If you do a quick scan through Moroccan-American rapper French Montana’s social media posts, you are likely to see the occasional image of him spending time with the Palestinian-American hip-hop producer DJ Khaled in some lush and blinged-up setting.
While the posts are good-natured, they serve as powerful examples of two Arab-inspired artists exerting increasing influence on the popular music industry. The significance hasn’t been lost on Montana.
“I definitely feel like I am part of something that is pushing Arabic success in hip-hop and that is just dope to me,” he says. “We are a small community in the business that we are in – a community where all of us have been moulded by our Arabic background.”
In addition to Montana, here are some other hip-hop personalities who trace their backgrounds to the region.
Noah ‘40’ Shebib
Arguably one of the most influential and successful producers presently in hip-hop, the Lebanese-Canadian artist is the quiet Svengali behind rap star Drake, having produced all of his albums and providing him with that signature sound of soulful and ambient down-tempo beats.
Producer, businessman and possibly the first hip-hop motivational speaker. Born Khaled Mohamed Khaled in the United States to Palestinian parents, the 42-year-old got his foot in the industry through his DJ work and hosting gigs on radio. One of the first monikers Khaled used was Arab Attack, a name he understandably dropped after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Since then, he has used the name DJ Khaled and has been a chart-topping success ever since.
The industry veteran has learned from one of the masters. Real name Farid Nassar, the Palestinian-American got his big break in 2001 when he was hired by hip-hop super producer Dr Dre to work on his best-selling album 2001. Since then, Fredwreck became an in-demand producer who collaborated with everyone from rappers Snoop Dogg and Xzibit to popstars Britney Spears and Hilary Duff. Despite his demands state-side, Fredwreck always showed some love for the region: he hosted the music show Hip Hop Na for the now defunct MTV Arabia channel in 2007 and Beit el Hip Hop for the youth-oriented Wanash TV channel in 2009.
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