As seen by the success of Dollyprane, rap group Shayfeen and trap singer MADD, the Moroccan music scene is nothing short of innovative right now. This is particularly evident in the emergence of Moroccan rap, a genre that gives young artists the opportunity to express themselves in a way that’s accessible and instantly transferable to the global music scene.
Introducing Issam – the latest Moroccan artist and the region’s rising rap star, having just signed a record deal with MCA / Universal France, reportedly the biggest ever deal signed by an Arab artist. Before Issam settled with Universal, his YouTube channel attracted a plethora of European labels including several Universal and Sony offices and independent labels such as Warp, Top Notch Holland and PIAS. The contract was signed with Tarik Azzougarh at Universal France, who is also a Moroccan rapper (known as Cilvaringz) and associate producer of legendary rap group Wu-Tang Clan.
Issam raps in Arabic, predominantly about daily life in Morocco. His sound is a creative blend of Auto-tuned trap and traditional Moroccan sounds, finding harmony in rap and his roots. Despite not having an album or EP yet, the rapper stunned producers with his trajectory of tracks, which are streamed almost exclusively on YouTube, including videos which have accumulated several millions of views over the past two years.
His track ‘Trap Beldi’ has already reached 12 million views on YouTube, having been released less than a year ago. The music video—which was directed by Issam himself—is in essence a home video that only cost a mere 50 dirhams to make.
A lot of Issam’s popularity can also be attributed to his collaborations with NAAR, a Paris-based Arab art collective co-founded by photographer Ilyes Griyeb. Before he started making music, Issam was a fashion photographer, which explains his all-encompassing role in directing both his sound and image.
Not only does Issam work with an art collective but he places emphasis on working with fellow Moroccan artists such as Hasni, and American producers like 808Godz (who also works with Travis Scott and Migos). Collaborative experimentation is key to Issam’s work, creating a new sound for everyone rather than just the people of Morocco.
By refusing to follow the dominant styles in order to have access to the Moroccan public, Issam prides innovation which is what draws so many people to his unique sound.
Issam’s first solo album is due to be released in January 2020 – watch this space.