Armani White on How Five-Year-Old Niece Helped Craft Comeback Record 'Onederful'
Armani White was planning on making himself a great breakfast, but he promised his mother he’d take her to work this morning in his hometown Philadelphia before heading to New York City. So he’s sitting in his car eating French fries from Wendy’s instead, which matters because his newly released single “Onederful” is just as much about his family as anything.
“Onederful” wouldn’t exist without White’s five-year-old niece. On June 21, White was in his mother’s living room and not in a particularly good place emotionally. He'd been experiencing brutal writer’s block — among other more severe emotions — since his father passed from prostate cancer in 2016. His niece came in to have her uncle fix her toy, as five-year-olds do, when she started singing, “This my type of day, my type of day, my type of day-ay-ay!” And just like that, the hook for “Onederful” that White hadn’t quite been able to piece together himself was born.
“Right after that, I recorded it,” the 23-year-old tells Billboard. “There wasn’t even a mic in front of me. I did it on my phone. We put some trumpets around it, everything, and we just kept building it up. There was never a moment in this song when we added something that it lost the [original] glamour. It was like a beautiful accident.”
“Everything about it just felt so raw and felt so pure,” he adds. “I personally think it bleeds through on the track.” It does. The track is laced with blaring instrumentals, uninhibited joy and, as White says, "that care-free-kid-on-summer-break type of energy."
In the video for “Onederful,” a computer screen is filled with lyrical pop-ups overlapping footage spanning from 2015 to now. When putting together his upcoming project, White considered the fans who have fiercely supported him since he first broke onto the hip-hop scene in 2015. White was a reluctant student at Delaware State when his eventual manager contacted him off of “Stick Up,” a song the rapper uploaded to SoundCloud — gaining enough traction to be featured by Pharrell and Scott Vener on OTHERtone. From there, things took off. Instead of attending class at Delaware State, he was opening for Big Sean and PARTYNEXTDOOR at the University of Delaware. He was invited to open for BIG K.R.I.T. on tour. He was convinced that his life was only going to go up, until everything unexpectedly came crashing down.
White had an on-and-off relationship with his father since childhood and hadn’t seen him in at least five months, but on March 15, 2016, he decided to be a man and go make things right. He drove to his father’s house to hash things out once and for all. When he pulled up, he didn’t recognize the emaciated man before him. His father had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and had started chemotherapy since the last time White had seen him. White sped off without his father seeing him, suppressed his emotions and went to perform his show at The Foundry at Fillmore in Philadelphia as planned.
After that show, White admittedly “fell off the face of the earth” until earlier this year when he was asked to perform at the Made In America festival and a pop-up performance for 10,000 people at Colorado’s famous Red Rocks Amphitheater, where he previewed “Onederful” for the first time. This footage kicks off the video, which is geared to those previously mentioned day-one fans whom White felt deserved an answer about what's happened to him over the past four years. The footage spanning those years is meant as visual representation of a line in the song, “I came a long way.”
As for the type of day he’s singing about, “I’ve made the happiest songs I’ve ever made at the most shitty times. It’s always the silver lining, I guess. Part of the light at the end of the tunnel or the sun amongst the clouds — whatever," he says. "The day that I was actually describing wasn’t a good day, but it was me being completely colorful on a dull, grey day. I think the best part of the reaction so far with the song just being out is being able to hear everyone say like, ‘Yo, I was having a bad day, and this song just lifted my spirits up.’ That’s what I make the music for — what that song did for me and what I hope the song would do for everyone else.”
Watch the"Onederful" video below.