Many names immediately come to mind when thinking of the world of Wakadinali and Rong Rende. Yet one inspiration stays submerged, preferring the shadows over the spotlight – Ares66, the “Gangsta Points” maker. Despite his reluctance for acclaim, his work shouts through the industry’s corridors. From crafting beats for Khaligraph to laying the foundation for Wakadinali, Dyana Cods, and Elisha Elai, Aress66 emerges as the silent architect of careers. His producer tag only graces the tracks of these three artists. In an exclusive sit down with High On Bars, Ares66 delves into his latest album, “Gangsta Points.” Revealing profound insights into the album’s production, he candidly discusses collaborating with Buruklyn Boyz, Wakadinali, Katapillar, Young Haze, Skillo, and the soulful Magaa. But because he gave us all the time to talk, we started with the foundational question of his stable. 

High On Bars: In steering the ship at BigBeatsAfriq, how do you navigate the dynamics? Could you shed light on the challenges you’ve faced and the successes you’ve achieved in managing such a multifaceted operation?

Ares66: At BigBeatsAfriq, we operate as a comprehensive company, organized into distinct independent departments. Responsibilities are carefully delegated across various individuals, each managing their specific departments. To enhance our operations, we collaborate with international consultants who step in whenever challenges arise. Our organizational framework includes dedicated departments such as finance, IT, and more. Importantly, decisions within each department are autonomous, and even I cannot override them.

High On Bars: You generously granted Back 2 Basics 254 a nearly three-hour interview, a rarity among artists. What drives your approach to interviews, and could you shed light on your perspective regarding the use of time and promotion, particularly in the context of your “Gangsta Points” album?

Ares66: Indeed, I tend to be open when it comes to interviews, but my approach is deliberate. Your interview marks my return to such engagements after a while, and it aligns with my focus on promoting the “Gangsta Points” album. I strongly advocate for time efficiency, favoring social media over time-limited TV appearances. Wakadinali’s success is proof of the effectiveness of this approach.

High on Bars: In a previous interview, Scar mentioned being done with producer AFRVCA, attributing the decision to AFRVCA and Alex Vice seeking more from Wakadinali. Can you shed light on what transpired during that time?

Ares66: AFRVCA and Alex Vice wanted their dues from Wakidinali, feeling short-changed as Wakadinali rose to become the biggest act. Despite their success, I never charged Wakadinali since their humble beginnings. Khaligraph covered their first recording session. While AFRVCA did beats on Victims of Madness,” I produced the entire album. AFRVCA’s mistake was pulling down a Wakadinali video on YouTube triggering a countermove. We wiped out all collaborations. Realizing his loss, he came and was now cool with re-uploading the videos. My philosophy involves nurturing artists from the start, in contrast to producers who join after the artist’s establishment, expecting more. Notably, YouTube revenue for Kenyan artists pays little; live shows are key. AFRVCA could’ve waited for his catalog to accumulate before anticipating significant returns.

High On Bars: As a producer who has worked with Elisha Elai, considering Dandora’s history of producing talented rappers like Kalamashaka, Wenyeji, Mashifta, and Kikosi, do you believe Elisha Elai has the potential to surpass the standard? 

Ares66: Elisha Elai has the potential to match and surpass the standards set by previous Dandora rap icons. He has exceeded their accomplishments. Elisha Elai can elevate Dandora’s rap beyond Eastlando. Currently, he stands as the beacon of hope for Dandora in the rap space. It’s not a disregard for other talented rappers; rather, it speaks to Elisha Elai’s exceptional prowess.

High On Bars: Do you believe the distinction between Kenyan and American music, particularly in terms of audio quality, is becoming less relevant? How do you respond to those who critique music solely based on its production quality?

Ares66: I firmly believe the gap between Kenyan and American music, especially in terms of audio quality, is fading away. Nowadays, you can achieve top-notch quality with the right equipment. If someone dismisses my music solely on the grounds of production quality, I’d question their authenticity. Even Khaligraph, equipped with high-quality gear, produces outstanding music independently.

High On Bars: Can you shed light on how you discovered Wakadinali, particularly with Khaligraph playing a pivotal role in their journey?

