Swizz Beatz, the American musician and husband of Alicia Keys, is now the proud owner of a camel racing team in Saudi Arabia. And not just any team, but a winning team.
Beatz, who was born Kasseem Dean, became the first American to own a camel racing team when he launched Kasseem Abu Nasser in late October. To his fans, the move seemed more than a little random, but the producer has been quietly building the team behind the scenes for months.
The idea had been in his mind for much longer. He was introduced to the sport, he revealed, through friends who live in the Middle East, including Dubai, and he went to a race every time he visited the region.
He learnt what to look for in a champion camel, what makes a strong runner and how to find the best trainers.
"I did extensive research and was there for a month straight doing it," he said in an interview with Variety. "I had the heads-up for a while but didn't push the button until Covid-19. It sounded big, amazing and a lot of work, but I just wanted to do it. It feels like it came fast, but it was a long process."
It seems the research has paid off. Team Kasseem Abu Nasser raced its first camel, Nicole, named after the star’s daughter, on October 21 in Saudi Arabia. And, rather remarkably, she came in first place.
"To win your first race – your only race so far – in racing's home is crazy. We were in eighth place for a long time after the race first started," Dean told Variety. "Then Nicole just went for it. What are the odds? Forget about me being from America, a westerner. No Saudi team ever won their first race.
"What’s funny, though, is that there are Arab and English versions of the race that you can watch, and when the announcer was yelling, ‘Nicole, Nicole is showing up. Miracles can happen!’, my daughter was freaking out. Talk about screaming and yelling — my voice is gone.”
Like Nicole, Dean’s other 11 camels, which live at his stables in Riyadh, are named after family members – one for his mother, grandmother, wife, children and himself. He also named one Bronx – a homage to the area of New York in which he grew up.
“It’s a nice reminder,” he said. “There’s a family element to the whole venture. My camels’ trainer, he’s treating my camels like he would another family member. He kisses the camels on the mouth. That’s real love.”
Team Kasseem Abu Nasser camels have since won a further two races, and taken a silver and bronze in two more – giving Dean a clean podium streak in every race so far.
“We showed up and made history,” a post on the team’s official Instagram page reads.
To celebrate, he has teamed up with Los Angeles streetwear brand Chinatown Market to launch the team’s official merchandise, featuring the words “Saudi Bronx 2020”, which he was seen wearing alongside his wife and their two children in an Instagram picture.
He also roped in his famous friends to help celebrate his wins. On Friday, he released a Shela – a traditional celebratory song – on Instagram, featuring US producer DJ Khaled as well as members of his team in Saudi Arabia, as they danced and sang “Kasseem Abu Nasser” in celebration of their success.
Keys can also be seen dancing in some of the video’s clips.
It seems his team has caught the eye of some of his other famous friends and collaborators, as Dean revealed that both Jay-Z and Nas had reached out to offer their congratulations.
He added that his team will take part in more races in Saudi Arabia, as well as events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
“Once I knew that no one else on this side [the US] had ever done it, that we could have fun and educate people about the culture, that’s how I knew it was for me,” Dean added. “My idea of forwarding the culture is that we can be anywhere we want. Learning about cultures and traditions other than our own can forward ours even more.”