Stayin’ Busy with Armon Sadler

You can tell when someone writes with a passion. You can also tell when someone writes with integrity. Armon Sadler is one of those writers and he’s not stopping any time soon. He’s always looking for the next goal to achieve while still recognizing the position he’s in at the moment. He knows his purpose and where he wants to go with it. His work has achieved heights that Jokic hasn’t reached yet. He wants to be better than good enough. Drake lines aside, whether he gets 3 retweets or 1000 retweets, Armon has never strayed away from his mission. I talk to Armon about his love for music and wrestling, becoming a writer, his interaction with Bryson Tiller, and much more.

The best writing that I read comes from the Black writers to be completely honest.

When did your love for music start?

My childhood. I grew up in the church, sang in church choirs, and did Christmas and Easter plays. My dad would buy a lot of bootleg mixtapes so I would listen to those in the car and my mom would play gospel. I don’t remember which show it was, but Nickelodeon was more music-focused when we were younger with groups like A Teen, LFO, and other white bands. I just always had a love for music whether it was listening to it, being at parties and dancing to it, connecting with people about it, and debating it. However, it wasn’t a career interest until much much later.

When did you know that you wanted to become a writer? Was this always the plan?

It wasn’t and I didn’t know. It was the summer of my sophomore year in college. I went to Cornell and I came in wanting to be a sports broadcaster so I applied to a bunch of internships. I didn’t get any my first year so I just worked at a summer camp that summer. I joined my fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha in Fall 2014. In Summer 2015, I saw my bros get their big internships, graduate, and get their big-money opportunities which put a lot of pressure on me to find something. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful again at getting a sports broadcast internship. I really wanted to work at ESPN or something like that and it just didn’t work out. So I’m scrambling to find an opportunity and my mom says, “Your cousin works at this music publication called I can reach out to her to see if I can get you a job.” I told her to set it up because I was willing to do anything.

So I went into the interview, it was really cool, and I spent the summer there. I got to transcribe interviews, write questions for interviews, and write some of my first articles even though they were sports articles. Also, we would do these album reviews where there would be three other people and myself. We would just email each other back and forth with different thoughts and questions and we would post those as reviews. It’s one thing to talk about music in person with people, but it’s another thing to put your words out and hundreds and thousands of people are reading them. As a student in school, I always preferred public speaking and writing essays. I hated tests, so my love for communication and writing became a natural thing for me because I can put my thoughts on paper. It’s something that I realized I can do and make a job out of it.

Afterward, I worked at Cornell radio and hosted a radio show. Then, I got my first real music writing opportunity in Spring 2016 when I joined Hand Me The Aux. One of my peers at Cornell was writing for them and plugged me. I reviewed “Views” by Drake, “Coloring Book” by Chance the Rapper, and much more that year. I have a friend named Regina Cho, who started writing before me, and I would always read her reviews. She’s really good at it so I talked to her about transitioning from sports to music. I asked if she had any advice and she helped me out. She ended up interning at the Source Magazine that summer. I didn’t because I stayed at Cornell to take some summer classes, but I kept writing for Hand Me The Aux. I knew by next summer that I would be writing somewhere hopefully getting paid. I ended up interning at the Source Magazine with Regina the following summer. The owner, Londell McMillan, was a Cornell alum so I got connected to him because we were in the same clubs. I went to the interview and showed them what I can do.

I think a lot of people outside of the culture looking in, who don’t really get it, are a bit too critical and they don’t try to understand.

What made you want to create the Stay Busy Podcast?

I wasn’t really a podcast listener until the summer of 2018. It was when Drake dropped “Scorpion” and Joe Budden dropped his big hour-long rant on it. It really opened my eyes to the album and a lot of people’s eyes as well. Joe gets a lot of hate, but I really respected how he broke down the album. I respected all of their perspectives, started listening to the show more, and I’ve been a fan ever since. From there, I started adding more podcasts to my repertoire. It seemed like a really cool alternative to writing. A lot of people don’t read as much these days which is very upsetting for someone who writes for a living.

