We got the chance to sit down with Saudi MC – a pioneer in the Arab hip-hop scene – and Arabs Got Talent host Qusai this week, talking about everything from his favorite Destiny’s Child (Kelly Rowland) to his dread locks (he’s been growing them for four and a half years now) and, of course, his music. More on that below.
His charisma and vibrant personality were on full display during the wide-ranging interview, where he even told us about his secret obsession with Batman.
“I love Batman. I think I’m Batman… I may not have the car or the money or the butler, but I have the women,” he said laughing.
“I’m not a player. I’m not a player,” he clarified. “I respect women, I appreciate women, you know what I’m saying, I just love the presence of women. I’m not a player. But when I’m single, you know, hey, let’s have fun. But when I’m with that woman, I’m with that woman. I chose her for a reason. It’s as simple as that.”
And you’re not going to want to miss this short video we shot, where he dishes about Arabs Got Talent crushes, his first kiss and more.
You have been performing ever since you were two years old, who inspired you as a child?
Did you used to moonwalk around the house?
I was two years old, I don’t think there was a moonwalk. I just wanted to jump on the couch and do the dance and the moves but Jackson was basically the one who taught me how to be a performer. He had amazing stage presence and taught me never to be afraid of the stage. You just go crazy and entertain people.
You have such a huge fan base in the Middle East; you are a multi-talented hip-hop artist, music producer, song writer, TV show host, actor and a DJ – how do you find time for all of this?
Well this is what I love to do, my job. I am a very diverse entertainer, and ever since I was a kid, I have been infatuated by entertainment, with all of its angles and aspects.
I am a lover of poetry and art, so I collectively put all of these things together. And actually, this is how I learned English… how to pronounce the word before understanding what it means, from movies and actors like Stallone, Denzel, De Niro and later on Will Smith, as he started as a hip-hop artist. He is basically one of my idols, and I’d like to follow his career path.
Hip-hop took a huge toll on my life, from when I first heard it and then later on turned from a music lover to a DJ, composer, song writer and a producer and later on grabbed the mic and started rapping. I went from being a lover, listening to LL Cool J, to being a rapper because I got inspired by an artist like Tupac.
And out of all the things you do, which is your favorite part, music or hosting?
Definitely music. I never consider myself a host, I am an MC, and there is a difference. The host is a person who stands, reads, has a certain position, pause – and you don’t see me doing that.
You see me chilling, getting ready to do a show for you and the family, me being myself and spontaneous, and with Raya my co-host who has the same personality, we have had an undeniable chemistry for the past four seasons.
We saw you perform your hit “Umm El Dunia” during the ‘Arabs Got Talent’ season four finale and the crowd went wild; what did it feel like expressing your love for Egypt in front of hundreds of Egyptians including judge Ahmed Helmy?
It was amazing. I am very used to the Arabs Got Talent stage. Every finale, I perform a song and this season I was looking forward to finishing “Umm El-Dunia” before the finale arrived.
The minute the song and video was ready, I got back to the producers and told them I have a banger for the finale. They heard it and went crazy and I got Fifty and Sadat to be on stage with me.
I really loved the part when the contestants came on stage and danced with you during the performance; tell us about that special moment.
I love coordinating everything in my work, from writing to composing, arranging, recording and mixing with my team’s support, so I sat down with both the director and creative director of the show and basically told them I want to turn the stage upside down. Open the door, let the contestants in, let us have fun and dance, because after that everyone will be waiting for the results and they needed to shake it off a little bit.
And what kind of feedback did you get?
The next day it was all over and did great. Now it’s been almost a month and it has reached over one million views, without the help of the media, the industry or labels. It is all us, my company, team, management, Arabs Got Talent, friends and the fans. They made it possible.
Honestly, it is no surprise, the lyrics are incredibly genuine, and it touched people’s hearts at such a hard time. Why did you write about Egypt?
When it comes to writing my songs, I am very sincere in every single word I write. Ever since I was a kid, I had this passion and connection with Egypt. I always came here and stayed with my grandparents in El-Maadi; I had amazing childhood memories here, every time I come here I just feel good.
I have always wanted to write about Egypt as I always try to challenge myself. “The Wedding”, my first single, represented where I came from; the second single, “The Job”, was more about the Gulf, the third one was “Yala”, which was a huge hit which reached my fans in Bilad Al-Cham [Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan] and it was time to do the song about Egypt.
I also stepped it up with what I wanted to do with the song, as far as the composition and adding the Mahragan, which is the new movement in Egypt. It was more diverse and intellectual, not just relevant to what you hear on the radio. My music is experimental, educational and entertainment, I consider it my journey.
How was it collaborating with Fifty and Sadat?
Tremendous and a hell of an experience. We are from two different worlds, each of us talented in his own craft…
They were very humble and respected me as an artist. They were fans who looked up to me and recited my old song, “Any Given Day”. They were looking forward to do the work and that kept me humble and made the experience amazing.
I have to be honest, my favorite part of the video was when you jumped into that bus like a true Egyptian, only a local would get it right! Who taught you that?
*laughs* The streets of Egypt and the culture taught me! I used to do that before people knew who I was.
What other amazing tracks will your fans find in your album?
“Um El-Donya” was originally a single I released as my fans have been waiting for my work. Lately, I have been busy doing collaborations, and I was in the States working on my first international single and international album…
I plan on going in the summer to shoot a video and finalize the album, so what I did last week is I released a mix tape. All my work in 2014, I planted the seeds, the fruits came out and I plucked them for my fans.
The tape is 16 songs of pure essence Hip-Hop. It is called Featuring Don Legend, and in every single song I have a collaboration with someone I am a fan of, from the underground scene from around the region, because that is what I am about, sharing the light. Because it is not only about me, it is about the hip-hop movement, because I don’t want it to fade away after a period.
I look at music as a form of expression and that was the idea behind the mix tape. As for the album that I am working on internationally, it has a diverse vibe to it as well as the element of the 90’s.
The singles that I am doing right now has that feel of the 80’s, that’s what is going on right nows…
I’m in love with the sound of the 70’s and 80’s and I was waiting for that time, so I did the single, ” I’m Cool” – which you can download on iTunes – which was totally different and funk, but at the same time I grew up listening to the 90’s hip-hop, which inspired the album. Music is like fashion, every 10 to 30 years it comes back with respect for a new sound.
Will we see you performing in Egypt soon?
Yeah definitely, I love performing in Egypt, whether something big or small.
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