Hip hop, a cultural movement that emerged in the 1970s in the Bronx, New York, has become a global phenomenon, transcending borders and uniting people through its powerful beats and lyrical storytelling. While it was founded by African American and urban communities, hip hop has seen a significant influence from artists and executives of Arab descent. In this article, we celebrate the Arab contribution to hip hop, highlighting their unique voices, cultural influences, and artistic expressions that have enriched the genre.
Ghazi Shami, a Palestinian-American music technologist, record producer, audio engineer, and entrepreneur, is the esteemed CEO and founder of Empire Distribution. Established in 2010 in San Francisco, California, Empire Distribution boasts offices in various locations, including New York, Nashville, the UK, and the Middle East.
Nadir Khayat, widely known by his stage name RedOne, is a multi-talented Moroccan singer, songwriter, record producer, and record executive. Currently, he holds the esteemed position of FIFA's Creative Entertainment Executive . RedOne is widely recognized as one of the most influential record producer artists in contemporary music. His exceptional skills as a record producer and songwriter have led him to collaborate with numerous high-profile recording artists from around the world, including Ava Max, Lady Gaga, Akon, Michael Jackson, RBD, Now United, U2, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Scherzinger, Gru, Cross Gene, MIKA, Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, Wyclef Jean, Mariah Carey, Paulina Rubio, Mylène Farmer, Mohombi, Inna, Khaled, Alexandra Burke, Austin Mahone, Davido, Trinidad Cardona, One Direction, Marc Anthony, the Band Perry, Prince Royce, Rod Stewart, Usher, and Saad Lamjarred, among many others.
His remarkable production discography is adorned with numerous Billboard chart-toppers and international hits. Moreover, RedOne has successfully established his own record label, aptly named RedOne Records.
RedOne's exceptional talents and contributions to the music industry have not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by his eight Grammy Award nominations, with three wins to his name. He was also honored with the prestigious 2011 Grammis Award for Producer of the Year, a notable Swedish music award equivalent to the Grammy Awards. Furthermore, in 2009, RedOne achieved the remarkable feat of being the number one producer on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and he ranked third as a songwriter, securing the BMI Songwriter of the Year title.
Known for his versatility, RedOne is skilled in producing songs across various genres, including pop, rock, R&B, house, hip hop, and dance music. His immense talent and remarkable achievements have solidified his position as a leading figure in the music industry.
Farid Karam Nassar, widely known by his stage name Fredwreck, is a highly accomplished American hip hop recording artist, DJ, and record producer, who has earned the prestigious Grammy Award for his outstanding contributions to the music industry. His career took off when he became a producer for Dr. Dre's newly established record label, Aftermath Entertainment. Fredwreck's talents caught the attention of Snoop Dogg, leading him to work with Snoop Dogg's record label, formerly known as Dogghouse Records and now known as Doggystyle Records. He quickly gained recognition as a prominent producer for Tha Dogg Pound-affiliated projects.
During his tenure, Fredwreck also made significant contributions to the music industry by producing Snoop Dogg's track "Riders on the Storm" featuring The Doors for EA's Need for Speed Underground 2 video game soundtrack. His work expanded beyond Snoop Dogg's projects to include producing tracks for other prominent artists like Kurupt, both in his album "Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha" and the subsequent release "Space Boogie: Smoke Oddessey," which were both released after the rapper's departure from Death Row Records.
Fredwreck's talent and versatility as a producer extend beyond the realm of hip-hop. He has collaborated with a diverse range of artists in the hip-hop and pop genres, including Eminem, Britney Spears, Ice Cube, Westside Connection, Lil' Kim, Hilary Duff, Xzibit, The Game, Nate Dogg, Everlast, Cypress Hill, 50 Cent, and Mobb Deep. Additionally, his talent has reached international acts, working with artists such as Dizzee Rascal, Tamer Hosny, Qusai Kheder, and Karl Wolf.
Through his exceptional skills and creativity, Fredwreck has left an indelible mark on the music industry and remains a respected figure in the world of hip-hop and beyond.
