New Dubai hip-hop label aims to bring industry expertise to the UAE's music scene

INT. Records is a partnership between Swiss entrepreneur Nick Böhnlein and UK rapper-producer Ben Rendèl. Both talk to Saeed Saeed about their goals for the new music label.

UK rapper Ben Rendèl is the flagship artist of INT Records, a new label that aims to put Dubai on the hip-hop map. Courtesy INT Records
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There's a new music label in Dubai and it has its eye on the world. 

The hip-hop focused INT. ­Records introduced itself to the regional scene recently with the release of the single Yeah Yeah by flagship artist and in-house talent developer Ben Rendèl.

Energetic and full of the minimal, bass-heavy sounds currently resonating with listeners, an accompanying video was shot at Light House Studio in Al Quoz. The track is spinning on the decks of hip-hop clubs throughout the emirate.

"The song just felt right to start things off," says the ­British artist.

"Lately, I have been focusing on releasing music that will not only get me but the people moving as well. We wanted a single that has some value to it – I am glad that people are appreciating it."

Yeah Yeah marks the start of the new venture that has seen Rendèl team up with label manager and entrepreneur Nick Böhnlein.

The duo met four years ago while Rendèl was travelling in Böhnlein's native Switzerland.

Böhnlein says that INT. Records is an entertainment company with a developing roster of artists, and there are plans for it to move into merchandising as well as ­television and film production.

Böhnlein says the concept arrived after a two-month feasibility study into the UAE entertainment scene.

"The music scene here is very small and I would say it is near to non-existent," he says. "Now, I am not talking about nightclubs and promoters – that is another facet of the entertainment industry. I am talking about an actual music business where there are labels with artists, brand design, merchandise. I hope that with INT we can introduce that to the UAE."


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It is that strong business acumen that Rendèl wants to instill in his artists.

The label has evolved from his own experience. Born in Leeds, Rendèl was a talented musician from an early age who studied jazz and classical piano. After making a name for himself in the industry for his rap ability, the then-19-year-old Rendèl landed a record deal in 2008 with an ­independent label, dropped out of college and went to Los Angeles.

"The situation didn't work out, but I learnt so much about the business," he says.

"I learnt about the importance of learning the industry practice and that's how other artists often fall short. I listened like a sponge, and they wouldn't allow me to get close to the mixing console for at least eight months. I had to earn that."

Rendèl is currently working on an album he plans to release early next year. For now though, INT. is looking forward to expanding its
roster and is on the lookout for new talent. With Canada's Nsane signed up as the label's in-house producer and having enlisted a design team from the
United Kingdom, he says it doesn't matter where a prospective artist hail from; quality is the key. While he thinks major labels in the UAE are content to work with artists who already have a strong following, INT. is keen to develop talent early on.

"I would prefer to work with an artist that is starting out because we can help them and educate them on how the business is and give them some real life experience," he tells me. "And artist development also comes under the banner of helping to write songs,
production ­techniques and talking about where their songs want to go. It is a real one-on-one situation."

Böhnlein, who had financial success as a consultant for businesses seeking market entry into the UAE, believes the timing was right to launch INT. "Geographically, it is a good connecting point," he says. "Also, we have the great locations and infrastructure. Then there is the Dubai Expo coming soon – it is all so promising, but as I said, no real music industry. So it's great to get it started while everything is growing here."

Rendèl is set to make his first performance as an INT. artist next Friday at Sensation nightclub in Dubai.

"It will be a great chance to connect with the people again and get things going," he says.

"It is kind of the off-season at the moment, with people being away. But once people are back, there will be a few more shows, including going to the US to do some shows there. So lots of things coming up."