It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, Arno Faraji was a high school student whose interest in rap music didn’t extend much further than early Drake mixtapes and making beats between assignments.
Initially finding his footings in music through guitar covers he’d upload onto YouTube, the Zimbabwe-born rapper and musician gained an interest in hip-hop through his sister, who introduced him to early hip-hop and R&B – T-Pain, for example, being an early highlight. After relocating to Perth from West Australia’s northern Pilbara region when he was 13, Arno’s fascination in hip-hop grew alongside him, broadening his taste through trading everything from Big Sean cuts to boom-bap classics to his friends at school. His interest in the making of hip-hop deepened as well, and his guitar covers were replaced by beat-making and production; the experimentation with rapping itself following shortly after, as he struggled to find people to feature on his beats.
Flash forward some five years later, and Arno Faraji is an essential of Perth’s bustling hip-hop scene and on the forefront of a greater, nation-wide rap explosion. He took out triple j’s career-making Unearthed High competition in 2017 with his single destiny’s (which would later find itself in the Hottest 200 the next year), thrusted into the national limelight in the middle of exams – much to the disarray of his family, who wanted to keep him focused on school (“Jumping headfirst into music seemed so risky and scary to them, and I knew they were worried,” he says, and – for the record – they’re 100% on board with his career now).
Basking in the limelight following his Unearthed High win, he quickly followed it up with Bless (What It’s Like), an example of his collaborative skillset featuring two of his idols in REMI and Sensible J. Later that year, there was also things change, a tropical-tinged moment somewhere between lax hip-hop and dancehall that brings Arno Faraji back to his roots: completely self-written, with Arno playing a major part in its production too.
The Milan Ring-assisted Scalin’ showcases his laid-back grooves amplified by smart collaboration, while the following, self-produced Sneakers contrasts it with sharpness – a joint “inspired by teen perspective and sadboi energy,” he says. A recent appearance on triple j’s Bars Of Steel is one of the program’s most widely-praised, while in media, he’s branded with the sayings you’d expect from an artist quickly making their skills noticeable: “a reckoning force” (Pilerats); “really damn good” (Acclaim); “leading the charge for the next generation” (Purple Sneakers).
Musically, he sits somewhere in between his biggest influences, taking notes from the best and emblazing that distinct Arno Faraji charm to it, elevating it to the next level. The grooves of Kaytranada and Smino are not uncommon through his work, while his raps have the versatility to move between the relaxed playfulness of Goldlink and the ferocity of early Childish Gambino – occasionally within the same track. In saying that, Arno Faraji’s sound is malleable. On one track, his vocal may dance between tropical steel-drums and sun-soaked synth, while on the next, his raps could become quick-paced and focused, layered above trap-inspired beats and jagged melodies that showcase his versatility both in production and rap. At the end of the day, Arno Faraji’s versatility – his ability to triumph regardless of whatever genre he’s working with – is what makes him stand out from the pack.
However, despite his long list of accomplishments thus far, Arno Faraji is just getting started. After supporting some of rap’s elite talent - Little Simz, Rejjie Snow, Smino and Kwame included - and playing festivals ranging from Groovin the Moo to FOMO By Night, his first headline national tour in mid-2019 secured his status as a brilliant musician on the stage too, something that’s sure to be reinforced with plenty of dates to come (“This is my thing,” he says on performing live). Then, there’s more music on the horizon; bound to further showcase his talents in both rapping, songwriting and production.
#FARAJISZN, as the people say, is only just getting started. It’s just up to everybody else to keep up.
AUS / NZ / USA