Thanks to www.triplew.me for setting this conversation about hiphop in the middle east up!
Here is Big Hass!
Hip hop and the Middle East in the same sentence might have been a bit nonsensical a couple of years back, but the regional music scene has been recently flourishing with some great hip hop talent from groups to MCs. Triplew.me recently spoke to Big Hass, one of the region’s biggest hip hop supporters who recently launched a special show on Saudi’s MIX FM titled “Laish Hip Hop?”.
How did “Laish Hip Hop?” start?
I would start by saying that it’s a result of hard work & luck. I have started the Re-Volt Radio Blogin September (2009) and have been supporting the underground movement ever since.
Approaching an FM radio station was ignited by my belief that we as listeners are entitled to listen to good music on the airwaves - by that I mean not to have the same playlist on repeat day in and day out. Having said that, FM Radio is a complex business and I wanted to change that in my own way. Through my hard work, dedication and the support I got from the Hip Hop community I landed this wonderful gig, which is the Launch Of Saudi's 1st FM Hip Hop Radio Show "Laish Hip Hop?" (which translates to "Why Hip Hop?") in English. It’s a Live show which airs every Thursday on the MIX FM.
How did you get involved with hip hop in the first place?
I've always loved hip hop but in 2009 I discovered the Arabic hip hop movement, which I was drawn to and thus I dug deeper. I found youth that is full of inspiration, empowerment and revolution – values which we, as youth, don’t often hear on the commercial radio or see on our TV screens.
I also found that hip hop is a genre which is misrepresented in the media. Hip hop is a voice to the voiceless, first and foremost. It’s more than music, it’s poetry and it’s a culture – and I wanted to put that message across to the audience.
The fact that you’ve secured support from an FM station to play underground hip hop from the region is an amazing feat – what challenges faced you at the start?
It was really very challenging but at the same time rewarding. I have tried so many radio stations (across the region - Lebanon, UAE, Jordan and Saudi) and all I got was "We do not play Arabic Hip Hop." Which frustrated me, ‘cause if our own regional channels won’t support our talent, then who would?
Luckily for me, new stations were being launched across the kingdom of Saudi Arabia – and in my quest, I approached MIX FM who after studying the show – agreed to allocating me an hour-long show (once a week). The channel was also supportive enough to give me full creative freedom in what I choose to play.
What kind of reception did you find from the audience to "Laish Hip Hop?"?
As for the reception, it has be great so far. I often receive messages from the audience stating that “I’ve changed their perception of hip hop” from what they usually see in mainstream media.
The region is bursting with amazing talent across different genres – and it’s fantastic that there're platforms right now to support the budding talent. How do you see the music scene progressing - Is the pace satisfactory?
For me, music nowadays is for the mindless. Good music does exist but you have to look for it and you have to dig deep to find it. This is all is starting to change because record labels aren’t as powerful as they used to be and this power is slowly shifting to the creators and to the craft itself.
If you could have it your way what would you change or add to develop the scene further?
Wow. Well, I have started with launching the radio show. Now, I really want to start supporting the artists on the ground. I have arranged two shows so far, and let me tell you, getting sponsors for those shows hasn’t been easy due to the fact that they aren’t “mainstream enough”. But I do believe this is all going to change if we keep working at it – the audience in the Middle East needs to be aware of the amazing talent that these artists have.
Which are your favorite international and regional hip hop artists?
It’s a big list – but I’ll shortlist some that I admire: On the international scene – I enjoy Brother Ali, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def and more. And on the regional level, my favorites include – The Narcicyst, Lowkey, Omar Offendum, Shadia Mansour, DJ Lethal Skills, FareeQ Al Atrash and El Deeb amongst others.
Why do you think Hip Hop speaks to the average Arabic youth across the region?
The answer is simply because it spits the truth and is straight to the point without being ‘corny’. It culminates a reality and in its stories and narrative gives people what they want to hear.
How does hip hop fit with the current events across the region?
All the countries which are witnessing revolutions had huge hip hop tracks supporting the respective movements and just expressing what’s on the youths’ minds. Hip Hop is poetry and that resonates with people who are trying to “break free” of oppression. We’ve got “It’s a Domino Effect” by Omar Offendum, as an example of hip hop tracks which are coinciding with the current events.
What are your plans for the future?
Well, my focus right now is to “Laish Hip Hop?” the number one FM Hip Hop Radio Show in the Middle East. I have to mention that Dubai-based DJ, Mr. Danny Neville has supported me in numerous ways and I’d like to give a “shout-out” to him and his show “The Edge”.
I’m also looking to create more opportunities for hip hop artists through live shows across the region.
Listen to “Laish Hip Hop?” every Thursday night from 9 – 10 PM KSA time/ 10 – 11 PM UAE time on MIX FM. Follow this link for a live stream of the show.