Being from a mixed background isn’t always easy. Let alone when you try to figure out where home is. As many tend to give up on their daunting quest for identity, we came across a multi-hyphenate artist who never shies away from proudly representing his roots. His name is Malik Polo.
Always keen on representing his postcodes wherever he may be, the Irish-Egyptian MC (and producer) is known for relentlessly tapping into London’s underground music scene and being inspired by its signature grime culture. But this time, he decided to cross over the white sea to link up with the Cairo born and bred collective Ka2en to narrate their daily lives and experiences in sonic form.
“Ibn Ka2en Polo” is the name that the joint EP carries. And as it just released this week, we sat down with Malik to probe his overall relationship to music and understand how this project of a new kind came to life.
You’re a rapper, producer as well as a label owner. Who is Malik Polo and which title does he feel most comfortable with?
Malik Polo is first and foremost a human. My friends call me Mr. Pie because I have my hands in a lot of different things. I prefer just being called an artist as I wouldn’t be doing everything else if it weren’t for being an artist.
You’re about to release a collaborative EP with Egyptian collective Ka2en. Do you find it important to build something with creatives from one of your home-countries?
As someone who’s been going to Egypt every summer, I knew this day would eventually come. It took me so long to find the right collaborators as it’s important to me that the artists I’m working with have the same outlook on music and life. Ka2en are a bunch of incredibly talented individuals. Between them, they possess enough skill to not need anyone else but each other. The attitude they have towards music is beautiful and because they’re so young and so new to making music, their hunger and energy is unmatched.
How did this project initially come to exist?
Ibn Itaka and I were both in Cairo. We had just seen our close friend Mustafa get married to Felukah and everyone had left back to London. It was just me, him and our good friend Hatem. We had both been itching to make music as that is what we do week in week out for the last 5 years or so. As soon as Hatem took us to meet the Ka2en bunch, we clicked straight away and decided to do this for the culture.
What was your approach to songwriting and production when stringing this project together?
From production to writing this EP was executed particularly. Ibn Itaka and myself had been listening to loads of Arabic music whilst in Cario. Hatem was putting us onto loads of sha3bi music too, so we ended up sampling a few Arabic songs. When it came to writing, we all just gave it a show whilst Ibn Itaka was making the beats. I was super impressed by Kimi and Gello’s writing skills as they added bits in English and they did it effortlessly. Never have I made music with someone and automatically think I should collaborate on an entire EP with them.
The music video released carries heavy references to London’s underground culture. How do you manage to bridge both Egyptian and UK cultures together?
It’s important to me to bridge both capitals. The music video was super spontaneous. We did with what we had. It was shot by all of us and edited by myself. It truly captured a moment in time and for that we are grateful. This EP is only the beginning of a great bridge that will one day be the norm.
What milestones are you trying to reach with “Ibn Ka2en Polo” ? Where do you want to take this project ?
We will be the first London to Cairo independent project (I think). Not many Egyptians in London are doing anything like this and vice versa. I’m honored to lay the foundations of a network that when connected will be unstoppable. We want this project to inspire not only Egyptian youth but Arab youth to get out of their comfort zone and collaborate with as many people from all over the world. To show that it is possible is the first step.
What can we expect from you in the wake of this new year ?
2022 will be a roller-coaster, look out for ‘Ibn’ Ka2en Polo’ the EP out soon, Ibn Itaka will also be releasing his long awaited second EP and I will be releasing my next project “ MARCO” very soon!! Expect me back in Cairo in 2022 performing and expect nothing but greatness from the team and I.