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We meet R.Y.M, the dynam­ic rap duo hail­ing from Leban­on. Their latest release, “Al Qiyama,” has made waves in the music scene, cap­tiv­at­ing listen­ers with its power­ful mes­sage and thought-pro­vok­ing lyr­ics. In this inter­view, we delve into the inspir­a­tion behind their song, the jour­ney they embarked on, and the impact they hope to make in the world. Join us as R.Y.M takes us on a jour­ney of resur­rec­tion, resi­li­ence, and the pur­suit of a bet­ter tomor­row.

Al Qiyama’ trans­lates to ‘resur­rec­tion’ in Eng­lish. What inspired you to choose this title for your song, and how does it reflect the mes­sage you wanted to con­vey?

Resur­rec­tion can be under­stood on two levels.

First, the phys­ic­al aspect which refers to the act of rising again. This reviv­al reflects my broth­er and I’s music­al resur­gence after 10 years of hiatus. We returned to rap more determ­ined than before, and more at peace with ourselves in a frag­men­ted and judg­ment­al soci­ety.

Second, the spir­itu­al aspect advoc­at­ing for the awaken­ing of today’s youth. Al Qiyama is a call­ing for today’s youth and future lead­ers, espe­cially in the Middle East, to rise above inter-gen­er­a­tion­al beha­vi­ors and per­cep­tions, ques­tion and chal­lenge indoc­trin­ated nar­rat­ives, and forge our own truth by means of reas­on, edu­ca­tion, wis­dom and kind­ness.

Can you tell us more about the jour­ney you went through dur­ing the ten years lead­ing up to the release of ‘Al Qiyama’? How did your exper­i­ences shape the song and its power­ful mes­sage?

Our story is that of per­sever­ance and adapt­a­tion. In our adoles­cent years, we refused to live in a world where rap music was not our daily occu­pa­tion. We thought that fame was easy and that respect was a giv­en, but real­ity wanted to teach us oth­er­wise. We were dis­cour­aged by society’s non engage­ment with our mes­sage and by the fin­an­cial chal­lenges of mak­ing music. People did not take us ser­i­ously, and we were, at the time, unpre­pared to prove them wrong.

As a res­ult, at age of 18, we decided to com­pletely let go of our dream and to focus on kick start­ing and devel­op­ing our pro­fes­sion­al careers. Aca­dem­ic­ally, we spe­cial­ized in Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions and Middle East­ern Stud­ies and delved into the inter­dis­cip­lin­ary fields of his­tory, geo­graphy, philo­sophy, geo-polit­ics, and more. Pro­fes­sion­ally, we both worked with civil soci­ety organ­iz­a­tions, NGOs, INGOs, research cen­ters, and UN agen­cies.

Oper­at­ing in such a com­plex and diverse con­text, wheth­er in Leban­on or abroad, helped us grow as indi­vidu­als and to identi­fy sim­il­ar cross-cut­ting char­ac­ter­ist­ics, con­cerns, needs and rights that all com­munit­ies exper­i­ence or have.

People are united by love, fear, hap­pi­ness, pain, sad­ness, kind­ness, well-being, and hope. This is why, when we picked up a pen again and star­ted pour­ing our emo­tions and thoughts into paper, the mes­sage flowed out nat­ur­ally and the mes­sage of resur­rec­tion became appar­ent.

The song calls for the replace­ment of bigotry and war with dia­logue, com­pas­sion, under­stand­ing, and devel­op­ment. What motiv­ated you to address these themes, and what impact do you hope the song will have?

Every per­son on this plan­et, at one point or anoth­er, feels afraid, insec­ure, threatened, astray or hope­less. These moments are decis­ive as they con­sti­tute crit­ic­al cross-roads in a person’s life: will we adopt the easy way and suc­cumb to the neg­at­ive influ­ences of hatred and bigotry OR will we fol­low the hard way of ration­al and spir­itu­al open­ness to even­tu­ally achieve a more sus­tain­able envir­on­ment lead­ing to prosper­ity and growth?

Born and raised in Leban­on, it’s hard not to feel the pre­vail­ing bigotry upheld by dif­fer­ent fac­tions on the expense of human val­ues, and social cohe­sion. We used to be laughed at, rejec­ted or side­lined by peers when pro­pos­ing our own ideas dif­fer­ent to those com­monly shared, and encour­aging people to ques­tion both passed-on con­cepts and beliefs. Unfor­tu­nately, people were so focused on unne­ces­sary details, such as dif­fer­ences in con­fes­sions, tra­di­tions or sexu­al ori­ent­a­tions, that they failed to com­pre­hend the essence of life.

Today, we real­ize that the only way to make a change is to dare to pro­pose new approaches and to encour­age people to ques­tion all rigid belief-sys­tems.
We hope that “Al Qiyama”, as the first release of our “Leave a Mark Pro­ject”, will exactly accom­plish those object­ives.