I asked myself, “How can I deliver my thoughts to someone in a way that’s more consumable?” My boy Nic, my co-host, told me I had the voice and perspective for a podcast. He told me that all I had to do was bring my writing to a microphone. It seemed like it was that easy, but it’s not because there’s a lot of business stuff that goes into it. As a creator, my ideal situation in the future is just to write or to pod. I don’t want to have to handle selling merch or the logistical technical stuff.

Another thing is finding a way to stand out as a podcast. As a journalist, I don’t like bullshit or rumors. I want people to be responsible. There’s a lot of podcasts that just talk about music, what they like, and rumors. How can we stand out? Nick is an artist who produces, has experience working behind the boards, and writes songs for other people. So we can both bring that artist and journalist perspective. I can’t think of too many podcasts that have someone who is a full-time artist and a full-time journalist going back and forth on how they feel. The conversations that we have on the podcast are the conversations that we have over text and Facetime regularly. It doesn’t feel like work which I really love. I get bored easily and I just always want to level up. Launching Stay Busy with Armon Sadler last December was the perfect way to go into 2020 and take my skills to the next level. It’s been going pretty great so far.

It seems there’s this resurgence of young black writers/journalists/creatives that are shining in multiple publications and platforms. Have you noticed that? If so, how does it feel to be a part of that group?

Well, thank you first of all. We creators can be so hard on ourselves and it might not feel like we’re changing anything, but thank you for putting me in that group. It’s awesome. My thing coming into it is that I had to interact with a lot of people who don’t look like me. A lot of people who told me that my writing wasn’t good enough don’t look like me. Hip-Hop came from Black people so it’s interesting when a non-Black person tells me that I’m not approaching this right or I’m not good enough. That’s just been the natural progression of the music industry. The Black people are the talent and creators and the white people are the money. They try to dictate how Black people create because they have authority and power. However, we’re seeing so many Black writers now starting their own newsletters, putting articles on Medium, starting podcasts, etc. A couple of publications are pretty good about getting diverse voices in the room. Jeff Weiss and Passion of the Weiss is one of them. They commission a lot of Black people to write.

I think with what’s going on in the country this past year with the pandemic, protests, and Trump basically saying “People are free to shoot at thugs”; we’ve really had enough of the bullshit that’s happened across many different fields. So we’re really taking it upon ourselves to assert ourselves. The best writing that I read comes from the Black writers to be completely honest. We feel the music. We know what 21 Savage is talking about when he describes the slums of Atlanta. We know what Griselda is talking about when they describe Buffalo. I think a lot of people outside of the culture looking in, who don’t really get it, are a bit too critical and they don’t try to understand. It’s beautiful to see this wave of Black writers. There’s still white writers that I do enjoy, connect with, and support because I can tell that they really do the research. That’s really what it boils down to.

At the end of the day, no one is going to hand you the opportunity regardless of how great your takes on Twitter are related to music. You gotta put the work in writing-wise.

You did an interview with Pusha-T back in June. What was that experience like and what did you take away from it

That was crazy, man. Once the pandemic started and I had to stay home, I couldn’t go to our podcasting studios so I was just playing Call of Duty all day. I was like, “Mannn, I need to start writing again.” I haven’t been writing at a high level. So I did a PARTYNEXTDOOR album review, dvsn album review, The Weeknd album review, and Usher’s new song. So people noticed that I was writing again. Ahmad Davis, who I worked with at Kazi Magazine before I left in January 2020, hit me up and said they would love to have me back. I told them that I would love to do one of those cover stories. I was at the point where it was time for me to hit that new gear. He said, “I got you.” One piece of advice: know your worth and your value as a writer. There are publications who see it and they might try to hold you back because they feel threatened by you.

Anyways, he hits me up and asks me if I wanted to do Pusha-T. I said, “Absolutely.” My first thought was, “I’m talking to the only guy who beat Drake in rap beef and Drake is my guy.” This was going to be a fascinating conversation. However, I do consider myself a Push fan. I loved “Daytona” and I grew up rapping to the “Grindin’” beat. You might not realize he was a big part of your childhood or a big part of rap because he doesn’t release as often, but he is engrained in Hip-Hop culture. I watched all his old interviews, listened to all his music, and I had all my questions ready. Also, this was around the time when the rumor dropped that he was doing a project with Madlib so this was my moment. It was either kill this or let people down and I don’t like letting people down. So we talked for about an hour and a half through Zoom. Everything you see in his interviews with the Joe Budden Podcast or the Breakfast Club, he’s really like that. It was a great conversation. I wasn’t really focused on asking him about Drake or all the other rumors. I just thought it would be a great opportunity for people to get a deeper look into him as a rapper. I feel like a lot of people weren’t really paying attention to him prior to “Daytona,” but it was an awesome moment.

