Soldier Hard

21 April 2010

[ ] : Tell us where you are from and introduce yourself.

[ Soldier Hard ] : First off thanks for this interview! Well, I was born in Oakland, CA and raised in South Vallejo (Sheridan St.). Inspired to get in this rap game by the Bay legend Too Short. I used to rap his lyrics as if I was him until one day I decided to make my own. After that I fell in love with this game. At 19 I got my first taste of recording in an actual professional recording studio at Rated Z Records in Vallejo owned by Johnny Z, which everyone knows is a legend in the Bay Area music scene. After that it was hard to take me away from any kind of studio, I knew from then on that this is what I will be doing.

[ ] : As far as I know it all began in 2005 when you released "The Spirit Of Pain" cd - a first album from Soldier Hard. There was also an earlier project which you dropped under the name of AWOL Soldier. Tell us more about it. Is it still available?

[ Soldier Hard ] : Yes! It is actually still available on It was my very first single, the first stepping stone on the making of Soldier Hard, then I went under the name AWOL Soldier. At that time (2003) my goal was to release a single and just pass it out for free, just to give it away. The buzz and feedback wasn't what I expected and I almost gave up. But I was never the type to give up, so I stuck it out and released my debut album titled "The Spirit Of Pain" (2005) which featured Coolio Da' Unda' Dogg, Mugzi (Mugzilla), Playa Rae, Royalty, Poppi Cas and more. That album was totally opposite to the single. I made enough money to purchase my own studio and it was curtains after that. "The Introduction" was my 2nd full album I released.

[ ] : Why did you decide to change your rap name?

[ Soldier Hard ] : Oh, it wasn't until I got a little older and realized what I did to earn that name wasn't cool at all. I did what the military looks down upon. I actually went AWOL and left without permission and I was sentenced to 2 months in a military jail facility. I lost all the rank I had and money was taken away from me. There I was this young V-Town dude sitting in a military jail for a military crime and there I was glorifying it by calling me AWOL Soldier like it was cool to do. So I had to change my life as a Soldier and as an artist for the better, after I was released from the military jail! So I changed it to Soldier Hard.

It took a long time to erase what I've done in the military's eyes and I worked hella hard to remove the mistakes I made. Every month as a Soldier we are given a council statement similar to a report card assessing soldiers on their performance for the month and under every counsel statement my Platoon Sergeant would write "Soldier Hard" basically stating that I was a good soldier. Soldier Hard was also the Army motto similar to "Be all you can be" & "Army Strong", which is the motto used by the Army today. I came a long way erasing my mistakes, but I did it, feel me?

[ ] : Just after "The Introduction" you dropped 2 other cds - an EP project called "For The Ladies" and "The Deployment". All this in one year! How did you manage this being on the frontline at the same time?

[ Soldier Hard ] : Well, "The Deployment" - I already had it recorded and done from my Iraq deployment, but I was holding on to it for the perfect time to release it. I released the "The Introduction" because at that time I was stationed at Ft Bliss Texas (EL Paso TX) and no one knew who I was and having the hustle and game I knew just by being in the Bay Area music scene I felt it was time for the EL Paso music fans to get an introduction to who I was. Like you said, I released all those cd projects in 1 year. I was a studio junkie; I would end my military duties for the day and just stay in the studio trying to perfect my craft every day. I was focused on creating a buzz in the city. I did just that and it was rather quick; I stood in front of clubs grinding cds, passing out flyers and getting the people to remember my face and name. Shortly after I was featured in many of the cities music magazines, on the local NBC News and concert promoters kept hitting me up to perform. EL Paso showed me love; I became a major factor in the city's music scene, all because of the Bay Area's hustle & grind we all are taught coming up in the Bay Area rap scene. So yeah, I made time to get out in the streets; that's how I made it possible. It pays to stay in the studio, everything else was second.

[ ] : "The Deployment" says it was recorded entirely in Iraq. How is it possible? Do you have a kind of "field studio"? Is there anyone helping you with mastering, mixing etc. or do you make all these things by yourself?

[ Soldier Hard ] : Yes! 90% of "The Deployment" was written and recorded in Iraq at Camp Taji, which is 14 miles north of Baghdad. At that time it was my 2nd deployment so I knew it was possible that time around to bring my own recording equipment and well so I did! I brought the bare minimum it took in order to record and escape the realities of war. It consisted of a laptop, Cake Walk recording software and a studio condenser microphone with the stand and pop filter and that was it. I had friends emailed me beats and I would stay recording on off time and in between missions. Everyone who's been in combat knows as a Trooper we all need and outlet to escape the realities we face. Some went to the gym, some played basketball and some even read books to past the time and escape. Me? I wrote music and recorded every chance I got. I must say, by recording out there, I literally got so lost into the music, many times I forgot that I was in Iraq. If anyone was looking for "Sergeant Barillaro" (Soldier Hard) they knew where to find me - in the studio! As far as mixing and mastering goes, that was all on me and back then I was a rookie at it and well I did my best; later on I figured that I'd get some help in that department. But yeah it was recorded in Iraq, in a combat zone and that's something I am very proud of and pleased to say that I did that, because very few can say they did. But Soldier Hard from the Bay Area can says that!