Could you share some insights into the exten­ded record­ing pro­cess for ‘Al Qiyama’? How did you man­age to coördin­ate and col­lab­or­ate effect­ively des­pite the geo­graph­ic­al chal­lenges?

Look­ing back now at the whole record­ing pro­cess for Al Qiyama, it’s hard to recall or point out any moments of exhaus­tion or des­pair, yet the record­ing and over­all pro­duc­tion pro­cess of Al Qiyama was full of chal­lenges in a way that, if not for our com­mit­ment and our loved ones’ encour­age­ments, this dream would have nev­er been con­cret­ized.

When we recon­nec­ted over music and decided to go through with the record­ing pro­cess, we were both thor­oughly inves­ted in our indi­vidu­al lives. Yves was work­ing for a UN agency based in Leban­on; and Marc was pur­su­ing a career abroad, work­ing for an Inter­na­tion­al Non Gov­ern­ment­al Organ­iz­a­tion (INGO) in the Demo­crat­ic Repub­lic of the Congo. We took advant­age of nights and early morn­ings to write lyr­ics, and strategize for the release. We spent long hours in calls and video meet­ings and aimed to estab­lish a steady con­nec­tion, although vir­tu­al.

It was def­in­itely easi­er when we were kids, we used to sit togeth­er all day long, rehears­ing and shar­ing thoughts. We def­in­itely got to appre­ci­ate the value we both hold for music, a pas­sion that uni­fied us and con­sol­id­ated our bond. It taught us that we are our worst enemy for a dis­cour­aged mind sees obstacles, where­as a com­mit­ted one sees only oppor­tun­it­ies. We will carry with us the exper­i­ences, wis­dom and per­son­al­ity growth res­ult­ing from this jour­ney.

The lyr­ic video accom­pa­ny­ing the song adds anoth­er lay­er to its mes­sage. How did you approach the cre­ation of the video, and what ele­ments were import­ant for you to include?

For this release, we were adam­ant on tak­ing it one step fur­ther. For the first time since the begin­ning of our rap career, we were aim­ing to release a video along­side the track. Con­sid­er­ing our geo­graph­ic­al con­fig­ur­a­tion and the fact that we couldn’t man­age to be present togeth­er for long, we decided to opt for an anim­ated lyr­ic video. Releas­ing a video that mainly high­lights the mes­sage behind our track was essen­tial to us. For the pro­duc­tion of the anim­ated video, we were put in con­tact with a very tal­en­ted Lebanese pro­fes­sion­al @roudy.elhajj also an expat­ri­ate seek­ing a bet­ter future abroad.

Our col­lab­or­a­tion with Roudy was almost daily; we shared our ini­tial thoughts which were recip­roc­ated almost in a sym­bi­ot­ic man­ner. We envi­sioned a video with dar­ing lyr­ics and visu­als; a video that also encom­passes the com­plex­ity of our region. The video por­trays a specter of con­trast­ing ele­ments, from drink­ing, dan­cing, and party­ing to war, social unrest and pro­pa­ganda. We wanted to shock the view­ers, to make them stop and won­der, to leave a mark in their being which will hope­fully lead to a path of self-reflec­tion and ques­tion­ing.

Grow­ing up in a com­plex envir­on­ment of war and injustice, how did it influ­ence your per­spect­ive on the world and your music? And how do you nav­ig­ate address­ing such weighty top­ics in your songs?

Grow­ing up, we remem­ber hold­ing on to a lot of pain, loneli­ness, fear, uncer­tainty and unanswered ques­tions. It’s in the nature of chil­dren to absorb and imit­ate the actions and reac­tions occur­ring in their envir­on­ment. Liv­ing in a coun­try / region where threats of viol­ence, war, rad­ic­al­ism and cen­sor­ship were a daily real­ity, we found ourselves deal­ing with import­ant and sens­it­ive top­ics at a young age.

We believe that we sub­con­sciously intro­duced music into our lives as a life­line, pre­vent­ing us from being car­ried away by the rul­ing norms at the time. In a soci­ety where the youth’s opin­ions are mainly deemed as unworthy and naïve, we had to come up with oth­er ways to express our thoughts and emo­tions to lar­ger audi­ences.

We real­ized that we were able to influ­ence oth­ers, mainly the youth, through music; just like we were ourselves influ­enced. Words carry a lot of weight, and we made sure that each sen­tence has its pur­pose in our lyr­ics. Our aim is to reach all youth and encour­age them to speak their truth, stand up for what is right and to tran­scend all bigotry.