If I had to make a Top 5 list of things I’ve done this year, that would easily make it. When you put the work in, people are going to notice and when the right opportunity comes your way: kill it. I’m really thankful for Ahmad, Quinelle Holder, Kahri1k, and Pusha’s label, Heirwave Music Group, for setting that up. I’m thankful to Kazi for letting me put it out in their magazine. Wild times.

You wrote about Bryson Tiller finding his new pace last month. What was the thought process behind it? Also, what was your reaction when he reached out to you?

What started that article was me to be honest. I always want to do something significant every month and in July I put out a really good interview with Taylor Crumpton. She gave me so many golden quotes that I just really had to type them up and because of that, it didn’t feel like writing on my end. I just felt very stuck and stagnant and it reminded me a lot of Tiller. He burst on the scene in 2015, he did all that great stuff in 2016, and then he put out “True To Self.” He admitted that he was depressed yet in the last few years people have been begging him for music. He’s put stuff out, but people haven’t been satisfied and have been questioning what’s going on. Again, as a responsible journalist and also a human, my immediate thought was “What’s going on that’s making him not really focused on music?” He said that he was depressed, dealing with contract issues, and all that. So I just really related to him because June was an amazing month for me. I mentally got full of myself and then life and creatively humbled me. You’re not always going to come out with the best piece you want to.

I can’t tell you how many times in July and August I sat down at my computer with an idea I was excited about, started typing, and said “This fucking sucks.” I had to let myself be okay with that. I think a lot of artists are hard on themselves when they feel like they can’t come up with an idea. So I think in finding my new pace in just creating and writing, it reminded a lot of how I feel Tiller was going about his process. It was cool for me to focus on Bryson, but it was also a lot of catharsis for me. You have to be okay with the highs and lows of life. As a creator, you’re going to feel on top of the world and you’re going to feel like you suck. You have to work yourself out of that. Funny enough, I actually didn’t feel confident in that article. I spent a week writing it and it almost didn’t come out. Carl Lamarre from Billboard put out a great conversation with Bryson the day before I put my article out. It was touching on a lot of things that I wanted to talk about so I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. However, I was confident and I just put it out. I was at the gym, I checked my phone, and the article went from 30 retweets to 100s and that was wild.

Once Bryson saw it, he reached out to me, and I can tell that he read it. That meant a lot to me. I really wanted him to feel like I understood him and that I’ve been there. My hope is for people to understand him and give him more grace in his process. It’s one thing to not like the music; that’s fine. However, people have to remember that these artists are human. Tiller has two kids, lost his grandma recently, and there’s a lot he has to navigate while keeping his fans happy. It just feels really good that he felt understood and him following me was the icing on the cake. We’ve had some brief conversations, but I just appreciated the fact that he took the time to reach out. He gave me his time of day. This dude has like 2.6 million followers and he only follows like 400 people. So this is something for me to be happy with. It was awesome and has got me reignited as a creator.

One of the things that caught my attention about you is that you’re a wrestling fan like myself. Did you think that your love and passion for it would turn it into The Rewriters Room podcast?

I’ll be honest with you. As a lifelong wrestling fan, I think a lot of our friends reach that point when they say, “Wrestling is fake. This is stupid and I’m not going to watch it anymore.” That’s what they always bring up when you say that you’re a wrestling fan. It was something that I kind of hid. I didn’t really start tweeting about my enjoyment of wrestling until Wrestlemania when Kofi won. I was really insecure about it and people really do make fun of that. It’s the strangest thing. People watch Love and Hip-Hop and all that dumb reality TV show stuff, but we can’t watch these super athletic dudes wrestle Monday’s, Wednesday’s, and Friday’s. There’s so much more to wrestling than it being fake. They’ve done a decent job with adjusting to the socio-political climate and giving diverse wrestlers opportunities. There were graphics going around not too long of almost every champion on the roster being a person of color. Representation is everything.

