Arabesque: Hip-Hop Is His Therapy
Rapper Arabesque has been through a lot over the past few years. The biggest was the untimely death of his girlfriend. With the release of Hang Your Heroes (hosted by Rah Digga), the Toronto MC has channeled his personal and professional struggles into his music.
While hanging out in a downtown Toronto Starbucks, Arabesque spoke to ChartAttack about the therapeutic elements of making music. He also gave his two cents on why rappers like Jim Jones are just as hip-hop as the ol’ school guys, and the bittersweet taste of his overseas triumphs.
ChartAttack: You’ve been through a lot in the past couple years. Is your music like therapy?
Arabesque: Definitely. I think you know it’s one of those things for a person like myself who, when it comes to grieving or whatever I don’t know the proper way to do it. I’m a hip-hop artist and I live in a machismo world, you know what I’m saying? So something like this is great because it gives a sense of therapy or just that proper outlet where you can do it or whatever and is like you can let people know how you feel without telling them directly. Something like this is just perfect because I love making music. There’s a message and sonically it’s pleasing, so yeah, that’s what it is.
A lot of people sort of feel like hip-hop has lost its way. What do you think when you hear statements like that?
I agree to an extent. You know the balance isn’t there, you know what I mean? But who’s to say that Lil Jon isn’t hip-hop? Who am I to say? It evolves, it transforms into something different or whatever. But at the end of the day I do think that it is hip-hop. But maybe in the mainstream the balance isn’t there… you look at acts that are in the mainstream or whatever and these young kids are picking up things that I don’t dig, and I see elements where it’s like, “Oh shit, I see what they see. He’s fucking cool.” The essence is still hip-hop. How they talk, the essence they embody is like the same shit that I was listening to when I was a kid. I could compare Jim Jones to Public Enemy or an X-Clan when I was growing up just because the swagger is there, so it’s still the same thing. I say for those people making big money because I haven’t tasted it like them, I say good for them, man. If you’re coming from nothing and you’re eating off of what you love, then speak about it. Do what you have to do. But then I go back to say that the balance is not there. The conscious stuff or whatever you consider “conscious,” the balance in the mainstream of what they put out there for the kids is not there.
Absolutely. Turning back to your album, what’s your favourite song on it and why?
Not sonically, but more the meaning or the politics around it would be “Politics Of The Blaow,” which is essentially about a movie I watched called Paradise Now. So it was basically off that movie based on suicide bombs and the Palestine/Israeli state and geopolitical tensions and things of that nature. To have one politics joint that really packs a punch for me. Just putting yourself in the mindframe of a suicide bomber is pretty much out there far from Toronto, Canada so that’s what it was. The popular one people say is “Nature’s Phone.” Everyone talks about “Nature’s Phone” because of the video and it had a lot of success overseas and it was awesome like that, but I just feel like it’s one of those things where it almost tells a story from joint to joint. “Marlboro Man” is pretty hype, too.
I know you’ve toured overseas. What’s the vibe like over there?
I am a God! No, just kidding. Everything from the people who look after me in regards to the hip-hop stuff that I do, BBC One and Sin Nombre, all those guys that back me overseas. I just came back this summer I was on tour with Sean Paul right in the Middle East, so the following is there. But I don’t know, it tastes different than doing stuff out here. It doesn’t have the same “Humph!”
A lot of people are inspired by different things. Who inspires you?
I’ve strayed away from the hip-hop as of late with who I’m really listening to. From The Smiths to Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone, you know, just taking it back or whatever. And just looking at their careers and what they’ve done or whatever, even though I don’t compare myself on that level at all, it’s just interesting to see how it played out for them in the past and how things are now.