Casablanca - Two Tone is one of the outstanding Moroccan talents representing Morocco internationally.
Casablanca – Two Tone is one of the outstanding Moroccan talents representing Morocco internationally.
He is an international Moroccan rapper by all measures and delightfully accepted to give an interview to MWN, in which he relates his artistic journey, his international accomplishments, as well as his love for his country, Morocco.
MWN: Tell us about your artistic journey. How long of a way did you have to go to reach the stage you are at right now?
Two Tone: When I was 14 years old, my family and I used to come to Morocco to spend our summer vacation in Nador, Tetouan or Tangier. I recall bringing a CD of N.W.A (an American hip-hop group from Compton, California) with me from Holland, and then I started memorizing the lyrics of almost all of their songs. When I went back to The Netherlands, I started rapping in English, and that appealed to many people because rapping in English was quite new there.
Initially, I started rapping during school events before joining a rap group. We were a bunch of talented young people and among the first groups there to rap in English. We used to rap about the street, and that was also quite novel in Holland.
Then, we decided to release our very first album in English, sponsored by a Dutch record company. We subsequently headed to the U.S.A and there was lots of interest in what we were doing there. We had almost secured a contract there, but the record company disapproved of its terms. Both parties—the American label and the record company—had a serious argument, the consequence of which was that our album never saw the light.
I had too much ambition to remain stuck in that seemingly interminable issue. I left the group and started a new journey on my own. I worked with Tracy Marrow, who was a famous American rapper, known as Ice-T, before he shifted to acting. We met in Holland, where I started my own label and studio. He liked my music and suggested working on something together.
However, I had to pause for a while and look after my wife who was pregnant at that time. I stopped singing for a long time until we moved to Dubai, where I had the opportunity to invest in a successful business that made of me the independent man I am today.
I subsequently refocused on my music, and started recording and shooting video clips. My very first song was entitled “Hatin’ On Me,” featuring Krayzie Bone, an American rapper, producer, and entrepreneur. That was actually my first song after 14 years of artistic inertia.
Then, I started becoming increasingly inspired. My music received positive responses wherever it was played. I flew to L.A., where I met many people to whom my music appealed. They were also very surprised to learn that I was from Morocco.
Wacka Flocka Flame, the famous American rapper from Atlanta, gave me a call and asked to meet. He listened to my music and instantly fell in love with it, then we worked together on a song called “9mm.”I subsequently started collaborating with many other American artists like Kidd Kidd and Precious Paris (from G-Unit), Eastwood and recently Ray J.
Now I am back in Morocco, the country I represent, to make sure that my Moroccan identity finds its place in my music. I started using Moroccan Arabic words in my songs. I also intend to help young, talented Moroccans to start their career in the music scene by assisting them in receiving the attention they deserve hopefully.
MWN: How did your journey as a rapper change you, and what are some of the privileges you have enjoyed as a professional artist now?
Two Tone: The difference between a successful artist and a successful businessman is that the respect you get afterwards from people around you is unlike anything else. For example, I’m getting calls from the chamber of commerce in Morocco and other institutions that request my involvement in charity events, as well as calls from many influential people who like my music and support me.
I also received a call from the U.S. Embassy, in which a person told me that her daughter loves my music, which is very heartwarming. I always receive their calls with an open heart. I love giving back to my country and it’s always a pleasure to do that.
So yes, you earn people’s respect, support and encouragement. Another great privilege is that you get to travel the world, which is something I personally love to do.
MWN: What are some of the challenges that, perhaps in a different scenario, would have stopped you from pursuing your dreams?
Two Tone: When I was young, I had to choose between crime and rhyme. My entourage was fraught with tempting, destructive forces, and some of my friends could not resist and eventually succumbed to that. Some of them are in jail now. I chose a different path. I decided to build up my life the right way. I chose to be an artist, the best thing that could happen to me in those circumstances back in the day.
What might be surprising for most people now is that I don’t rap about social issues in my songs. Some people think that I’m being pretentious or an exhibitionist when I rap about other things, but in reality, that is actually my life now. I do rap about my life, which is now full of deserved success. I took the right path, worked very hard and I’m now celebrating my success through my music. I want people to like me for who I am instead of judging me for being someone I am not.
MWN: You are obviously Moroccan. How is your Moroccan identity displayed in your music and in your style of life?
Two Tone: First of all, when I introduce myself in any international event, interview or just when interacting with normal people, I always introduce myself as a Moroccan artist. Yes, I was born in The Netherlands, and yes I currently live in Dubai, but I’m Moroccan, and I never hide that wherever I go.
In my music, I include aspects of the Moroccan culture. I now use words in Moroccan Arabic in my rap lyrics. You can already hear some of them in some of my songs. I’m also trying to learn new words in order to incorporate them in my music. One of the words you may hear in my music is “Salamo Alikum,” (peace be upon you) “Dima” (always/forever) and “Bladi” (my nation). Many people can easily identify and relate to these words in my English lyrics. I’m also incorporating Moroccan sounds in my music now, and Moroccan hooks sung by Moroccan artists.
I keep my Moroccan identity perceptible in my music while ensuring to give my songs an international appeal, outside national borders. My music is from Morocco, but it is for the world as a whole.
MWN: How do you deal with all sorts of criticism you are exposed to as a professional artist, and especially with negative or unconstructive criticism?
I am personally very surprised at the amount of positive responses I received from Moroccans. Many Moroccans have expressed their love of my music and they don’t hesitate to share that with me via social networks or when I meet them in person.
