last few years, is it becoming more difficult to get your mix to the top of the stack?Krondon: In anything, the good s**t gon’ rise to the top. So it’s become more than a n***a putting some songs together, rapping over a n***a’s beats or whatever. Everybody did that, that’s a formula that definitely works. But it comes along with doing other things outside of that s**t. We did it at a time when there really wasn’t nobody doing it [on the West Coast]. So we was a real catalyst for the West Coast, as individual artists and collectively, and then cultivated record deals. All the things we have came from having the mixtapes that we saturated years prior. But we still do the mixtape thing ‘cause you never want to let go of what got you to where you are. But at the same time, you want to keep going on further and further. So I’d never knock a cat starting out like that. But you can’t stop there, and you can’t think like “Alright, I’ve got a mixtape out and I sold 1,000 or 1,500 or even 3,000, I’ve made my mark in the game.” AllHipHop.com: So, what were the problems behind Xzibit’s Open Bar that had you move over to Kweli’s Blacksmith Records?Krondon: Wasn’t no problems, Open Bar [Records] didn’t really have no situation for us to put no music out. And [Talib] Kweli being a friend of ours over the years, especially [with] Phil Da Agony, he saw the benefits in doing a Strong Arm record. He always was a part of what we doing personally and creatively, but he had a business and he brought the opportunity to us, and we thought it was a good look. So there wasn’t a problem [with Open Bar], there just wasn’t a place for it.Phil Da Agony: We had a lot of opportunities to do deals, Xzibit included. At the time, the deal wasn’t feasible for X, so we just went about our business, he went about his, and it’s all good. Ain’t no love lost.AllHipHop.com: I know there wasn’t any love lost between you guys. But at the time, when it was announced that Xzibit wasn’t an official member, did you guys feel some negative energy floating around from all the media outlets?Krondon: Yeah, of course. But that’s a quality of the game right now. Cats look for it like the news or some s**t. N***as look for s**t to cling on to, to create some sort of negative vibe and put that out there to hopefully spark some other s**t. And to be honest, anytime cats start a certain way and it doesn’t pan out that way, people are gonna feel a certain negative way. I know some of our fans probably felt the same way or whatever, but it ain’t nothing.Phil Da Agony: There’s a lot of cats with us that don’t necessarily get to be on the front lines, that’s been down with us since day one. Like Chase Infinite, or Planet Asia or what have you. And those dudes ain’t ever been in the forefront of Strong Arm Steady, but definitely put just as much work in as X or anybody else. So we all just step forward and do it collectively. But Strong Arm Steady been around since before X. We welcomed him into that as our brother and as part of the group, but we still moving on after that. We been around before that, and we gonna still be here after.Krondon: And forever. And ever, and ever and ever.AllHipHop.com: So, what’s the official story of the three of you getting together?Krondon: There’s a common thread between all of us, a common friend. He’s from Mitchy Slick’s neighborhood in San Diego. And behind the scenes he kind of put us all together. When he’d come to L.A., he’d stay with me and Phil, he’d travel with X. And I was working closely with X, which he had a lot to do with. He introduced me personally to Mitchy Slick, and X and a lot of cats. And he wanted to make sure cats from his way got on, and wasn’t no n***a rappin’ and making noise in San Diego, there wasn’t no Mitchy Slick at the time, ya dig? So when we started putting this whole collective together lyrically, we came as individuals that made up Strong Arm Steady as a new invention, a re-invention.Phil Da Agony: All these things happened after 2000, but you’re talking ‘bout cats that’s been doing this for a long time, man, on many different levels and avenues. So this is something in our careers that we all decided to take time out and venture out to do this and make it successful. We all knew each other as friends first, and it was who we kicked it with on the regular, so this is what we do, we make music. But we do music with a lot of cats, from the Will.I.Ams to the Talib Kwelis to the Chamillionaires to the Juveniles to the Messy Marvs to wherever we go. We make music with everybody, and that’s what Strong Arm Steady is. If you look back at the mixtapes, we’ve got 50 Cent saying “Strong Arm Steady, Get ya bars up m’f**kas,” so it’s a movement and that’s what it’s about. AllHipHop.com: Now, Strong Arm Steady has been representing Western unity the past few years, as well as others affiliated besides just the core members. Do you guys feel the tense situation on your coast has changed since you came out?Mitchy Slick: Hell yeah. If you knew the lines that we break or the people that we f**k with, there ain’t even a majority of one type of guy we f**k with. We got a lot of people from everywhere. We dealin’ with people that’s really talented and we ain’t trippin’. Like Jay Rock, and G Malone, me and the homies got songs. And the album I got out with Messy Marv [Messy Slick], throughout it we got cats from all around the Bay area, and there’s no record out like that right now. Krondon: That’s why we named the album Deep Hearted, because of our affiliations and because people are so aligned with Strong Arm Steady from every side of the map, to North, South, East, West. We’ve got Juvenile, Chamillionaire, Ras Kass, Xzibit, Paul Wall, Planet Asia. We not on TV everyday and on the radio across the country with 15,000 spins like some of these n***as with they cookie cutter, fake-ass records. But at the same time we get respect from n***as that’s really done it and made they mark in the game and respect the position we in. We got so much s**t coming out right now Kris, it’s really gon’ be undeniable in a minute.AllHipHop.com: Was that your aspiration with the new single “One Step”? The unity vibe of getting everybody to come together on the same page?Phil: Actually, Kron wrote that hook, but how I take it is like universal, it’s for everybody. Definitely on the West, and East or wherever you at. For me it’s more personal I guess, like take one step closer to where you’re trying to be period. But I don’t know if he wrote it like that.Krondon: Really, it’s like take a step closer to positivity. I used God in the hook ‘cause of course he’s the highest level of positivity you could reach for anything no matter what you call him or who you think he is. But where we come from, it’s the home and birthplace of the gang mentality, and at some point our music, no matter how violent or ignorant or aggressive it might be, Strong Arm represents a culmination of gang mentality that’s trying to go towards a positive understanding at the end of the day. Really just get money, raise babies, live life and buy houses and do things that grown men are supposed to do besides kill each other, go to prison and be dumbasses. But our environment breeds that mentality, so for so long West Coast music has perpetuated a certain mentality but never gave you another side of it. So with Strong Arm Steady, we want to give you both sides of it, instead of saying “Oh yeah, it’s all good, it’s all good, f**k yourself off.”

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