Fadie Musallet, a Florida native with Palestinian roots, has made a name for himself through various successful ventures and remarkable achievements. One of his notable accomplishments includes breaking world records, such as organizing the world's biggest concert for Kiss 2020 Goodbye. Despite being related to the renowned American record producer and DJ, DJ Khaled, Fadie has established a flourishing career independently.
Beyond his own endeavors, Fadie has been instrumental in assisting his cousin, DJ Khaled, in negotiating agreements and advancing his career. However, his primary expertise lies in the realm of entertainment, particularly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. He has been instrumental in bringing top-tier talents from the A-list to this region, catering to the area's demand for high-octane entertainment experiences.
Over the years, Fadie Musallet has successfully brokered agreements for world-famous personalities like Kevin Hart and Jay-Z, further solidifying his reputation as a skilled negotiator and connector in the entertainment industry. His contributions to the entertainment landscape in the Middle East have been significant, attracting globally renowned artists to perform in this vibrant region.
French Montana is a Moroccan-American rapper who gained prominence by establishing an indie empire with his Cocaine City imprint. He initially made a name for himself in the New York mixtape underground during the 2000s. However, in the 2010s, he transitioned into a pop-savvy hip-hop artist. In 2013, he released his debut album titled "Excuse My French," which marked his emergence as an artist known for high-profile collaborations and a few chart-topping hits.
One of his most successful tracks is "Unforgettable," which appeared on his platinum-certified sophomore album, "Jungle Rules," released in 2017. The album showcased his ability to collaborate with well-known artists and produced significant hits. In 2019, French Montana released a double album titled "Montana," featuring various notable guests and yielding hit singles like "No Stylist" and "Writing on the Wall."
Continuing with his tried-and-true formula, in 2021, he released another guest-heavy project called "They Got Amnesia." Additionally, in 2022, French Montana collaborated with an artist named Montega.
Overall, French Montana's career has seen remarkable growth and success, solidifying his position as a prominent figure in the hip-hop industry.
Oliver El-Khatib, a Lebanese Canadian music entrepreneur, has made significant contributions to the music industry and played a key role in the success of several artists. He is the Founder of the Canadian record label October's Very Own (OVO) and serves as co-manager for the renowned artist Drake. Additionally, he is credited with discovering and nurturing talents such as The Weeknd and PartyNextDoor.
Apart from his managerial roles, Oliver El-Khatib is also the creative director and brand manager for Drake. Moreover, he co-founded the massively successful October's Very Own (OVO) label, which has achieved great heights with 11 flagship stores/boutiques worldwide and generating a revenue of over $50 million. His entrepreneurial spirit and creative vision have elevated OVO to a globally recognized and thriving record label and fashion brand.
Noah "40" Shabib
Noah James Shebib, widely known by his stage name 40, is a Lebanese Canadian record producer, songwriter, record executive, and former child actor hailing from Toronto, Ontario. His most notable and enduring musical collaborations have been with the Canadian rapper Drake, with whom he has worked on all of Drake's albums. Shebib's distinctive style of production is often characterized by its downtempo and ambient qualities, which have become synonymous with Drake's music.
Both Shebib and Drake are among the co-founders of the highly successful OVO Sound label. Shebib's exceptional talent and creative prowess have earned him two Grammy Awards, an impressive achievement out of the 18 nominations he has received. Additionally, his production skills have extended beyond Drake's projects, as he has worked with a diverse array of artists such as Lil Wayne, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Action Bronson, and Jamie Foxx. His influence and contributions have left a lasting impact on the music industry, making him a highly respected figure in the field of music production.
Abbas Hamad, also known by his moniker Bas, is a Sudanese American rapper, born on May 27, 1987. He is currently signed to J. Cole's Dreamville Records through Interscope Records. Bas released his debut studio album, "Last Winter," on April 29, 2014, followed by his second album, "Too High to Riot," on March 4, 2016. His third album, "Milky Way," hit the shelves on August 24, 2018.
Born to Sudanese parents, Bas spent his early years in Paris until the age of eight, after which his family relocated to Jamaica, Queens. Surprisingly, he didn't venture into rapping until 2010, spurred on by a friend who convinced him to give it a try.
Joining J. Cole on tour proved instrumental in nurturing the budding rapper's performance skills. Simultaneously, the release of mixtapes like "Quarter Water Raised Me" and "Quarter Water Raised Me II" played a significant role in elevating his visibility and establishing his presence in the music scene.
