Bahrain-based rap prodigy and music producer Tony Attalla, currently ranked as #1 hip hop artist in Bahrain and #225 globally (Hip Hop), launched his mixtape titled ‘Countless Blessings’ recently. The kingdom’s most popular rapper is certainly going places and Weekender was intrigued to know more as we sat down to have a few words with the multi-talented musician who reflected on his hip-hop journey, his setbacks and whatever magnum opus of his is in the works, as he continues on his exciting journey.
W. Music has so many forms. How did you get interested and hooked onto hip hop?
Attalla: I always had a ‘thing’ for music and instruments. I grew up writing poetry and playing different variations of percussion. I started listening to Hip Hop at the age of 13 and it was love at the first ‘listen’. It wasn’t just the music though; Hip Hop is a culture and a lifestyle that I have been hooked on ever since.
W. Was it just a hobby or was it a passion for the long run?
Attalla: It was always more than just a hobby. I would write rhymes at school, practice at home, rap to friends and family but everything changed the day I recorded my first song at the age of 14 when I realised that this is what I was born to do and what I want for myself as a career.
W. What were the major setbacks you faced when working on your initial music?
Attalla: Back in the year 1999-2000, Hip Hop was still a bit of a taboo in the gulf regions and especially to Arab families like mine. The biggest setback was the negativity surrounding my passion and the lack of motivation but I’m hard headed by nature and these setbacks just made me vicious for my passion and work harder to achieve the goals I set for myself.
W. What do you say to those who suggest hip hop is a dying culture?
Attalla: I would tell these people to read more about music, do some research or simply turn on their TVs and Radios! Hip Hop has been peaking nonstop recently. From a genre that was barely officially recognised to a genre that earns worldwide awards, it is breaking records in music charts, video views, record sales and radio plays. Hip Hop is definitely getting bigger and stronger every day.
W. Can we state you are the first rapper from Bahrain?
Attalla: I brought rap with me to Bahrain back in 2004. I am definitely a trend setter and a pioneer in what I do but we can’t state that I am the first rapper from Bahrain as there could have been others who attempted rap before me. But it’s not a matter of who started first, I’d prefer stating that I am one of the first rappers in Bahrain who helped nurture the culture and probably the first non Bahraini rapper to put Bahrain’s name on the worldwide Hip Hop map.
W. When did you decide the time was right to open your own production company?
Attalla: It was the right time as soon as I realised there were no other production companies catering for Hip Hop artists in Bahrain and after many unpleasant experiences with other studios as they were not Hip Hop oriented and I too, wasn’t very happy with the final product. cigAwet Productions was a project I started to accommodate my personal recording, mixing and producing requirements but things escalated quickly and began expanding as the demand went higher and started accommodating other artists and breached out to other genres and other audio products like RADIO, TV and various other audio solutions.
W .What kind of message and expectations you had with your solo video release?
Attalla: A rap mix tape or album would not be complete if it did not have a song like “Criminal”. The song’s style is ‘old school hardcore’ rap and talks about stereotype rappers who despite their success, they still fail to provide meaningful and soulful music, rap stands for ‘RHYTHM AND POETRY’ which is way deeper than the shallowness of fancy cars, pretty women, money and lavish lifestyles that these artists portray nowadays. The message behind the song and video portraying me as a musical criminal that was sent to “wipe the fake hype” and it’s basically a reality check!
W. How was Bahrain’s response to your first mix tape? Does the island inhibit a culture that accepts variations and cultural differences in art?
Attalla: My first and second mix tapes were released in Kuwait back in 2001 and 2002. My third Mix tape named (Attalla 08) was released a few years later in Bahrain and it got decent responses for a coming up artist and it was the key that gave me access to the Bahrain music scene. Bahrain is a Kingdom that has arms wide open to creativity and innovation in all forms from culture to art to business. It is certainly a multi cultured Kingdom with residents from all over the world considering it home. I have travelled to many countries and have not seen so many different cultures, dialects, backgrounds blend together in harmony like here.
W. Are there loopholes that need to be taken care of, for a person to have their mark felt in the music industry?
Attalla: The only loop hole that people can get stuck in or fall into is their EGOS and DOUBTS. YOU are your worst enemy! Being genuine and talented is a must but it’s not enough. In this fast paced life we live in its GO HARD or GO HOME. In other words, nothing comes easy!
W. Share a little about your latest mix tape launch: ‘Countless Blessings”?
Attalla: ‘Countless Blessings’ is my latest work of art. It combines years of work that I’m extremely excited to finally bring to light. It consists of 11 tracks of different styles and it features a handful of regional and international artists. I ditched the option of releasing it as an ALBUM and i took the decision to contribute back to the people that were a part of my success and will release it as a mix tape that everybody can download online for FREE with 1 click.
Listen to Attalla’s music ingenuity and check out his new video on Youtube: www.youtube.com/attalla and Soundcloud: www.soundcloud.com/attalla and Instagram: @cigawet