Ares66: The inception of Wakadinali began with the persistent efforts of the group, pestering Khaligraph for collaboration on Facebook during his early rise. Recognizing their potential, Khali challenged them to record a song first. He approached me, covering the recording fee for their debut single, and promised a collaboration upon proving themselves. Over the next few years, the boys consistently recorded, impressing Khaligraph. After completing their first album, Khaligraph finally collaborated with them, featuring them in his freestyle, Khaligraph Jones Presents.” This marked their debut on the national stage, sparking their successful career. While all members gained recognition, Scar Mkadinali’s standout performance on that cypher set him apart.

High On Bars: What’s your relationship with Khaligraph

Ares66: Having shared the mic with Khaligraph in the past, we hold mutual respect as fellow rappers. When I transitioned to production, it was a decision we discussed. Khaligraph encouraged me to return to rap, and the album “Gangsta Points” is my dedication to him.

Let’s Talk The”Gangsta Points” Album…

High On Bars: How did you manage to bring out such an intense and hardcore performance from Buruklyn Boyz in Manos?” Can you share the backstory behind their unexpected addition to the album?

Ares66: “Manos” wasn’t originally planned for the album. However, as I organized the album based on when the songs were completed, “Manos” became the final addition. Initially hesitant about collaborating with them due to their frequent feature, I encountered Burulyn Boyz everywhere I went – Alchemist in Parklands, even Kisumu. I decided to let fate decide. Inspired, I came to the studio and made a drill beat.

I borrowed the name ‘Manos’ from Sewersydaa, who often exclaimed, “Waa iyo ngoma ni manos!” when he liked a song. I thought of involving Sewersydaa but Buruklyn Boyz brought a unique flavour. My intention was to challenge them with gangsta rap, as they usually avoided explicit content. Despite their clean style, they embraced hardcore rap for my album, proving skeptics wrong. Ajay’s verse, in particular, exceeded my expectations showcasing their versatility. I was aware of their rap ability from their collaboration with Octopizzo. After the release of “Manos”, even Sewersydaa acknowledged, “iyo ngoma ni manos!” (laughs)

High On Bars: How do you respond to the perception that the track Diglo glorifies street life? 

Ares66: Nah, I’m just a conduit for the streets. Rong Rende as a collective, excels in portraying Nairobi’s street life. It’s worth noting that Scar Mkadinali is a university grad, and Domani Munga fears death more than you’d think. They skilfully articulate violent themes. In reality, true gangsters rarely rap; when we encounter them, they share their experiences, ordeals, and scenarios. Diglo is a mix of ghetto thoughts and a reflection of our storytelling finesse.

High On Bars: How did your experience with Sudough Doss and Skillo influence the creation of “Dikwara.” 

Ares66: In creating Dikwara my experiences with Sudough Doss and Skillo played a profound role. Sudo who unknowingly inspired my rap journey in high school, instilled the fundamentals of hip-hop in me. His exposure to Kenyan rap legends like Judge Black Duo in primary school laid the groundwork for his deep understanding of the genre. Spending time with Sudo, he transferred a wealth of musical knowledge, teaching me track analysis and rhyme construction. His profound approach to music not only shaped my rap journey but also ignited my aspirations in music production.

On the other front, Skillo, a lyrical beast, caught my attention through Scar Mkadinali. Scar recognized his ability to capture our ghetto themes and showcased his mastery of our thematic elements on a track with Sewersydaa gaining positive reception from the public. Interestingly, Skillo’s transformation from his past life of slinging w**d added a unique dimension to his character making him a divine addition to our creative roster. The collaborative synergy between Sudough Doss and Skillo played a pivotal role in the conception and execution of “Dikwara.”

High On Bars: So, tell us about Magaa, the soulful singer on Wabar.” How did he bring his unique touch to the track?

Ares66: Oh, Magaa, he’s from Red Acapella, a real talent. Let me tell you, he’s on the levels of Bien and Sauti Sol. He sings in bands, plays piano, and is a beast on the guitar. That guitar riff you hear in “Wabar?” That’s all him, making the track even hotter!

High On Bars: How did the collaboration on Hatulali featuring Katapillar and John Mo’re come about?

