Thug life in Saudi? The Kingdom's growing rap scene

Published September 15th, 2013 - 11:26 GMT
Inspiring a generation? Saudi Arabia has a burgeoning rap scene, with many kids who don't even speak English becoming fans of hip-hop legends Biggie and Tupac. (Image courtesy of WestLord.com)
Inspiring a generation? Saudi Arabia has a burgeoning rap scene, with many kids who don't even speak English becoming fans of hip-hop legends Biggie and Tupac. (Image courtesy of WestLord.com)

Time is of the essence in Saudi Arabia. Hip Hop, RnB and Rap are heavily infused in the music culture locally. 

Hip Hop reached the Middle East in the early nineties and it’s ability to give the youth a platform to voice their thoughts, emotions and dreams, gave it momentum and due credibility. 

“Many people who don’t even speak English as a first language are the biggest fans of Tupac and Biggie in Saudi Arabia,” said Salwa Qasim, a 25-year-old Saudi artist.

DAM, Omar Offendum, Shadia Mansour, The Narcicyst, Low Key, Arabian Knightz among many others claimed their right to fame and garnered international attention. Locally, Ayzee, Qusai, Mind Circus, AY Production, Molham Homsi, Anas Arabi, Vizion, Kaffien, Abz, Majeed Sauve, Sleuther, NF and many others have followed suit and created a niche for themselves and the genre of Hip Hop.

Skinny, a Saudi rapper and producer (reportedly signed to Warner Chappell) based in LA is also part of the burgeoning scene. 

Recently, a young “half-American, half-Saudi” returned to the Kingdom with the dream of encouraging and educating the youth interested in rap on his summer break. 

In a humble effort, Reef Loretto organized “Revealed Through Rap” a five-day workshop in Dahran.

“The workshop is mainly an opportunity for rappers in the Dhahran/Khobar area to sit down with others with similar interests and better their art.

“That said, after completing a session I’m started to realize that some of the topics we talk about can be applied in many other forms of expression (poetry, songwriting in general, creative writing) but I reference rap so much during the workshops, which is why I think it’s important for those who attend to at least be familiar with rap music.

“One of the most important things about this workshop has to do with the word revealed. 

“I think that in order for art to connect with an audience, it needs to reveal something about the artist or about a topic people get too scared to talk about in everyday conversations. 

“As the attendees learned today, it’s easy to fill your lyrics with deep and emotional content, what you’re writing might make a lot of sense to you, but it’s only after you reveal details about the things you’re writing about — personal, real-life details — that an audience will be able to relate. It also makes your art a lot more entertaining and interesting to experience.

“Today, we talked about how Drake and Kendrick Lamar, among other artists, have successfully included personal, at times controversial details in their music to make it stand out and make real impact in a time where there are so many average rappers, producers, and songwriters out there.

“I personally have a deep connection to rap music, and I myself am an artist trying to get better at what I do. I have been doing my best to work with everyone on a personal level in order to really make sure people are benefiting from what’s being offered.”

He said, before it started, “I constantly told myself that I was under-prepared, not worthy to teach such a course, that nobody would find the material interesting, but then I realized that if I listened to those fears the summer would finish and this would be just another idea gone to waste. “So I committed. And now, four days after the final session, I’m so glad it happened. Can’t wait for the next one!” 

Even though live Hip Hop performances only began in the 1990s, Arabic Hip Hop is hugely popular on TV, radio stations and Internet

The online space has shaped a stage open to the underground world of Hip Hop in the region and till date proves to be a major outlet for many musicians. Most artists use YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to share their records with the public in a country where Hip Hop has become more than just a popular pastime. But is also considered a way of life.


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