Thursday, November 9, 2017

One On One with Doha-Based Egyptian rapper MVRS (Interview)

When I first heard Doha based, Egyptian rapper MVRS spit, I was impressed with his vibe and he also proved that there are a lot of Arab rappers out there that really go for that international sound and for me this is where I come in & try to push these artists to reach their goals. At the end of the day, Hip-Hop is a self expression art-form and language should not be a barrier. For Arab rappers, Hip-Hop is still its own universal language, whether the artists decide ti rely on Arabic lyricism or the familiar western flair. 

Had a one on one talk with him. See the full interview below and support this brother.

Shout out to all my brothers in Doha:

ElNasser who is also Egyptian and does Arabic rap and is someone whose always been supporting re-volt


Tell Re-Volt how you first got into Hip-Hop?
It was the self-expression side of hip-hop that really got me into it. The first song I heard was When I’m Gone by Eminem. I was blown away by the magnitude of emotion conveyed in just three/four minutes.
I had a Poetry chapter in English class at the time and we were tasked with writing a poem about a topic of our choice. Each student had to recite the poem in front of the entire class. I couldn’t. My English was too bad at the time. The teacher recites my poem instead. He bursts into tears and tells me that it was the most powerful thing he had read from a student in years.
I believe that these two things coinciding is what drove me to add instrumentals to my words and give this rhythm & poetry thing a shot.

How did the name "MVRS" come about?
It was quite a journey getting to MVRS. I started rapping by the name Aymar which was just an easier way to spell/pronounce my name to those who couldn’t speak Arabic. Fast forward years later, an old friend made a pun with last half of my actual name; AmMar; that’s when Mars was born. 
The more I grew, the more I realized how the name Mars as is, would cause issues in terms of my online presence. When you’d google Mars, all you’d get on the first page are planet images. I needed to separate my self to stand out, and mvrs was the result. 

Tell us about the Hip-Hop scene in Doha.. how's that like?
Qatar's Hip-hop scene has shown tremendous growth over the past 10 years, but it has the potential to do much more. It is still relatively pre-mature if you compare it to some of the regional or international scenes. It does however have artists passionately pursuing all four elements of the genre; Rapping, Djing, Graffiti Writing, and B-boying.
When I started my journey as an artist, I thought I was the only one doing it. A few years later I was happily startled when I’ve come to discover fellow artists such as Trak (who was a little older in the scene), Y-Kay (who is now based in Dubai), and a few other ones. I was quick to approach them to collaborate. 
Around 2012 we put out a 25-track album titled Beleaf; a collaborative project between myself and three other rappers. That was the birth of Hip Hop as a scene in Doha. A group of artists collectively collaborating to express themselves. Nothing had come out of the city with that much reach at the time. It was the first time music from the city had made it to local radio stations. It was a blessing.
As an artist who was born and raised in Doha, I feel a strong and deep connection to its hip-hop scene, specifically the rapping element. I feel like it grew with me. Every new milestone for me, was and still is a new milestone for us as a scene. 
Hence why I feel like I have this urge of responsibility to pave the way for the next generation. There’s a new wave of dope younger rappers, singers, and producers, some of which, I’m still discovering. I have spent the last year and a bit trying to take the Doha scene beyond the city and show the world that we have artists that can make music up to par with your favorite international artists; a fine example here is ROSEGOLD.

How does it work with you culturally.. where is home for you? Is it Doha & if so why?
I’ve always had a tough time answering this question since I was a child. It’s a lifetime identity crisis... 
By blood and passport, I am Egyptian. My roots are from there. I feel a connection to its history and heritage. On the other hand, I was born and raised in Doha, Qatar. I’ve lived my entire life here. 
But can anyone really say they’re from one place nowadays? We live in the age of globalized societies. We’re a generation of 3rd Culture Kids. We strongly belong to bits and pieces from different places to the point where we sometimes feel like we don’t belong at all. 

What are your thoughts on Hip-Hop generally nowadays? and who are some of your favorite rappers?
I think Hip-Hop is at it’s prime right now. It’s the most listened-to genre in the world according to an analysis done by Spotify and as far as numbers are concerned, It’s the number one selling genre in the U.S.  That would technically make Rap, the new “Pop” or popular music.
Hip-Hop has had various phases in the past where it was infatuated with a certain mood. Artists who did anything away from that mood, would not be successful. Nowadays, it has become so versatile in its flavors. Whether you’re just trying to jam to a melody and have a good time, or looking for a more conscious sound with a real message; there’s someone out there doing just that and a few others who’ve merged the two together.
While you can catch me a lot of the times, in the mood for some straight up bars; I personally strongly appreciate melody in music. Prime examples of that, are rappers like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Chance the Rapper, and more recently Joey Bada$$ with his very last album.

A personal favorite of mine is Isaiah Rashad with his very effortless and trill vibes. I also really appreciate versatile artists like Tory Lanez who seems to be able to do it all. Sing, rap, harmonize; you name it. 
Other artists that you’d find in my playlists right now are Post Malone, PartyNextDoor, Majid Jordan, Roy Woods, Bryson Tiller, Belly, Travis Scott and even the occasional Migos/Gucci Mane track haha

You're taking part in the Emerging Talent Competition organized by Yasalam for this year. Sadly, you weren't able to make it to Dubai and experience the workshops; but tell us about the experience and what would it mean to you if you go to the 2nd round?
It’s been actually quite a journey with Yasalam. The first time I touched base with them was ETC 2015. However, at the time, the competition wasn’t open for artists outside of the UAE. In 2016, they approached me and the homie Trak to perform at one of the smaller venues in the festival. We thought it was amazing that artists from Qatar were asked to perform outside of the city.
This year, they opened up the competition to artists outside the UAE, and it’s a blessing to have been shortlisted. 
I really wish I was able to make it to the workshops and I am sure it would’ve been a wonderful experience meeting all those artists and industry networks. But it is what it is. I still have a strong feeling that I will make it to the 2nd round, even with all the odds against us. I’ve had dreams of me sharing the stage with Kendrick Lamar when I was younger. It would be an unimaginable experience and it might just happen this year.

