British-Lebanese rapper Laughta on rediscovering her roots in Riyadh

The rising musician has been an artist in residence in the Saudi Music Hub

Laughta's new song Aint the Same is a celebration of individuality. Photo: MDL Beast Records
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Laughta is a star on the rise.

The British-Lebanese rapper crowned a momentous year by recently winning the BBC Introducing One to Watch category at the Association of Independent Music Awards.

The ceremony may have taken place in London, but some of the songs propelling her to victory were made in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Laughta, 30, travels to the kingdom for week-long spells throughout the year as a resident artist at the Saudi Music Hub.

She is collaborating with up-and-coming Saudi based musicians, from hip-hop artists to producers, for songs and live performances as part of the initiative, organised by the Saudi Music Commission.

Speaking to The National from Riyadh, she confirms the tracks will be released sporadically through the Saudi music label MDL Beast Records.

“I can honestly say it has been an inspiring experience and the momentum that I see here in Saudi is excellent,” she says.

“What really stood out for me is how people in the arts here really show love and support each other.

“That’s very different from the industry in the Western world, in my case London, where there is a lot of competition and not as unified.”

Laughta’s latest single Aint the Same is a taste of what was cooked up in Riyadh.

Over a propulsive production laced with Arabic percussion and Middle Eastern synth lines, the Arabic and English track is a celebration of individualism and sly rebuke to some of the sexism within the music industry.

The accompanying music video is delightfully colourful, with Laughta dressed up in an assortment of tracksuits over various street backdrops.

While the song was originally conceived in the UK, it was during the Riyadh residency where she completed the track.

“In the past, a lot of my music had me coming across as quite aggressive and that's down to me being a woman coming into a tough industry in the UK,” she says.

“And I wanted to show that I can be versatile in my style and this song was the moment to explore my heritage and deliver my flows in a fun way.

“As for the concept itself, it is about being confident within yourself and not allowing yourself to be pressurised to change yourself.”

It's the kind of drive Laughta needed to sustain her career. While the award may salute her as a fresh new voice, her win has been ten years in the making.

Born in Nigeria to Lebanese parents before coming to England as a child, Laughta grew up in a council estate and went on to study psychology at university.

A self-taught producer, she made her name within the London scene, while her bubbly personality landed her her own radio show on youth station Reprezent Radio.

Despite the trajectory, Laughta recalls being very mindful in her career choices.

“My mum is traditional and while she let me have flexibility, she was still apprehensive because of the lifestyle stereotypically associated with the music scene,” she says.

“She was worried about me and perhaps she felt that music and our culture couldn't necessarily coexist. And for years, I think I also felt that way deep down and I wouldn't incorporate the Arabic language in my songs and was wary about how I was portrayed myself. I didn't want to let my mum down.”

On that score, Laughta credits her time in Riyadh as a moment of rediscovery and Aint the Same will be the first of many songs where she will proudly express her roots.

Best part of all, her mother is fully on board.

“I showed her the music video and she absolutely loved it,” she says.

“And I guess for those from that generation, getting an award linked to the BBC made her think 'well, this music thing must be good for you'.”

Updated: December 27, 2023, 9:35 AM