This is a continuations of Annahar's series reporting on the emerging art of Arab Rap.
BEIRUT: Earlier in September, when Beirut was witnessing another night of the Street Culture and Urban Music (SCUM) Week at KED, he was sitting next to the stage, nervously awaiting the host, Chyno, to announce his name for the first time in Beirut.
Shaking off the inevitable stage fright that comes along with being a performer, he went out next to the rap collective, Msoukh who backed up the young Palestinian rapper from the decks, and shortly Shabjdeed had the crowd singing along from the very first line.
Ouday Abbas, known by his rap name Shabjdeed, is part of the collective BLTNM that consists from beat artist and musician Al Nather, creative director Shab Mouri, and Shabjdeed.
“Creating BLTNM, we were like an army,” Shabjdeed told Annahar, “Al Nather is the manager of everything you hear, it all comes from him. Mouri is the manager of everything visual you see, and I do the rap and inner management. We are a team and everyone plays a role.”
His style and flow of music which was present in Sindibad had a feel of thoughtfulness with a comic rhythm, somehow creating a unique hybrid in the Arabic hip hop scene since the Arabic sound has always fed on the element of aggressiveness.
After dropping “SINDIBAD”, Shabjdeed’s first album with which consisted of 13 tracks by BLTNM earlier in August, he was surprised that the Lebanese crowd would already have learned his tracks by the time for his performance in Beirut a month later.
“Personally, I wasn’t expecting more than 10 people at our performance. Then I saw the big crowd, and they knew the lyrics to my songs, it was such a happy moment,” he said
Performing a year earlier at the first Boiler Room held in Ramallah, Shabjdeed explained in an interview with Annahar during SCUM Week, the crucial part it played not only on his career, but on BLTNM as a collective.
- How much did Boiler Room Ramallah influence BLTNM?
“It was the first time I had a show in my life, it was beneficial in two ways, I didn’t know what Boiler Room was, plus the scene in Ramallah was very underground and in hiding, the Boiler Room you could say, unveiled the scene and we were ready to get out and be heard so the timing was perfect.
BLTNM coincidently got out in Boiler Room Ramallah, they wanted Al Nather only but he told them I want to get my boy, and they got me. We were still in the very beginning stages, and we were already counting on it and it got much more views making the way easier.”
How do you describe your music evolution and flow which has obviously changed in SINDIBAD?
“I think it’s a gift from God. I have absolutely no idea how the change in styles occurs or where it comes from. We started working on music in one style, it transformed into so many things.
When Al Nather came into my life, my whole life changed. I stopped working with everyone, and just worked with him solemnly. I started going into his studio, and work extensively gathering as much music as I can and storing it there. All the evolution in my music, happened because of Al Nather.”
- The song “Kohl w Atmeh” (which translates to charcoal black and darkness) stood out, can you describe what the song was about and how did you write about it?
“I used to work in Jerusalem, living in Ramallah, where there was a wall and a military barricade. Also knives and stabbing were very common at the time I was writing the song. Everyone was watching their backs, and going down to the street already knowing they might be killed or ryfrom petty local crime or rivalry.
From this struggle, I used to wake up at 5-6 in the morning and see the city in a state of “كحل و عتمة ,“ and when I used to go down to Qalandiya, my mother used to tell me goodbye and to take care of myself on the streets. The song talks about that in general, the overall real life we had to face.
“Kohl w Atmeh” took me six months to write, and then after a year and a half to produce and release. But all the other songs with Al Nather, we recorded those in a day. For us to produce an album and recording 30 songs, to in the end, picking 13. As for Sindibad, the album took a whole year.”
-When you were on stage, the biggest support you had wasn’t only the crowd, it was from Msoukh. How important is it for artists to support one another in the scene?
“They are so precious to me, I didn’t know them personally nor did I ever see them before. We have just sent voice notes to each other before where nobody understood the other. El Rass, we had two songs together and he has been spoiling us ever since. Al Darvvish is also very close to my heart, I spent all my time in Beirut with him I barely saw anything here.
For the Record," is Annahar's new music section. It aims to cover in-depth the underground independent music scene in Beirut, which has become known around the world for the alchemical mix of local and international artists. This unique and innovative scene, defined by its superior audio-sound quality and the incredible amount of talent, has become the center of attention to many local and international audiences, initiatives, and artists.
For further information contact, Chiri Choukeir: [email protected]
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