When I was 11 we used to draw graffiti in our notebooks instead of doing classwork and that was my first intro to Hip Hop culture. After a while one of my classmates had gotten one of those MP3 Player USB sticks (this is 2005 pre-smartphone era, when PC’s used to take up a whole table in the corner of the house) and he shared his downloads of 50 Cent & Eminem. We started writing our own rhymes and I was hooked ever since. English was my second language, yet for the first time I was drawn to lyricism and couldn’t put the pen down. I’ve been practicing ever since and learning how to craft my own songs starting from writing, production, recording. All the way to finalizing the mix and master. I fell in love with every aspect of creating music.
It started off being very lyrically focused with hints of my musical heroes in the productions. And right now it’s evolving to be loud, brash, and a bit cinematic. I don’t consciously aim for anything when I write songs. I’m just trying to keep it as fluid & impulsive as possible, letting the sounds guide me through the process. It’s what I believe to be the process that works for me right now to make genuine music that is without agenda. It serves itself.
Curiosity has been my superpower and if I have any aim with my music, it’s to invoke curiosity for the listener. I’m always looking for new ways to tell these stories that dance in my head especially since my background and experiences don’t fit the “traditional” boxes. Plus, music itself keeps pulling me in. I love learning about instruments, machines, tech, people, history, the stage.
The ‘Lights Out’ Live Show! It was the first event that we got to tailor from start to finish. From music, to visuals, lights and everything in between. Seats were sold out to the point where people had to stand around the venue to watch the show. I’m immensely grateful for the audience & community. Their energy is what made the show so special.
Thank you! It’s a blessing (and a relief) to be here. It started during the lockdown when Questionmark had sent me a folder of beat ideas for me to play with. The title song ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Qasba’ were among the bunch. It was a phenomenal experience because I’ve been a huge fan of Questionmark’s work and beyond stoked to be working together. Initially it was meant to be just ‘Lights Out’ as a single. But my partner Shébani has mentioned that this song finally brought the most out of me unlike anything else, so she encouraged me to build a body of work around it. From there Mark & I spent the better part of the last 2 years in the laboratory tweaking and tinkering every little detail to make it the experience that it is. I say relief because a lot of the delay was perfectionism and I didn’t know when the project was going to see the light of day. I’m glad we trusted the process and took the time to make something we’re proud of.
It’s always scary. There’s always those jitters before a show even when I’m performing to an audience that know my songs. So, I had no gauge as to how they would respond to ‘Lights Out’ for the first time. Especially since the visuals, directed by the incredible Garreth Chan, were a big part of the show too. This album is unlike anything I’d ever put out and there were risks because a lot of the elements didn’t fit song structure or instrumental choices that people were used to. Especially not on Hip Hop records. But as soon as the beats started, I put my trust in the music & just focused on having fun, hoping the audience would feel that energy. I love performing live and almost everything I make has the stage in mind, so it always hits extra hard in a venue.
In the beginning it was always lyrics. I would write down a skeleton of verses and try to find a beat that fit it. As I got into production, I took a 180 to focus on musicality and learning to write with the beat taking the front seat. It was a creative limitation that brought something else out of me. Nowadays it’s a hybrid. I’ve gotten to a point where I can improvise a beat on the DAW or Koala Sampler while simultaneously coming up with rhymes and let them build together. My main focus now is to tell a story within a song disregarding structure; where each song can be its own island, with its own dips and peaks. I grew up on a lot of cinema and soundtracks and I’m chasing the curiosity to blend these worlds together.
I may be biased but The Fridge has been my favorite venue. From the giant screen to the awesome team who run it. Over the years I’ve discovered and connected with so many incredible artists who performed there or happened to be attending. It’s undeniable that it’s become a rite of passage for UAE artists and I’m honored to have shared that stage and be part of that story. When it was time to finish and release ‘Lights Out’, I couldn’t think of anywhere else to do it.
I’m trying so hard not to write 20 names. I’ve got a big list and I’m hungry to work / perform with so many of my heroes. Off the top of my head, it would be Missy Elliot, Kendrick Lamar, Linkin Park, Sum 41, or Hans Zimmer. It would be a dream to share the stage with them and even create something together. I’ve been a fan of Kendrick since the K.Dot days going back to all the mixtapes like C4, No Sleep Till NYC, Black Hippy. I could write three pages to answer this question. I think about it more often than I admit but that’s all I’ll say right now for the sake of brevity.
Being part of the Iraq Cypher was a proud moment for me. I shared the mic with some great Iraqi artists from around the world and got to share the story of my heritage. I was overwhelmed with how much people resonated with it. Some even started sending me videos of them learning my verse and reciting it back. I can’t think of a greater honor to have someone so connected to what I write. I’m humbled and grateful for it all.
I blatantly mention at the end of my song ‘Woohoo!’, “Sole DXB next year, after that Coachella.” Like I’ve said before, I love performing live. My biggest dreams involve stadiums and rocking a crowd. This is what I’m aiming for right now. The big stages like Glastonbury, SXSW, Rock am Ring, Yasalam After-Race Concerts. Down the line I want to work on soundtracks and open my own studio. A playground & museum for artists and the musically curious.
Khalifa Santo, MK-1, Arsenite. In no particular order. I’m a big fan of their work and think we’d make some very interesting things come to life.
"”You can’t force a baby to be born early” was Shébani’s response when I was trying rushing to finish ‘Lights Out’. She reminded me that if I wanted to be doing this for the long haul, I have to be patient and trust the process. Also, I remember reading somewhere “Cool music is hot right now, Good music is forever.” I’ve always kept that as my compass for when I’m creating. "
Before my last performance, I ran into someone at the main gate as he was coming in the show and he’d shared that it’s his first time watching me and that he hadn’t heard my music prior. After the show I’d gotten off stage he made sure to approach me, shake my hand, and blurted out “I’m a KC fan now.” It’s still unreal to me that I get to share my creations with the world and have people respond to it the way they do. I can never take it for granted.
"This answer changes for me every month haha. Right now, I typically try to start the day with a workout. Water & coffee. My day’s usually arranged in pockets. Being a musician is a full-time job with several hats to wear. The 1st pocket is “Communication.” This is where I work on content, reply to messages and emails, and reach out to people. The 2nd is “Admin.” Tasks and any maintenance for the website or song uploads. 3rd is “Music.” This is where I hit the studio and get to creating. I find it easier to create when I know I don’t have anything else to do later. It’s what works for me right now, but when I have project deadlines and shoots, things tend to shuffle around. I try my best to not go overboard and make time to be with loved ones, be a person. It sounds crazy but in today’s world it feels like being an independent artist is at odds with being a person who lives a healthy life. Time & time again I’ve seen the lack of balance lead to burn out which leads to short-careers and long-regrets. I’m in this for the long haul. "
It’s a huge honor! Definitely a big milestone that I’m grateful for. RAS keeps showcasing some of the most impactful artists across the board. Artists that I’m a fan of and look up to. I’m really excited to be a part of that roster and can’t wait for what’s ahead.