[ ] : OK, now tell us more about you and the military thing. How did you end up as a soldier?

[ Soldier Hard ] : Being from a long list of military members in my family it was really expected of me to join the military once I became of age, so if anyone knew me at age 12 and asked me what I was going to be when I grew up would have got a "I'm going to be a Soldier" response. I knew that's what I was going to do and when I became of age I enlisted after graduating high school at Hogan High in Vallejo. My family participated in every major war the US have ever fought and I am also proud to say I carried on the family tradition of serving our country.

[ ] : How long have you been serving for your country?

[ Soldier Hard ] : I joined the Army on October 1995 as an Armor Crewmen for the M1A1 & M1A2 main battle tank. I wanted to shoot things and wanted a bigger gun then a rifle or pistol; so on a tank, what better way to blow stuff up? Doggie I put in hella work and hella years in this, now it's 2010 and I'm still doing it. No one can say I didn't do shit, and if they do, I just look at them and not say a word, shake my head, laugh and walk away.

[ ] : Is it hard to reconcile military life, rap life and your personal one?

[ Soldier Hard ] : No! Not at all! Because all of them is who I am, as far as the music life, it makes topics, come to me very easy. I'm a real rapper & artist. If you hear it in my music, I've lived it. My military life ties into my rap life, and my personal life. I'ma spit for my troops, that's who I am, I'ma Soldier. The world needs to know our story, no one will tell it, so this Bay boy does. The media ain't exposing the real truth and topics, they just pick and choose what they think is a good story. So I give it to the world from a Soldier's point of view, from a person who actually lives it and went through it all feel me?

Now my fans and supporters gave me the name "The Voice". I'm our troops' voice who stepped up and speaks on their behalf. Many troops hit me up daily, thanking me for creating the music for them and telling our story and how my music has helped them deal with their issues of war and issues with life after war, because that's something the people outside of the military aren't seeing. But I will never forget who I am in the process and where I come from. "I'm Soldier Hard, I'm from Vallejo California, The Big Bay Area and the streets is where I got my hustle from". That's what I always tell myself when I create a new project, I have to talk about Soldier shit, I have to talk about hood shit, that's who I am, all of them tied into one.

[ ] : Have you ever thought of rightness of wars? Yes, it's true that you serve your country. But what if your country's policy is hostile in a global way? I'm asking, because for instance people all over the world were misled a couple of years back and informed that Hussein does have weapons of mass destruction when in fact no proof was presented until this very day.

[ Soldier Hard ] : I can get a lot of trouble if I answer this question even if in my own opinion, so I will not even touch it, but what I will say is this: Everything the media reports is not 100% true and just because the media hasn't reported there were WMD's found doesn't mean that WMD's don't exist! That's something to really think about. Does the world need to know everything? I don't think so! It would be pandemonium if they did know it all. And that's all I can say on that topic!

[ ] : You are a soldier, you need to do what you're told to. What if the order was reckless, rash or just completely in contrary with your morals as a human being with conscience?

[ Soldier Hard ] : Yes, we do what we are told to do, but per the Uniform Code of Military Justice (Military Laws) if we, as service members, are given an order by a superiors that's against life's morals and an order that is "reckless" & "harsh", we have the right to not follow that order that was given to us. We are drilled into our heads to use our best judgment when following orders. You see, we, as soldiers, have values we live by. These are the Army Values and they are: Leadership, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity & Personal Courage. We live by this everyday and that ties into this question. We have to do what's right legally and morally. Even if it means NOT following an order that was given to us by our superiors and by doing that we followed our Army Values by showing the "Personal Courage" to step up and say "no, I will not follow that order because it's wrong". That's Honor, that's integrity, that's our Duty & that's a Soldier. That was actually a great question!

[ ] : You've been open and honest in your lyrics from the very beginning. How do you compare your lyrics to the ones by other artists? Don't you feel like there's too much fake and dumb massages in the contemporary Bay Area rap?