"Out Of Bounds" Album by MVRS

"Out Of Bounds" is an album that you dropped about 5 months ago. How's the feedback? and what sort of messages you got on the album?
Out of Bounds was the album that made my sound reach beyond the city. Since I released it incrementally, song by song, over the span of a whole year; it was a growth experience for me. With every song released, the feedback was better and the reach was even bigger. 
It’s the national anthem to my identity. It tells my side of the story as a 3rd culture kid, who at his highest, feels like he belongs everywhere, and at his lowest, feels like he belongs nowhere. 

Do you feel pressured that you're an Arab yet you don't rap in Arabic?
Not at all. I am very aware of the fact that my music could reach a much broader audience had I rapped in Arabic. But I started making music simply for myself to listen to and enjoy. Not to sound narcissistic haha; but I am my biggest fan. That will always be key for me; making music that I enjoy listening to.
Music was not a big part of my life growing up. My parents never cared much for music. So, unlike many of my Arab friends,  I never got exposed to the Arabic side of it. That even includes classics like Fairuz, Abdel Halim Hafez, and Umm Kulthum
I went straight into Hip-Hop; more specifically American Hip-Hop, which I was exposed to by my friends in middle school. I obsessed a little I won’t lie, and since then I wanted to reach that level. I wanted to take my story to the world, and it’s much harder to do so if you’re rapping in any language other than English.
That being said; my music is a reflection of self, so you’ll always catch me throwing in Arabic phrases which I use on daily bases. My debut album was titled “Theeb” which is a term that has been used in the Arab culture to describe loyalty, bravery, and wittiness.

Who are some of your favorite rappers in the region?
Oh, man.. you really boxed me in with the word “rapper”, well; 

•   The HRMNY camp is one of my favorite sounds from the region. The way Moh Flow, Majeed, and AY make moves is truly inspiring. 

I see Kshr, the Arab J. Cole, also doing his thing haha; we’re cooking something up together soon so look out for that! 
I also think RoTation from Sudan is really dope. 
Confait from Bahrain is also one of my personal favorites in the region. I feel like he needs to be more heard. 
Mack is also mad talent and I am looking forward to his next release. 
Y-Kay who’s psychotic with the pen and dope with the visuals
Menon has also been killing it with his last few releases.
N1yah, who came a very long way since the first time I’ve heard her back in 2015. Word is she can really sing, so I’m looking forward to hear more of that.
Last but not least, the homie Trak. I specifically respect his mad work ethic and dedication to the craft.
I have also been mildly tapping into the Arabic rap side with artists like Flippter, Slow Mo, and Moayad Al Naefaie.

What is your dream? 
My dream is to become an icon. An influential sound. I want to tell my story to the world and inspire younger artists to the do the same. I want to give opportunities I didn’t have, to any person pursuing a passion of theirs; whatever it may be. 
I want to meet the greats of my generation and surpass them. I have this recurring vision of me being in the studio with Kendrick Lamar, telling him how “I think this adlib isn’t working here” haha.

You have been featured on many of the biggest blogs/sites for Hip-Hop in the US. Is the feedback coming from the US different than the ones you getting from the Arab region?
Surprisingly, I’ve received similar feedback on both sides as far as constructive criticism is concerned. Both sides seem to stress on very similar highlights, be it negative or positive.
Culturally, however, the feedback will inevitably be different. In the US, you’re seen as an “outsider looking in”. In the Arab region, you’re “on the inside looking out.” It’s a very interesting dynamic.
That being said; I’ve been very proud of the growing culture in the regional scene. Artists are pushing each other up from across the region and it only shows how music can truly break borders. 

What're the future plans for MVRS?
As far as the near future; just more music man. I always tell artists that consistency is key to any sort of artistic growth. I’ve been very proud of how my sound progressed so far and I know there’s so much more room for growth.
I also plan to collaborate with a lot of the artists I mentioned previously. I really think collabs bring out the best of each artist and give the fans a fresh sound. 

As you know, the Middle East is a political "spaghetti", a lot of issues always going on. Do you ever address politics in your music & if no, why not?
On a personal level, I have zero interest in politics. I don’t indulge much in it in actual conversation, so you’ll rarely catch me talking about it in my music. 
I write on a very personal level. As if I am having a conversation with the listener. I am more interested in society and its affairs. These are topics we have much more control over than politics. These are things a person can truly change if they are inspired by my music and my story.

Tell Re-Volt something not a lot of people know about you
Hip-Hop taught me English. 
Before 10th grade, I was around 15, the only English I knew was “verb to be” and “verb to have” or whatever they taught in public schools at the time. In a sudden change of heart, my parents moved me from an all Arabic curriculum to an all English curriculum school. The transition was borderline traumatic...
In the same year, I found Hip-Hop. I used to print Eminem’s lyrics, read them while listening every night before going to bed, and then recite them on the way to school the next morning. Hip-hop improved my English, which in turn, improved my Hip-Hop. 

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