When Krondon, Phil The Agony and Mitchy Slick connected to form Strong Arm Steady about a decade ago, the SoCal trio had already enjoyed success as solo artists. With mentor Xzibit also in the fold, the crew built its name the old fashioned way -- serving up one killer mixtape after another. Record deals came next, including one with Talib Kweli’s Blacksmith Records.
It all sounds good, but in looking back, Strong Arm Steady believes that being associated with Xzibit and Talib Kweli both helped and hurt.
“Although it created a beautiful highway for us to attempt to progress to where we’re trying to go," says Krondon, "it kind of left our fanbase in the dark about what our actual significance was and all that we brought and will bring to the table.
"We were all individual artists before we formed Strong Arm Steady and, being from the West Coast, we were doing something that hadn’t been done with the independent mixtapes, doing independent deals on our own and doing major deals with other artists.”
Now on its own, Strong Arm Steady has released “Stereo Type,” its collaborative album with Statik Selektah. On independent powerhouse Stones Throw Records, the collection arrives on the heels of 2010’s “In Search Of Stoney Jackson” and 2011’s “Arms & Hammers.”
The group enjoys the newfound freedom of being able to make its own decisions about when and where to release its material. “We can get the music out faster,” Phil The Agony says. “We’re more in control of what’s going on and what we want to release.”
The control extends beyond music. The group secured a T-shirt deal with Diamond Supply Co. on its own. They also have other branding initiatives in motion. “A big part of DIY is BYT, which is build your team,” Krondon says. “We’ve been able to build our team, where I think before we were a part of other people’s teams.”
“Statik is a soulful white guy. He brought it. We’re babies of Pete Rock and stuff like that. That’s soul brother number one.”
Working exclusively with Statik Selektah on “Stereo Type” was their decision, too, a natural outgrowth of collaborating with the prolific producer. The beatsmith provided a new element to the group’s music. “Statik is a soulful white guy,” Phil The Agony says. “He brought it. We’re babies of Pete Rock and stuff like that. That’s soul brother number one.”
“When you listen to Strong Arm Steady as a brand, I think it’s important for us to not have any album sound alike,” adds Krondon. "That’s the key. When we picked the beats and went back and forth with Statik, we were trying to not do what we’ve already done. We want to be progressive, but at the same time have those elements that you’re used to hearing from rap music.”
Adding new elements on their own terms was something Strong Arm Steady now realizes they could only do on their own. It was a critical step, something they had to do in order to get where they want to go.
“When you come to the party on your own and you bring your own gifts,” Krondon says, “you’re respected and you’re looked at differently.”