Ahmad Balshe, professionally known as Belly, is a talented Palestinian-Canadian rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer. Originally from Jenin, Palestine, he was raised in Ottawa. At the age of 21, Belly immersed himself in his passion for hip-hop, marking the beginning of his musical journey with the release of his debut mixtape, "Death Before Dishonor: Vol. 1." Over the next six years, he demonstrated his versatility by delivering eight more projects, including his first studio album, "The Revolution" in 2007. Notably, he collaborated on two mixtapes, "The Lost Tapes" with Kurupt and "The Greatest Dream I Never Had" with DJ Drama.
After taking a break from music, Belly made a strong comeback in 2015 when he signed a recording contract with XO. His exceptional songwriting skills earned him additional recognition, leading to a contract with Roc Nation. Notably, Belly co-wrote several songs for renowned R&B artists such as The Weeknd and Beyoncé, contributing eleven credits across The Weeknd's latest studio albums. Moreover, he lent his backing vocals and co-wrote the track "6 Inch" on Beyoncé's album "Lemonade." Continuing to showcase his artistry, Belly released four more mixtapes and his second studio album titled "Immigrant" in 2018.
Wassim Joseph Slaiby, widely known as Sal, is a prominent Lebanese-Canadian figure in the music industry, excelling as an executive, talent manager, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He co-founded XO Records and currently serves as its CEO, playing a pivotal role in managing the label's primary artist, the Weeknd. Moreover, Sal's managerial prowess extends to other artists on the label, including Black Atlass, Belly, and Nav. Beyond XO Records, he is the founder and CEO of Universal Arabic Music, a venture established in collaboration with Universal Music Group and Republic Records.
Sal's impressive management portfolio goes beyond the boundaries of a single label. As the founder of his management company, SALXCO, he skillfully oversees a diverse array of artists, including Doja Cat, Bebe Rexha, Nicki Minaj, Sean "Diddy" Combs, French Montana, M.I.A., Swedish House Mafia, Ty Dolla Sign, Brandy, Sabrina Claudio, Christine and the Queens, and Nasri. Additionally, he adeptly manages esteemed producers and songwriters like Jason "DaHeala" Quenneville, DannyBoyStyles, Metro Boomin, Breyan Isaac, London On Da Track, Rob Knox, Harry Fraud, and Fabian Marasciullo.
In his successful career, Sal has played key roles in CP Music Group's co-founding and also served as a partner in the Maverick consortium, showcasing his versatile expertise and influence in the music industry.
Majid Al Maskati is one half of the R&B duo Majid Jordan, and his journey to success is a testament to the power of serendipity. Despite hailing from the small Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain with big dreams, he found himself in an unlikely chain of events that led him to co-create a hit single for Drake and eventually be signed under Drake's label. The Bahraini native's destiny took him to the University of Toronto in 2011, where destiny brought him together with his producing partner, Jordan Ullman.
Recognizing their shared passion for music, they decided to combine their talents, giving birth to the captivating musical entity known as Majid Jordan. Their collaboration has since produced remarkable music that has resonated with audiences worldwide.
Though he is not Arab, Iranian Canadian music executive Cash deserves a spot on this list as a person of Middle Eastern decant who has left a mark on the culture. Amir Esmailian, better known as Cash and Cash XO, is a prominent figure in the music industry, hailing from both Iran and Canada. As an accomplished music executive, talent manager, and record producer, he has made significant contributions to the world of music. Amir co-founded XO Records, a successful record label, and also holds the position of co-manager for the label's star artist, the Weekend, a renowned singer.
His expertise extends beyond management, as he has played a crucial role in executive producing albums and songs for various artists. Notably, he has worked closely with Nav, an artist whom he also manages, and has been involved in productions for The Carters, showcasing his exceptional skills as a record producer.
Amir Esmailian's influence in the music industry has been far-reaching, and his dedication to nurturing talent and shaping successful careers has earned him recognition and respect among peers and fans alike. His contributions continue to leave a lasting impact on the industry, and he remains an essential driving force behind the success of many celebrated artists and projects.
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