We sat down with Hip Hop MC Yassin Alsalman, known by his stage name The Narcicyst, and talked about ways to keep pushing yourself in your field, Arab inspiration and the importance of listening to your inner voice. Currently residing in Canada, The Narcicyst has created music that investigates and provides commentary on some of the issues that plague the Arab World. His famous song and video, Hamdulilah, featuring Palestinian singer Shadia Mansour, has millions of views and has shown a different side to Arab culture than the one often found in mainstream media. Now he is sharing his unique vision and performing along with Zahed Sultan and Talvin Singh at Design Days Dubai.
1) How did you get involved with Design Days Dubai?
I got asked to pitch some talent to them under our artist collective the Medium and went through a few rounds. Initially we had a different line up that was representative of the whole arab world, but we had to shift stuff due to scheduling. I’m working more on the arts side these days, so I guess that’s how it came about.
2) Before a live performance, how do you prepare yourself? Stretch, shut up and pray.
3) What are some of your Middle Eastern inspirations? Edward Said, Muthaffar Al-Nawwab, Um Kulthum, Fairuz… so many, but with a lack of social leaders, I look to different ethnicities and experiences for mentors/inspirations.
4) Who inspired you to get into music?
Just hearing it around the house from my father and mother. And then getting into hip-hop at a young age and jotting down lyrics. Eventually that led me to the studio and here I am.
5) What is one of your favorite lyrics/lines from one of your own songs, and why is it significant?
What about a favorite line from another Arab musician? “Arabs Hate Each Other but Love a Martyr” or “Accept the Unexpected, Expect the Unaccepted”. Asking a guy called the Narcicyst what his favorite lines are is a longer winded answer. hehe, I’m kidding. I guess those two lines because they sum up our cultural experience. I would say Offendum‘s Damascene Bracelets line, or when he said “It’s hard living in the West, when I know the East got the best of me”.
6) What are some of the main messages that you try to get out through your music?
Be Yourself. Don’t hold back. Be honest. Be human.
7) Do you think music has the ability to change perspectives?
I don’t know if I changed perspectives, but I hope to add to the dialogue and cultural body of work from our people home and abroad.
8) Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians or artists?
This game is not easy, and it’s a game. Carve your own lane because all lanes are at full capacity. Find your unique qualities and be that. No one can take that away from you. It takes more than a decade sometimes, but perseverance is everything.
9) What do you do to overcome writer’s block? I stop trying to write, and soak in life.