[ Soldier Hard ] : No, I actually don't! Being from the Bay I know how life is for a young bay boy on the turf block. I hustled rock on the block at 17 just to get my paper up. So if I, a person who changed his life style and did my dirt, others can and do too. A lot of people don't know who are outside of The Bay Area, life ain't the best coming up. We have to be independent in every aspect of "coming up" in some way. So we are laced with hustle, we know how to get money and won't do a crime unless we have to. I never broke into a house that I didn't have to. I never sold dope if I didn't have to and that goes with a lot of us in the Bay, we do it because we have to. We hustle hard out here, it must be the Bay fog that does that to us. Haha, what I do think is that we as Bay artists are talking about the same things, we can only make so much of the same topics before they get tired and old and that's what I think is the issue as of now. Of course your going to get your "wanna be's" out there talking about something they saw on TV, but that's just a global issue that will never end, but for the most part much love to the artist out there, who is really a major factor in the Bay Area rap scene.

[ ] : How do you find yourself being a Bay Area rapper? There are not many representing subjects in your music.

[ Soldier Hard ] : I'm a Bay rapper regardless where the Army sends me, I lived throughout the South and the Mid West for hella years and no matter what my heart remained home at all times. I will never forget who I am; the Bay was the foundation to who I am and the military laced me to be who I become, a Soldier! I refuse to turn back on the two! I love them both too much! I got them both tattooed all on my body! I'm a walking talking Bay Area, Army Soldier! Haha! Your right though! There aren't a lot of subjects on my cds, but every cd I make, I do have a couple and that goes back to when I said "I won't forget who I am". 80% of the cds I released, I wasn't living in the Bay, I was elsewhere, but I'm always quick to rep it, through music bars, shows and life! People know when I perform a show I make sure one of my dudes tell the MC to mention "Soldier Hard from the Bay Area". I'm a Bay boy and always will be. The Bay won't feel me on the military topics though and I'm cool with that, but I just keep it in my head, they may not feel me on it, but they will hear their troops who's fighting for them, they will hear their stories, even if they don't like it, they still heard our story and that's what I wanna tell people, OUR stories and life as a military fighting men. Because all of us would gladly give our lives for our countries freedom and that's real talk!

[ ] : As far as I know you receive a lot of respect and props from people who're somehow connected with military life. And what about regular audience? Don't you feel like some listeners might not find it interesting?

[ Soldier Hard ] : Yeah, I know they won't find it interesting, but it's something I have to do, I have to tell our stories. It's very important to our troops to tell it, because like I said, no one is doing it. Listeners outside of the military may view me as a gimmick and that's because they don't know life as a soldier or service member. There is nothing gimmick about me! I'm a soldier who fought in wars, saw soldiers and the enemies die right in front of me, bombs went off as our vehicle passed by them, I've bust my rifle at dudes and got medals for it! What's gimmick about that? I know I ain't fake! My military supporters KNOW I ain't fake, so I ain't even trippin' on what people think of me or if they're not interested, that's their freedom to do that! The freedom THEIR troops died for and continues to die for, so they can have that freedom to not be interested in. This shit is really deep if you take the time and think outside the box and try to look at it from a Troops stand point! We have a story! Listen to it! The shit is real life man! Real talk! It's something different from the normal topics that's talked about and we all say, come different right? Well I am!

As far as my military supporters! Man I love them all. They make me strong and keep me spittin' for them. They showed me so much love! The messages I get just blows me away. One Soldier hit me up who was serving in Iraq and thanked me for the music I make and said that it has helped him cope with life in a war zone. A military wife hit me up and thanked me for literally saving her marriage because of my music, she said it helped her to understand what her husband is going through in war and she decided to appreciate him more because of my music! Man I tell you! I can end my music career right now and be proud that I've made a huge impact on people's lives just through music and to think it all started with the inspiration from Too Short to make this all happen. Man I love all of them! I can't turn my back on them! Not never!

[ ] : There's been a lot of new projects from you which dropped in 2 last years. Starting from "The Veteran" from 2008, "Boots Laced Up" from 2009 and the latest duet album with Dego called "Trading War Stories". Not even mentioning free Internet releases and the Greatest Hits project. Tell us more about your latest collaboration.

[ Soldier Hard ] : Yeah, that's one of my favorite projects too! I ain't even with the Group thing either! I used to be part a rap group called "DFB" (Down For Brown) which was featured on Black & Brown Entertainment's "17 Reasons", a CD Compilation on a track called "Sideways" and also on Latino Velvet's compilation album on a track called "If You Let Me", which are both Bay classics. So on this project I teamed up with a rapper from Stockton, named Dego who is also in the military. Dego is still serving in the Marine Corps and is an Iraq veteran too and who is already battle tested. We meet on, we networked and came together to form a group called The DoD otherwise known as The Department of Defense. Man my dude Dego is one talented rapper! He shot the idea to me on coming together and we ran with it! Being a Marines and myself in the Army we both had stories to tell reppin' our respected branches of service.

