It was about time I did an interview with this guy who I can safely call my favourite rapper of the last couple of years. And being the nice dude that he is, he immediately agreed to do this little Q&A with me. I feel honoured.
My regular readers already know who he is, and everybody else who’s been missing out so far better go and peep these posts here. Consider that required reading for your ass. ;)
But let him do the talking now and delve right in.
Whatup Narcy. Thank you so much for doing this. As you know I’ve been watching your moves for a few years now and this month is what I’ve been looking forward to for what seems like years… Wait, it has been years… Everybody’s waiting for your brandnew baby to finally drop.
Thanks for the support man! It means alot to an indy artist such as I.
But before we talk about your album and the stories behind it, maybe you’d like to introduce yourself to those who have the nerve to not know about you already.
Well, my name is the Narcicyst, I’m a writer/journalist/actor/MC originally hailing from Basra, Iraq but grew up between several places in the world. My city is Montreal, Canada. I’ve been here for a predominance of my life, so it’s the closest place i have to home. I used to be the frontman/MC of a three man crew called Euphrates, which also consisted of Nofy Fannan and Habillis – the production team that was known as SandhiLL. We dropped two albums in 2003 and 2004, then I went back to school and did my masters degree on Arab Identity and Hip-Hop – which was the Arab Summit’s Fear of an Arab Planet. In between those days, I recorded two mixtapes called Stuck between Iraq and a Hard Place. And I’m on the eve of releasing my first solo LP, entitled The Narcicyst. It’s an introduction into myself as a writer. I’m sure we’ll get into that later. If people are interested in reading up on some of my articles, please look up Narcel X and you can read some interviews Ive done with people that I look up to. Otherwise, I’m a human being trying to make a difference in this world!
Right, so now that the people out there know who we’re dealing with, let’s talk about the latest news first, cos I’m pretty excited about it. Your first full-fledged solo album is finished at long last. Tell us a little (more) about it. Who’s on it, is there a concept or a red thread running trough it, how did the tracks come together? I see you produced or co-produced 8 out of 18 tracks?
With the Euphrates records, we had a political agenda if you will, we tackled alot of personal issues that were running rampant on the political front being young Arabs. This album is self-titled and it’s literally about that, the Narcicyst, the Narcissism in the world, the human condition of self-preservation, our innate need to be ourselves and see things subjectively. The tracks came together naturally really, i worked on this album alone so it took time. I did everything from record my own vocals, mix, master, engineer and sequence everything. So it’s been a good process, I learn alot technically but musically as well. The record has alot of live elements, violins, drums, bass – that allowed me to learn the producer role and I really enjoyed it!
How is this album different from other pieces you’ve made, such as
your two Between Iraq and a Hard Place street makeover albums or the Fear of an Arab Planet album you made as part of The Arab Summit (with Omar Offendum, Ragtop and Excentrik)? I mean, all of these releases must have taken shape around the same time. How did you decide what of your material would go on which of these releases?
Yeah, the new album came together during the process of making the others. The Arab Summit was a collabo project, so I would send the tracks and mixes back and forth with the boys, they would give me feedback and we would come to a conclusion on it. Then the overall message and flow of the record was on me. That was also my masters thesis so I spent alot of time putting together the meaning of it. The mixtapes were made when I would feel a funk in my recording process, I would go back to these bangers that I enjoy and flip them, they would open me back up to go back to my record and really pinpoint stuff and make my lyrics refined and straight up in your face. When it came down to the new album, I recorded like 30-40 tracks, chose the best 20, cut it down to 16 and blaow. Then i went in an added the live orchestral touch to it, interludes. I finished the album in september, went out to Dubai to shoot a film and re-recorded two joints and added a new one, took two out and then came back to Canada. Re-sequenced the record, re-mastered and its coming out next week…whoa.
The Arab Summit
The earliest I know about, you started out with Loe Pesci as Patrick Batemen (feel free to correct me). Then came the Euphrates with Nofy Fannan and Habilis (R.I.P Nofy), then you went dolo and teamed up with The Nomads, the Philistines and mad people for side projects… If you look back from now, what’s been your greatest development as a human being and an artist from the early days to what you do now? Or to put it a bit more simply, how would you describe young Narcy as opposed to who you are now? (Still pretty damn young, I might add.) ;)
Well, I know now what I want to say, when I was recording in the beginning, I really just blanked out and vomited on tracks…. I didn’t really know how to structure songs and make a full song. Now it’s alot more organized, alot more musical, experimental and such. Working with other MCs is ALWAYS the shit, especially dudes that push you lyrically like Loe Pesci or Offendum. Those dudes are monsters. So I’ve grown man, but I still feel like a kid when it comes to the booth-a young man grown.
One thing I’m always interested in, and especially because you keep stressing how indie artists have a hard time making ends meet: How do you make your money anyway? Do you have a daytime job, can you get by on your music? And (to only touch upon music downloading on the by… *cough*) which aspect of your musical work actually earns you money? Album sales? Live shows? T-shirts?
All of it does, but I went and got my education so music isn’t the end all be all. I do movies, I teach kids, I write for newspapers, I do voice overs, I engineer and mix peoples records and songs. All that. Music is something I love to do and never want it to get tainted. So, independence is still there but I multitask like a good gemini always does!
Among other things, you wrote your Masters thesis to compliment the Arab Summit album (or vice versa). In both the thesis and on the album you address Arab identity in a hip-hop context. And in general, you talk about being Arab a LOT. What does it mean to you to be Arab? (Nice essay topic, I know.) I mean, to not formulate it as an anti-stance to Western ignorance, but in a positive sense. Which parts of you do you embrace as being Arab?
