I recently came across an interview regarding a Muslim rapper from Saudi Arabia named Skinny who had moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music, and in doing so has managed to upset a lot of Saudi’s and Muslims due to his controversial content, behavior and look. I agreed to meet up with Skinny out at a studio in Glendale, CA while he was working on his debut album Ghetto Disneyland to see what the controversy was about and to hear this young man’s unusual story. It turned out to be an interesting tale about Hip-Hop and its effect in other parts of the World dominated by traditional Cultures, one’s that aren’t necessarily open to the type of influence, power and expression that Hip-Hop can bring. Is the Arab Muslim world ready for an artist like Skinny? Is America ready too? Well ready or not, he’s coming. Read our exclusive interview below!
AllHipHop: What part of Saudi Arabia did you grow up in?
Skinny: I grew up in Jeddah where it’s hot and filled with beautiful covered women.
But you can’t look at any of them!
You can’t look at them but the city I grew up in was a little more open than what you see on television – you know with the ninja face cover. They kind of let their hair down and stuff like that. We got to see some girls at the beach. The culture is incredible and the food is delicious.
How does Hip-Hop become a part of your culture in Saudi Arabia?
To this day it’s not uncommon to see someone rockin’ a bandana wearing a 2pac T-shirt. That’s what was big over there – Michael Jackson and 2pac T-shirts. Even though Hip-Hop was so restricted, we knew where to go get the music. We had that one secret shop that we knew would have that Mixtape or CD. It was way low key even though now it’s a bit more open with the Internet but before it was super low key. I was lucky to be able to come over to America every summer because my mother lives in Los Angeles. Having the opportunity to come here and listen to so many great artists was a great experience. Relatives from my mother’s side of the family had musical gifts and that’s where I got my musical creativity from. My father’s side is where I get my culture from and the two sides are mixed together all inside of me for an interesting product.
What’s the Hip-Hop movement like in Saudi Arabia?
Like I said before, it’s a bit more open now, but you can’t really do a show or anything. They are struggling out there to really keep the Hip-Hop culture alive. The youth like it though. We love soccer and Hip-Hop.
I take it that the Conservative establishment doesn’t like it though.
Not just Hip-Hop but music in general. That’s a no-no to them. Their idea is that we have to only pray – that’s the old generation though.
Do you think that generation will die out and the new one coming in that’s been exposed to Hip-Hop will allow a more accepting society?
I think it will be more open but it will never be truly open. Culture is something that is instilled in to us when we are born. They say that music is against my religion.
Do you feel that music is against your religion?
Not at all! I wouldn’t be doing this if I felt it was against my religion. I stay close to God and I pray all of the time. No way, this is what God put me on Earth to do.
So how do you justify yourself to the Religious Conservatives? I imagine that you’ve had to defend yourself a lot.
Oh my God, just from the comments on YouTube! I don’t get the comments that just say that they don’t like me. I get the comments that say that I’m going to Hell! My hate comments are so much different than the average hate comments that other rappers get.
Judging by the comment section posts that I see every day on sites, that’s saying a lot!
My hate is stuff like, “I’m going to Hell or Jail, I’m not allowed to say that I’m a Saudi, I’m being disrespectful to my Culture,” statements like that. I also get things like, “We better not catch you if we ever see you.”
Your life has been threatened?
It’s been threatened and I’m just barely starting to make moves! If you Google “Skinny Saudi rapper,” it will come up as “Skinny Saudi rapper real name.” There are people trying to find out my real name and who I am. Who knows why they want to know my name? People out there are crazy. It’s a dangerous game.
Do you feel safe?
I feel safe. I don’t walk around looking over my shoulder. I have God and that’s who I put my trust in. When I become more known, I’ll have some big guy push people off of me (laughs). Other than that, I can’t go through life being scared. People say that I’m going to Hell but I know my relationship with God.
You’ve got songs like “P*ssy, Money, Kush.” You’ve also got the tattoos and you’re firing up some weed right now. How do you justify all of that with your religion?
I think that being a Muslim is trying to make God be true in you, protecting your family, being kind and being good to other people. It’s not about a tattoo or words. It’s about creativity. This is entertainment and fun to hear. It goes back to judging a book by its cover. You’ve got to read the whole book to really know the ending.
Some might think that this is all a gimmick.
This is no gimmick. I waited a long time to get the tattoos. Everything I say is real. I take the Hip-Hop craft seriously. This is not a joke. This is my life.
I saw your new “PMK” video. What’s with the Midget/Catholic priest? Some might take that as you disrespecting their religion.
“PMK” stands for P*ssy, Money and Kush – and honestly when I was in the studio looking around the place there were so many people from different races and religions. The one thing that brought us all together was all of us talking about P*ssy, Money and good Kush to smoke. Nothing else about our backgrounds mattered and that was the inspiration behind the record. The midget Priest, Rabbi, Muslim, Twerkers and girls covered with ski masks, was just to show that everybody can come together and have a good time. It doesn’t have to be about Politics. It’s not a record talking about being the best, it’s a fun song. Let’s all get along and be happy. People trip too much and life is too short to be tripping.
What’s your opinion on how Americans view Saudi Arabians through our media?
It’s interesting that you ask that because I moved here to America when I got my green card. I was here for the September 11, 2001 bombings and I experienced the change in attitude. It went from, “You’re Saudi? What’s it like there?” to “You’re Saudi? Wait here. We have to check you.” I’m not complaining. It is what it is. God rest the victim’s souls and I hope they are comfortable in Heaven.
You probably have interesting airport experiences.
Especially now after my tattoos and growing out my hair – they don’t know what to think! I give them my passport and they do double-takes. They’re like, “I don’t know about the name but he kind of looks like one of us.”
Going back to the comments, I get a lot of “You’re ruining our Saudi reputation,” and I’m like, “Have you heard about our reputation already?”
Any concerns at all about being in a business where a lot of Jewish people are in high places?
No concerns at all. I have a lot of Jewish friends. Another person’s religion is not a big deal to me. If that’s what you believe in, cool. They shouldn’t judge me because of where I’m from because I’m not judging them for where they are from. Let the music speak and sell itself.
Is your goal to be able to go back to Saudi Arabia one day?
That’s my dream. My dream is to go back and hang out with the King and tell him thank you for the incredible childhood and be like, “I need to do a show. I need the biggest stadium you have so I can shut it down.” I want to give the people entertainment. It’s not a bad thing.