We titled the album "Trading War Stories". Fearing we will be getting some lip for copying 2Pac & C-Bo's collaboration track "Trade War Stories" we thought of changing the name. But we threw that idea out quick! The both of us together really have WAR stories to trade, so we kept it! And on March 31st 2010 we released it! I will tell everyone go get that, even if it's the digital copy or to listen to it. The album is fire! A Soldier and a Marine, spitting on the same track, one from Vallejo and the other from Stockton. We gassed that cd and from beginning to the end is knockin! Real stories and topics for your ears. To listen to the whole album go to - you won't regret it!

[ ] : And what about the next solo album? We've already seen a cover and a huge guest appearances line up from some of the best Bay Area rappers. There weren't much "stars" featured on your previous cds - what has changed now?

[ Soldier Hard ] : Well, a lot has changed! For 1, I will be ending my military career very soon (June 2010) and I will be moving back to Vallejo, after many years of being gone, I want to make a statement to the Bay rap fans! "I'm coming home" & "Ya'll going to take me serious". I will spend money on the features, I'ma spend that bread on advertisements, I'ma keep grinding, 'cause that's all I know how to do. I'ma do what I have to do to let the Bay know that I ain't playing no games. I have been doing it for the many years though I was far away from the Bay! But your boy been hustling hard, they just got to do their homework on what I accomplished since I was away.

I'm currently working on my 10th CD release "The Soldier Of The Bay". I brought some heavy hitters to my squad too, like Spice 1, Jay Tee (N2Deep), San Quinn & Mr. Kee. I always wanted to do a track with them, but never did, due to being away from the area. I got Berner on this too. To be honest I didn't hear of Berner till about 4 months ago. I was looking on MySpace and came across his page and listen to dude and I was impressed. This dude got talent and I had to get him on my project. I also got Young Dru and Pody Mouf on it, I got my brother from another mother Poppi Cas (30/30 Sic Wid it) and more! I'm trying to get at A-Wax but can't seem to accomplish that mission, but I'm gonna stay on it. So yeah! "Soldier Of The Bay" is in the works, "Soldier Of The Bay" is me, I own that throne and title! I earned it! So that's why I titled it "Soldier Of The Bay". I held the Bay down on the battlefield feel me? Get ready ya'll, it's coming!

[ ] : Let's go back to your military life. I've heard you say that you're done with the service a lot of times, yet you're still going overseas for war. Any definite decisions about it?

[ Soldier Hard ] : Yes and my answer is the same! I'm getting out! I was supposed to get out August 2009, but two months before I was supposed to get out, I was stop lossed. Stop Loss is when you reach the end of your contract, and the Army decides, "Nope, we need you for one more tour overseas". That's what happened to me. I was ready to get out and they basically said "No, you're going to deploy again, then we will let you out". They made a movie about it too called "Stop Loss". So right now I am deployed again and it's coming to the end of this tour and on June 2010 this year, they have to let me out. I exceeded my contract and kept my end of the bargain. They still ask me to re-enlist, but that ain't going to happen. I served our country for hella years and it's time to start serving myself and my family by actually being there for them, feel me? Back to the Bay I go and that's my final answer!

[ ] : So now that your going to return back to the Bay Area what is your next move on the rap scene?

[ Soldier Hard ] : I'ma grind like I know how. I'ma jump on hella Bay cats projects, I already started that now, I'ma get that buzz going. I charge people for features nowadays, but my plan is to get out in the turfs and grind. Any artist out there want a hot verse from a Soldier, get at me. I got it for ya'll for basically nothing, just get the gas and we will hit the lab hard. Real talk, get at me, it's nothing! Bay networking at its finest! I ain't gonna drop "Soldier Of The Bay" until I feel the Bay is ready for it and I knock out hella shows; you'll see, they gonna hear about me.

[ ] : Anything else you want to add?

[ Soldier Hard ] : Roger that! I do! I'm coming home soon, let's get this! Get at me at:

or hit me on the e-mail at or hit my manager Victor Espinoza at right on! Thanks for the interview! Much luv for that! Ooohh yeah and to all the rappers out there, hit me up next time ya'll use military topics, words and lines in your bars. It's good to use them, but damn can we get what you are talking about, correct? I'm the military correspondent for you artist like they got for Hollywood movies, get at me! Because I hear a lot of bars in people rhymes and they getting it all wrong!

1 - You don't salute Sergeants
2 - Captains don't do shit, they just take credit for other people's work; Sergeants are the backbone of every service, they get the job done
3 - The Taliban and Insurgents are the biggest cowards; all they do is run, they don't want to fight head up, yet rappers seem to want to compare themselves to them in their rhymes! But it's all good! Ya Soldier Hard gots ya back on this!

Bay Luv yeah!!! Soldier Hard, Out!!!!!