I saw that so many writers that I looked up to were also wrestling fans. If these cool ass people in the world can tweet freely about wrestling, then fuck yeah! So that’s when I started actively engaging. I don’t remember when I followed J5 (Justin Davis) and Meelz (Jameel Raeburn), but I won a drawing that got me on the A Show. I went on and had a great time. I told them that I loved what RNC was doing and I wanted to be a part of it. Creators: Don’t be afraid to let people know that what they’re doing is dope. Don’t be afraid to let them know that you want to be a part of it. They might say no, but if you’re good at what you do and they like you, then they will find a space for you. Anyways, I wanted to find a cool and different idea because a lot of podcasts just talk about RAW and Smackdown. So I wanted to carve out a very unique space. I’ve got this group chat with my boys Channing and CC that we’ve had since 2018. All we would do is talk about wrestling shows and fantasy book a bunch of stuff. So I told them we could probably fantasy book some really cool older stuff and they wanted to do it. We launched Rewriters Room in August and it’s been really fun. We’re five episodes in and we’re looking forward to growing.

What advice would give to young Black writers that are trying to make a name for themselves?

When I first got started I would get three retweets and three likes per article. I would just be happy with that. I would be happy with a person just texting me about my writing. You kind of get to a point where you feel like you’re talented enough and that your stuff should be moving a bit more. As creators we can be a bit insecure and look at other people who are winning and say, “I’m better than them. Those opportunities should be mine.” At the end of the day, no one is going to hand you the opportunity regardless of how great your takes on Twitter are related to music. You gotta put the work in writing-wise. I’ve put the work in from The Source, Kazi, Elevator, Revolt, etc. I’m at a place now where I don’t compare myself to anyone. I love to see other writers win and I love to support them. There’s space for all of us. We’re carving out a space for us where we really can’t be denied. I just want to encourage all the young writers that if you’re not happy with where you are: First, stop comparing yourself to other people. Secondly, just put the work in and keep getting better. Also, it’s not about putting out writing all the time. You don’t get better by just publishing. Just write, read it over , and sit with it for a week. Don’t be afraid to send your writing to people and be willing to take feedback. I’ve helped out a lot of writers and they haven’t been so receptive to the feedback and I get it. You kind of get attached to your work and you think it’s the best because you’re biased. However, those moments where you sit back and you say, “Alright, I’m not as good as I can be. Who can I talk to in order to get better?” That’s ultimately how you improve, put the work in, and start to do it on a higher level. This past year, I’ve had articles do 1000 retweets and likes. It’s still not enough and I’m still not satisfied.

There was a time where I wasn’t satisfied with the engagement or the recognition that I was getting. I would crave it and I would get upset at my friends for not reading my articles or retweeting me. I think a lot of us writers get caught up in being a big fish in a small pond. Yeah, our friends matter, and the support matters because it keeps us going. However, those times where a music producer retweets or an artist like Bryson Tiller follows me and compliments my work, those are the moments that you should strive for but have a higher purpose in mind. Don’t get caught up in your head. Don’t expect your support people to be your congratulations people and don’t expect your congratulations people to be your support people. They are two different people. We’re not just trying to impress our friends. We’re ultimately trying to operate within this major ecosystem with all these talented writers who are doing things at a higher level than us to make us strive to be at a higher level as well. Don’t get caught up in that small pond mentality because you can get stuck there and you can really get down on yourself.

I feel a lot more positive about myself because I recognize my talent, I’m putting the work in, and my race is my race. I do value my friend’s criticism, but I look at writing now as an Olympic sport. I’m striving to qualify for the Olympics, so why would I worry about a high school judge? I’m worried about the people who are holding the medals giving me the medals. Overall, I love writing, music, and what I do. It makes me happy and it’s my therapy. You gotta find that intrinsic motivation because 1000 retweets and likes are cool. Artists following me are cool, but I know that I’m working and it makes me so happy. It’s my passion. I didn’t stop when I was getting 3 retweets and 3 likes, so why would I stop now?

Follow Armon Sadler on Instagram and Twitter. Check out all of his work on Linktree. Also, listen to his podcasts “Stay Busy with Armon Sadler” and “The Rewriters Room.”

“being happy is the goal, but greatness is my vision”