Most of the criticism I receive is constructive criticism. A female fan, for example, told me that she loved my music, and that she would love it even more if I used less inappropriate words. I love this type of constructive criticism, but also accept all other sorts of criticism and I try my best to respond to them properly.
Just for the record, I have a song called “Bad B***.” In that song, I’m not actually being disrespectful towards women. On the contrary, the song is about strong women who got your back and support you throughout your hardships and challenges.
However, vulgar language is part of the music industry. Wherever you go, even in Morocco, you will find many songs and artistic expressions with vulgarity as a constituent. It is also part of the rap game. However, that does not forcibly reflect the mentality of the artist. Just like in movies, actors may sometimes utter vulgar words or do inappropriate things, but that’s all part of the acting. It’s part of the artistic work, and it’s only one constituent of it.
I respect all opinions and all sorts of criticisms. I know my qualities and my principles. When some people construct a bad image of me, I do respect their opinions and criticisms, because I also respect diversity of opinions and mentalities.
When somebody says something bad about me on my Facebook page, for example, I don’t delete his/her comment, because I accept it just as I accept positive comments. I just don’t accept comments in which people display complete lack of knowledge about who I am. I wish some people would do more research on me before they judge me without the minimum effort to know me first.
MWN: You have just mentioned some of the things you will do to help Moroccan artists who are still in the very beginning of their journeys. Can you talk about that more specifically?
Two Tone: Absolutely! I think there are many talented people here in Morocco. They are just not given the attention they deserve, and don’t have facilities and financial means to share their works more widely and receive recognition for them. I hope that I will be able to help some of these talented people to get more attention here.
I’m thinking about launching some sort of a Rap X-Factor here in Morocco, that would allow talented rappers to display their talent and get the recognition and help they deserve to pursue their artistic dreams. Rappers from all Moroccan cities would be able to take part in it. The winner of the contest would for instance secure a production or a featuring, or any other prize that would help him/her start their career properly and get more attention.
I’m still figuring out how to start this off with some organizations here in Morocco. There are different ways we can do it, like for example ask contestants to upload their videos on YouTube or other social networks and then go about assessing their skills. In all cases, I will try my best to contribute to putting as many talented Moroccan rappers as I can on the scene to get the support they need.
MWN: The process of making music differs among rappers. How does Two Tone spend a typical day in the studio?
Two Tone: In the studio, what I typically start with is listening to beats made by my producer. I personally like to start by freestyling to a certain beat I pick up. I then listen to it to get a feel of how it sounds in general so that I can decide about the kind of flow I would attach to it. My best songs were basically done in this fashion. I freestyle before writing because that gives a general picture of how your voice, lyrics and flow sound when combined with the beat. When everything perfectly matches, I officially record it and make sure everything sounds professional and to the point.
MWN: Who has (have) been your first artistic idol(s) since the very day you started your journey? What are your biggest influences and what music do you listen to?
Two Tone: My rap idols are: N.W.A, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, T.I. and all the members of the dead generation of rap. I also like rappers from the new generation, like Drake for example.
However, I don’t have any outside influence on my music. I try to stay away from making music that sounds like other artists’ music. Yet, when it comes to my rap flow, I would describe some similarities in rap with that of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
I mostly listen to rap. I listen to Funk music, too. I also like instrumental music, without any or much singing in it.
MWN: Have you ever had to adjust your music to conform with the specificities of a certain culture/society or a particular audience?
Two Tone: Yes, I do. For example, here in Morocco, there are certain things in art and music that are deemed inappropriate by most Moroccans. I take that into account and respect the specificities and values of the Moroccan culture and the norms of the Moroccan society in my music, especially in my video clips. I am Moroccan at the end of the day.
MWN: What would you advise young Moroccan artists who are at the very beginning of their artistic venture?
Two Tone: I want them all to believe in themselves first. That’s the very first thing they should do, because if you lack self-worth and self-confidence, you should never expect others to value you and believe in you, and you will never make it eventually. They should also work very hard, regardless of the difficulties they may encounter throughout their journeys.
One more important thing they should also consider is to keep music and art a secondary path, in the sense that they should not rely on it 100%. Prioritize your studies and jobs first, then devote time to your artistic work. However, when you reach a stage in which you can fully rely on art as your source of living, then you can focus your entire energy on your artistic work and give your 100% to it.
MWN: Are Two Tone and Rachid two different people?
Two Tone: Two Tone and Rachid are absolutely the same person. It’s just that one puts on glasses and the other doesn’t. In terms of personality, I’m the same person both on the sphere of music and on the sphere of ordinary life. I hope to stay like this and keep it this way.
MWN: What is/are your long-term objective(s) as an artist?
Two Tone: I want to represent Morocco internationally in such a way that I can raise my country’s flag even higher than I have done so far. Just as Jay-Z represents New York and Snoop Dog is representing L.A. internationally, I also want to “do it extra big” and represent Morocco the best way I can.
I also want to be an artistic inspiration for all starting Moroccan artists here who are currently putting up the first bricks of their artistic career. I want them to look at me and say, “Oh, Two Tone is Moroccan, and he made it, I can also make it!” I want to inspire people and artists to create and pursue their dreams to the fullest.
MWN: What is your favorite Moroccan city, Moroccan food and Moroccan music?
Two Tone: Oh, I like Kefta, and my favorite Moroccan city is Marrakech and I listen mostly to what other Moroccan rappers are doing. There are many talented, great Moroccan rappers here. I also like what Saad Lmjarred is doing.
MWN: Two Tone, It’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you for your time and have a nice day.
Two Tone: The pleasure is all mine. Thank you.
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