DAI DREAM INTERVIEW WITH
"Hip Hop isn't dead it just moved to the Middle East"
When UK based Hip-Hop producer Dai Dream contacted 1971 Productions to talk about his project to bring Hip-Hop to Palestine, our team could not but help take notice. His mission to build a recording studio for the Gaza youth is unusual as he is neither Palestinian nor Middle Eastern. This young white Liverpudlian is on a mission to help young aspiring Arabic rappers, a mission that has been strangely inspired by the progress Black Civil Rights activists made when pushing for equal opportunities during the 1960s, as well as the current Arab Spring in North Africa and The Levant.
Here is our Q and A with Dai Dream as he schools 1971 Productions on the history of Arabic Hip-Hop, where it is today, and how he wants to help take it further.
What first sparked your interest in Arabic Hip-Hop?
It all started with the Arab uprising in the Middle East, seeing people go up against tanks and fighter jets really inspired me. Seeing thousands of Muslims praying together in the street, watching Christians protecting Muslims as they prayed just amazed me. The people protesting in the streets made me believe in change and revolution again. It reminded me of all the great revolutionaries such as Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. To me the Black Civil Rights movement in the 60’s gave Hip-Hop its soul and moral compass, and seeing these protests all over the Arab world was like hip hop was being reborn again.
So I started to search for Arabic Hip-Hop and discovered that there was a huge underground movement. At first I fell in love with the Arabic Language and the Arab Hip-Hop sound, then I found translations of these lyrics and was shocked to find out that 90% of the lyrics where political and had a positive message, there was hardly any talk abut gangster, guns, and material wealth which is all’s what you hear from America and mainstream “Hip Hop”. I’ve always preferred Hip-Hop that spoke truth to power; artists such as Dead Prez and Tupac. That type of lyrical content disappeared in the Western world and Hip-Hop became Hip-Pop.
I became a fan of these Arab MC’s and really wanted to support this movement, so I worked hard in the studio crafting my new sound. Three months into the process I finished a couple of beats that I thought they were good enough to send to the Arab MC’s I had become fans of.
One of the MC’s I sent beats to was a Lebanon MC named Malikah not really thinking that I would get a reply, but luckily she did saying how much she loved my beats. That’s when I realised I maybe onto something.
I started to make a lot of contacts amongst the MC’s and started to talk to them via social media web sites and whenever they came to England to do shows I always made an effort to go and support them. Lucky enough during these shows I managed to meet with the MC’s and started to build up relationships with them.
Most of the MC’s happened to be Muslims, so they have a lot of supporters that are Muslim. When I went to the shows and performances it was the first time i was introduced to Islam, and this was the first time I really interacted with Muslims. It was the first time I had ever been to a gig without drugs being present which was strange at first, because in the Western world you are are taught that drugs and music go together, they can't exist without each other. I started to become interested in Islam and about 18 months after hearing my first Arab Hip-Hop track I became a Muslim.
What do you hope to achieve by building a recording studio in Gaza?
Because there is a short supply of studio equipment in Gaza the Recording Studios In Gaza have a monopoly on the market so they can charge a lot of money for studio time due to lack of competition. So there is a lot of people in Gaza that cannot afford the cost of these studio fees, I believe this art form is not for those that can afford it but its for everyone. The studio will not be as high end as the studios in Gaza because I don’t want to take away their business. Instead I want to tap into the youth, children and people in the refugee camps that can not afford studio time, the studio we are building will be free for the people to use. The studio will also be mobile, so if any local schools or community organisations want to use the facilities its easy to transport to location.
I started thinking about all the untapped talent that is in Gaza. It is historically known that during struggle and hardship amazing art and music is created. I feel that the voice of Gaza and Palestine has to be amplified to the world; their stories need to be recorded and shared. The talent in Gaza needs to have a platform.
When I am in Gaza I am going to be doing music workshops for the children and the youth which I’m looking forward to. I will also be recording and producing a Mixtape in Gaza with as many Gaza MC’s I can find, which should be interesting.
Which rap artists alive or dead, Middle Eastern and Western inspire you?
Hip-Hop as a whole inspires me. Hip-Hop goes back thousands of years where Arab and African tribes used to battle each other in freestyle poetry called hijā with what we now call Battle Rap and Freestyle. The history of Hip-Hop culture is so deep and involves all races and religions from all over the world. This culture is very special.
There are so many talented artists today on the scene such as The Narcycst, La Gale, Brother Ali, Omar Offendum, theres just too many to name I’m a big fan of Jasiri X at the moment. I literally have a book of contacts of like 250 MC’s I want to work with, there’s a lot of great Hip-Hop out there.
Its inspiring to see these MC’s, that unlike western commercial Hip-Hop, haven’t sold their soul to the music industry... people like Immortal Technique and Lowkey that could easily get a deal with a major record label refuse to do so.
What do you think about the Arabic Hip-Hop scene?
In terms of talent and creativity Arab Hip-Hop artists are in a league of their own. Arab Hip-Hop is independent; they don’t have to answer to major record labels and companies that have their own agenda to promote. These artists are free to explore many ideas in terms of lyrical content or musical composition; there is a lot of diversity in the Arab Hip-Hop world.
Why focus on Palestine and Gaza?
I heard a track by Arabian Knightz and there was a MC that came on at the last verse, he had a flow and style that I just fell in love with. The artist was called MC Gaza and he was based in the Gaza Strip. I sent him some beats and he really liked them and we started to work on his album together.
Working on the album got me more focused on the situation of Gaza and Palestine, I’ve always studied politics and history but now it wasn’t just a subject that I read in books but I was now part of that subject.
I noticed I started to get a lot of love from Palestine, a lot of my supporters where Palestinians. The album I did with MC Gaza really made me well known in the Arab Hip-Hop community and without that album release I wouldn’t be as successful as I am now.
So with all this attention from Palestine I decided to visit the country to show my solidarity and respect for their support for my music. When I was in The West Bank, that was when I fell in love with the country. I honesty didn’t want to come back to England. Since then I’ve been an active supporter of Palestinian rights and speak out against Zionism whenever I get the chance. I know it sounds corny and it’s a sound bite but Palestine teaches life, I’ve learned so much from Palestinians in terms of what’s important in life.
What hurdles/problems have you encountered and believe you will encounter?
Gaza is basically an open air prison, its hard to get in and get out. It took me a long time to get a NGO invitation letter because you cant travel to Gaza as tourist. There is a lot of paper work you need to do, you need to get Egyptian Visa, Egyptian permit, a Gaza permit... its all very silly.
I hope I don’t encounter many problems at the boarder of Egypt and Gaza. With the army currently in control of Egypt it has made crossing very hard and the bombings of the Gaza tunnels is also something that could be a problem. I’m sure I will get into Gaza one way or another, I’m very persistent.
The studio will give hope to those that want to believe in a better future, it will give them something to focus on that is constructive and positive. So everyone should donate what they can to www.indiegogo.com/projects/gaza-record-studio
all funds go on studio equipment.