Emirati rapper and hip-hop star EZOW, who grew up in Dubai, may be sunshine-averse, preferring to work in a dark room while making music, but he is the quintessential antidote to the usual rapper stereotype. He isn’t dark or somber, and like most rappers, he isn’t some rabid party animal who believes that profanity-fuelled lyrics are the way to make an impression.
“I am not really the big crowd party type of guy. I like to be more focused on my craft than going for parties and concerts,” said EZOW in an interview with Gulf News over zoom.
On December 22, EZOW will be the supporting act before Chris Brown takes to the stage at the Coca Cola Arena in Dubai. As far as significant milestones in his rising career go, this upcoming gig is a momentous one.
“I have always believed in that quote from Spider-Man: ‘With great power, there must also come great responsibility,’” said EZOW with a toothy smile. He distinguishes himself in the hip-hop scene by maintaining a commitment to creating music free from explicit language, opting for a more refined and respectful approach in his videos. Plus, he takes that responsibility of being a rising star in the UAE music landscape seriously.
“My childhood was merely just a lot of music. When you are a kid, you are expected to go out and play, but I was always found tweaking and working the microphones … Even if I am not a party-headed guy, I have loved music all my life. And I am living that dream,” said EZOW.
The 23-year-old rapper, who dropped his debut EP ‘Concrete Jungle’ and grew up listening to Eminem, Travis Scott, and 50 Cent, is also the Youth-Goodwill ambassador for the United Nations as a part of their sustainable development goals.
“We help fight malnutrition around the world … For me, it’s not just about creating music; it’s also about the type of person you are … I want to do something to help the world – through music or through my power as a musician,” said EZOW.
Excerpts from our interview with the rapper as we talk about his upcoming gig with Chris Brown, his musical journey in the UAE, and how his fans in Dubai have always bolstered his spirits …
Let’s start with your professional rapper name EZOW (pronounced Eezoe)… Is there a story behind it?
I had this inspiration when I was young from the rapper Eazy-E, so you can tell where my name came from. I liked his style, his gloves, his black jackets and stuff like that. I felt I could relate to him.
But how difficult was it to be taken seriously as an Emirati rapper?
It took time for me to perfect the skill, but from the word go, I have been taken seriously. Music does not have a race, gender, or anything like that. Music is something that everybody listens to. Being a rapper may be new around these parts, but I feel with time more talents will start to develop these skills.
Rap music has always got the rap for having profanity-laden lyrics, but how sensitive were you about not offending regional sensitivities?
All depends on what type of message we are trying to shoot across. I don’t think you will be able to last as a musician with profanity-riddled music anywhere in this world, not just the Middle East. I feel like if you have a positive message that you are trying to deliver and inspire younger people, you have a different goal and you are on a different mission … I don’t sense any boundaries when making music. Ever since I entered this industry, everybody has been supportive of me, including my own country. I haven’t had any ups and downs, particularly, because my message through my music has always been positive.
What are the biggest misconceptions around rappers and their music?
It goes back to the last question you asked where rap is often equated to profanity and vulgar lyrics. The message I am trying to convey is that not all rappers like profanities. I would like to introduce my music as not rap alone, but as music you want to listen to. I want to know how I make you feel when you listen to my songs. The questions I ask are ‘Do you feel good, bad, or offended?’. When it comes to music, it’s all about whether it’s good or not. And remember. Not all music is the same.
Rappers in the West often get their material for songs from conflicts and issues like racism and identity crisis. What are the central themes that you explore in your songs and your work?
We live in a different age right now. Back then, the West experienced racism much more than right now. I have taken the good side of music and rap. Through my music, I want to convey that if you work hard and believe in your dreams, then sky’s the limit. I want to underline the importance of keeping on going and breaking every barrier along the way.
How did your parents react to your decision to become a rapper?
They supported me even when I was very young. They were with me through this very long road. Since I was 14, my mum knew I had music in my veins. She said: ‘This kid has music in him, and I don’t think it’s good to suppress it.’ She nurtured my talents and let it grow.
Your album ‘Concrete Jungle’ is one of your defining albums of your career … What can you tell us about it?
My EP album ‘Concrete Jungle’ was meant to be an introduction of what I went through to get to where I am right now in my career and life. I wanted to chronicle the obstacles, the speed bumps in my life … Nothing in life is very easy to get to. Everything is tough, and you have to work hard. You also have to believe in what you got. ‘Concrete Jungle’ is my message that I had to go through several steps to get to where I am. It’s an introduction to my world.
Struggle is relative … What were your struggles like?
My struggle was about opening a new path or a new door … I had to build something out of nothing. Trying to dig on concrete is a tough thing because the surface is very hard, and you are trying to dig and mine something new. And, that precisely was my challenge and struggle … To be honest with you, I started young as a musician. My transition into this world happened naturally … I look at my journey in music as learning how to play football where you need to dribble with the ball and the wind … I was the rebel in my childhood because my friends didn’t choose to pursue music.
Don’t Miss It!
Watch EZOW play at the Coca Cola Arena on December 22 where he will be supporting Chris Brown.