In this month’s column we catch up with Bahrain’s Mohammed Hasan, more commonly known as DJ Outlaw, the founding member of Outlaw Productions. Throughout his career, DJ Outlaw has been behind some of the region’s biggest Hip Hop projects including ‘Arab World Unite’ and The Middle East Invasion mix-tape series. He has collaborated with local, regional, and international artists such as the legendary Outlawz, Orlando Jones, DJ Woohie, and G-Unit. What is most impressive though, is that through his mix-tape series, he is able to pay homage to the Hip Hop ethos of bringing up those around you and helping unseen talent get a voice, all with an aim to specifically help those in the Arab world. The track listing to the latest mix-tape reads like a map of Arab nations, and many unique artists, from as many unique genres, are getting heard. We check in with him to see what keeps him motivated.
How did you first get into music?
I started out as a DJ in private parties back in 1997. It wasn’t enough for me to just stop there and limit my career to DJ-ing; I wanted to branch out. That’s when I decided to get into music production. A couple of years later I created my home studio, and then in 2003, Outlaw Productions came into being.
What/Who inspires your art and why?
Growing up I listened to a lot of old school hip hop which definitely helped shape my art, and I also remember listening to Michael Jackson and feeling inspired by his music and artistry.
Tell us about the project Middle East Invasion – When Arabs Unite?
The Middle East Invasion is a mix-tape series that I created after feeling like there are a lot of very talented hip hop artists around the region who were not being given enough attention. I wanted to create a platform for them to be heard. I get tons of submissions from a wide range of Middle Eastern artists, and I hand pick the best of the best to be featured on each volume. Since the first volume, every year the talent has gotten stronger. Which of course proves to the world how much the Middle East has to offer to the music community.
When will/did it release?
Five volumes have been released each year for the past five years so far. And a new volume will be out on New Year’s Day of every year from now onwards.
Tell me about the various artists involved?
The mix-tape is strictly for artists from the region regardless of where they might live. So far, the artists that have been featured represent most, if not all, of the Arab countries; these include Flipp (Bahrain), Army of One (Kuwait), Vico (Lebanon), Ayzee (KSA), Ghost (UAE), MC Amin (Egypt), Shadia Mansour (Lebanon), and Hell Fire (Libya) to name a few. I also try to include a variety of styles and as many new and unheard artists featured as I can in every mix-tape.
Where was it recorded?
The tracks submitted to me are all previously recorded by the artists in their home countries. The submission period is usually two weeks, and the artists send in up to three tracks to be reviewed and considered. Of course after the tracks have all been picked and the list is created, the mix-tape is mixed and mastered which is done in my studio.
What inspired this project?
The main inspiration behind this project is the level of talent in the region that deserves a chance at being heard. It’s also the culture and the concept of Arab unity through music; it’s a tool to bring Arabs together in a new and different way, and that’s hip hop!
In your opinion, what is the hardest challenge about doing music as a career in the Middle East?
The hardest challenge would probably be dealing with some of society’s attitude towards pursuing an unconventional career choice. It’s tough, but not impossible.
How has the Middle Eastern world reacted to your art?
Considering that when I first started out it was relatively new, I got mixed reactions and many of them were negative. As time went by, more and more people started to understand the art, where it’s coming from, and the message it’s sending out. I’ve been blessed for all the support I’ve been getting in recent years.
Is there a prevailing message you are trying to communicate with your pieces?
Each and every track has a message of its own, but the main message that I—along with my artists—want to communicate is that, if we can do it, so can you. All it takes is the will and determination to chase after your dream.
What would you like to accomplish with your music in the future?
The ultimate goal is to put Bahrain on the international hip hop map! In everything I do, I represent Bahrain, which I will continue to do in all my future projects. Now that the new Outlaw Productions studio is ready, I’ll be busy working on many projects in plan.
Any shows coming up in Kuwait or elsewhere?
Definitely. There’s a lot planned for this year, and I have a few countries in mind where I’d like to perform. Once the planned shows are confirmed, they’ll be announced on my website where you can subscribe for free, to be on my VIP mailing list to receive all the news exclusively.