I embrace in what it is being an Arab as you would in your culture. It is my roots, and if I don’t water them they will die. That’s how I see it. So, being myself and being there for my people is key because even my people aren’t there for themselves. So I feel it is important to clear the air on who we are in my eyes, or who my generation is. Not to say I speak for them, but we are a generation in flux, it’s important to speak on it. But this new album isn’t like the past ones. This one is about being Human, as corny as that sounds.
Is being an Arab something that’s always been such a strong part of you, or is it something you feel has been thrust upon you by politics or “the West”? I mean, has there been some kind of an awakening at some point in your life where you said to yourself ‘I need to rep for my Arab brothers and sisters’?
Naw dawg, I’m Arab. I was born Arab. Being an Iraqi that never lived “home” if you will, it’s always been there.
Now about Canada… I’ve noticed Canadian hip-hop gets incredibly slept on. Especially in the US, which is even more tragic. Would you agree or am I just talking to the wrong people? What the hell is wrong with the world?
The world looks to America for new Hip-Hop, they really don’t look elsewhere. It’s unfortunate. Bah Humbug. But you know, growing up internationally opened my mind to the rest of the world. Hip-Hop in Europe is bonkers.
What’s the hip-hop scene in Montreal like? Needless to say, there’s a whole gang of extremely talented artists in your town. (Feel free to drop names.) But what’s the spirit between the linguistic communities? Are the French-English boundaries relevant in the hip-hop community? I’ve never heard or seen you do anything with French-speakers. Have I been missing out? Is there a reason for that? (Do you speak French, btw?)
Yeah i speak french. The hip-hop scene here is bourgeoning, it’s a beautiful and inspirational city. Loe Pesci, D-Shade, Northern Lights, Nomadic Massive, Kalmunity, Vox Sambou, Butta Beats. The musicians, the singers, the models, the people this city is like a long music video/movie. There is definetely a divide when it comes to the scene, I mean, we don’t get all the shows that a city like Toronto gets, which further creates a struggle for english artists. But it’s what you make it. Barriers are in the mind, if you push hard enough you can do anything.
Do you perceive Canada to be as preoccupied by religions and immigration and multiculturalism in what some people are selling us as an age of cultural war? Is there a clear difference and in how far (not)?
A friend of mine put it like this. “Canada is painted as this soup of multiculturalism, where the broth is thick and well-mixed. But the truth is, we are in a bowl with water, carrots, tomatos, peas, that are just floating. In no way are we ALL getting along. We all want to maintain our autonomy as long as possible” I kind of like that, cultural here does not get co-opted, we do as we please. I’m Canadian, but I’m also Iraqi. My friend is Haitian, but also Canadian. We don’t hyphenate too much, but sometimes you do, to simplify things ;)
Now for something that’s been bugging me for a while. I’ve noticed that you must have spent some time in Spain around 2007 or so, cos I’ve come across three tracks you guestspotted on. (Could I post these three for streaming or would you rather I didn’t?)
On El Puto Largo (of Dogma Crew, Malaga) –
Freedom ft. Dogma Crew (off album “Inspiración” – 2007)
On El Cerebro (Almeria) – Nómadas ft. Nephilim (off album “Simbiosis” – 2007)
On ZPU (Barcelona) – Yo soy un soldado (Gladiator Remix) (web-only remix, original version – without Narcy – on album “Contradicziones” – 2008)
I just need to know how that came about. Cos by the looks of it, they must’ve passed you round like a doobie. ;) How did you hook up with all these cats? – And is there more I missed out on?
Please stream them! I haven’t heard the last one with ZPU, that brother was ill. I met them in Sevilla, I went out for a Hip-Hop festival with my boys the FOREIGN BEGGARS from the UK. They invited me out and I hit the studio with Dogma Crew. I stayed in touch with ZPU and we did that one of the internet. Same with Cerebros. It was a pleasure, I love Spain dude, I wanna go back!
You’ve been posting out of Dubai for a while now. Obviously, you lived in the UAE as a kid, but what’s brought you back there? Is that where you hibernate? You’ve got an acting gig there, too, or so I seem to remember? What have you been up to?
hahaha, yeah I do hibernate at my parents crib. I was out there shooting City of Life, which should be out later in the year.
I just starred in that film, it was dream come true. I played Khalfan, a poor Emarati coming up around his rich friends and the alienation of growing up in a city that was changing around me. Look out for it!
Now I have three things I need to know and if you want this interview to go online you better answer to make me happy: (lol)
– Who’s the guy talking at the beginning of “Seven (Sab’aa)”? (“I’m a
You’ll come across it one day. It’s from a documentary about Palestine. ;)
– Where’s the vocal sample in the hook of “I.R.A.Q.” from? (Is that
Italian?) Damn I love that hook…
I have no idea, only Nofy and Habillis would know that. But I know it’s not Italian.
– What is it gonna take Habilis to put out the Euphrates instrumentals? (Official release or a myspace-CD-R-for-10-bucks-thingy, I don’t care. Do you have dirt on him that we can use to make him?)
You may give him an idea if he reads this. Habi, Do it!
And (this shit just never ends, does it?) as a very last thing: Where
can I buy your album? Is there a place I can get it from where you get to keep more of the money than others? (Amazon vs. Myspace?)
Thank you so much for taking the time. It means a lot to me.
I can’t wait for the album and whatever else you may set out to do in the future. Much love and keep blazing those trails.
Dear reader, do yourself a favour and remember to…
Click for Narcy’s free mixtapes, his blog, myspace, videos and everything else Narcy.