Artists of Arabic heritage making waves in mainstream hip-hop

Some of hip-hop’s most acclaimed producers hail from the region Saeed Saeed

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9202274d)
ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Noah "40' Shebib addresses the audience at the 25th Annual ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Awards, in Beverly Hills, Calif
ASCAP R&S Awards, Beverly Hills, USA - 29 Jun 2012

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.

DJ Khaled

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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