Ares66: This was initially not intended to be my song; it belonged to Katapillar and John. We had sold the track to another artiste who later changed his mind, finding the rap too intense for his taste. As a result, we decided to retain the song. Katapillar suggested I keep it for myself.

High On Bars: How good is Katapillar? He frequently appears in most albums you’ve recently produced.

Ares66: Katapillar is legit, man. He’s the go-to rapper, always bringing his A-game to the table. Every album I produce lately? you bet he’s in there! He’s got this knack for spitting verses that just hit different, you know? Other artists love working with him because he can handle any hip-hop style. But here’s the twist, and it’s real talk – as dope as he is, he needs to find that sweet spot between staying true to his style and stirring things up a bit. It’s a risk unless he spices things up a bit, and throws in some controversy or unpredictability. Still, mad respect for him. Remember my verse on “Hatulali?” I straight mirrored Katapillar’s flow to pay homage to his skills. Go play it again, and you’ll catch the vibe!

High On Bars: Does the reference to Collo Klepto’s stature in “Gangsta Points” carry any subtle implications?

Ares66: Collo is not just my best friend; he’s also physically shorter in stature. The reference in the song Gangsta Points is a playful acknowledgment of Collo’s height, much like how artists like Khaligraph and Wakadinali mention various public figures in their verses. It’s a creative element, emphasizing the need for artists, like Katapillar, to infuse controversy and unpredictability into their lyrics. The mention of Collo served its purpose in adding a touch of humor and grabbing attention.

High On Bars: The collaboration with Wakadinali on the track “Team Kumallo” was highly anticipated. Can you shed light on how the decision to feature them on this particular song unfolded?

Ares66: It was a deliberate marketing move on my part to elevate the album’s visibility. I initiated the collaboration with Wakadinali for the track Team Kumallo with the primary goal of amplifying the album’s reach. Admittedly, the song doesn’t carry a profound message; its sole purpose was strategic marketing. While Khaligraph was also a consideration, I concluded that his inclusion wasn’t necessary to the overall album’s vision.

High On Bars: Talk about the track Leo.” Were you thinking about E-Sir when you wrote it?

Ares66:  Absolutely. I like the song Leo ni Leo by E-Sir and I wanted to sample it but I had no time for legal tussles. So, I just decided to sample the vocals on the hook.

High On Bars: “Mguu ya Kuku” is a tight Drill beat and one of the best tracks on the “Gangsta Points” album. Could you share some insights?

Ares66: I did the beat for Mguu ya Kuku quite some time ago with the initial intention of having Domani Munga feature on it. However, as I progressed with my “Gangsta Points” album, I realized the track carried a message that I needed to convey. Opting to go solo on this one was a strategic decision to ensure the message remained clear without any dilution that might come with featuring another rapper. I had a message that only I could relay.

High On Bars: Tell us more about Young Haze, the artist you collaborated with on the track “Save Me.” How did this collaboration come about?

Ares66: I sought out Young Haze for Save Me because he’s an exceptionally talented singer-rapper with an American slang proficiency even surpassing Khaligraph’s. He was poised to be the breakout star following Khaligraph and preceding Wakadinali. Khaligraph acknowledged him in the track “F*ck Off.” Despite Khaligraph’s attempt to feature him in his last album, he couldn’t locate him. My street credibility facilitated our connection. Young Haze faces challenges due to a lack of foundational management, a crucial aspect for any artist, as I mentioned earlier. Without it, an artist’s potential can be undermined. That’s what contributed to the downfall of acts like Kalamashaka and Ukoo Flani. Self-management is crucial, treating music as a full-time job.

High On Bars: The opening track, Ni God Manze,” on the “Gangsta Points” album carries a gospel theme. Can you share the inspiration behind the song, and does it reflect a personal connection to faith for you?

Ares66: It’s a song to express gratitude to God. Regardless of one’s street credibility, acknowledging and thanking God is crucial. The inspiration came from a friend deeply involved in various underground activities, yet he consistently found time to express gratitude in any church he encountered. Surprisingly, he managed to evade arrest despite serious accusations. This song is an attestation to the importance of gratitude to a higher power.
Follow Ares66 on Instagram @r.s.sixtysix

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