We are aware of the role and respons­ib­il­ity we hold through our songs. It’s time people start look­ing deep­er than the cov­ers. Rap music is not intrins­ic­ally uneth­ic­al; just like not all reli­gious or polit­ic­al dis­courses are indis­put­ably upstand­ing. The mes­sages we por­tray in our songs are reflect­ive of our con­tinu­ously evolving mind­sets and ideo­lo­gies. Although our top­ics could gen­er­ate a back­lash from cer­tain tra­di­tion­al parties, we always believed that when someone speaks the truth, they should nev­er be ashamed nor scared; but only proud and con­fid­ent.

How has your Lebanese her­it­age shaped your artist­ic style and the themes you explore in your music?

We are very proud of our Lebanese ori­gins and her­it­age. Leban­on has always been a melt­ing pot of cul­tures, ideo­lo­gies, civil­iz­a­tions and artist­ic genres. Eng­lish rap was for us not an iden­tity, but a ves­sel that allowed us to express and devel­op ourselves and we hope Al Qiyama is an example of this. The track is a fusion of Ori­ent­al and West­ern cul­tures. In its choice of music, word­ing, and themes, Al Qiyama per­tains to the real­ity of a Lebanese/Middle East­ern indi­vidu­al in an inter­na­tion­ally grasp­able style. As such, we dared to walk in uncharted ter­rit­or­ies, estab­lish­ing ourselves as one of the very few Eng­lish rap groups in Leban­on at the time we star­ted per­form­ing.

To be hon­est, when we were young­er, we favored west­ern music over Lebanese music. This could be the res­ult of a simple cor­rel­a­tion between Lebanese/Arab music and the very same prin­ciples and beliefs we were try­ing to dis­tin­guish ourselves from. But grow­ing up, we under­stood the rich­ness of our cul­ture and appre­ci­ated its deeply rooted and express­ive nature.

Can you elab­or­ate on the Leave a Mark Pro­ject and how it aligns with your vis­ion for mak­ing an impact in the world through music and advocacy?

You know how some­times we feel that things are meant to be; well, in our case, the “Leave a Mark Pro­ject” is an ideal case study.

Al Qiyama was just the begin­ning. We are work­ing with sev­er­al oth­er pro­du­cers and tal­en­ted pro­fes­sion­als to pro­duce more ori­gin­al songs that will even­tu­ally fall under the Leave a Mark Pro­ject. We pur­posely worked with pro­du­cers from vari­ous, non-rap back­grounds to give a cre­at­ive and innov­at­ive sound to our music. Along­side Al Qiyama, two tracks are already final­ized and, as said earli­er, we’re con­stantly adapt­ing and find­ing solu­tions to pro­gress des­pite the geo­graph­ic­al dis­tance and the work pres­sure.

The Leave a Mark Pro­ject is our way of mak­ing an impact. Each song in the pro­ject will address a spe­cif­ic theme and embrace a dif­fer­ent style. We pour our souls into every track with the aim that LAMP, shows the nar­rat­ive of two Lebanese broth­ers who were not afraid to stand out, be trans­par­ent and advoc­ate for what is right. This pro­ject is our con­tri­bu­tion to the world, for ideas are etern­al; and we hope that one day, could be today or in a hun­dred years, those ideas will influ­ence and spark the rebirth of a nation.

What chal­lenges did you face dur­ing your hiatus from music, and how did that peri­od con­trib­ute to your per­son­al and artist­ic growth?

Our peri­od away from music was as pain­ful as it was awaken­ing.
We gave up on our pas­sion, laid down our pens, and accep­ted to live life the way soci­ety envi­sioned it. We put our entire focus on excel­ling in uni­ver­sity and pur­su­ing pro­fes­sion­al careers to become ‘pro­duct­ive’ mem­bers of soci­ety (as the eld­ers would put it).

Although we both excelled in our tra­di­tion­al paths, we were nev­er happy nor sat­is­fied. We traveled, explored, conquered and earned, but there was this feel­ing of empti­ness that fol­lowed us des­pite all the suc­cesses — from this pain came the awaken­ing factor.

This hiatus was the fuel for our rebirth. In Leban­on, young people are taught to put aside their pas­sion and to focus solely on mak­ing a liv­ing. We decided that one did not neces­sar­ily elim­in­ate the oth­er; and that through our work, we will be able to fin­ance our pas­sion.

Adding to that, tra­gic events, like the Beirut Port Blast or the eco­nom­ic crisis in Leban­on, ignited a fire in us too big to extin­guish. Know­ing that our cur­rent state of chaos and obli­vi­on is merely the res­ult of accu­mu­lated years of cor­rup­tion and manip­u­la­tion from which Lebanese cit­izens can’t seem to escape, made us return to engaged writ­ing to speak up for those who share our frus­tra­tion and vis­ion. We ded­ic­ate the “Leave a Mark Pro­ject” (LAMP) to those who are not afraid to walk against the cur­rent and rise above society’s oppress­ing and lim­it­ing norms.

As artists and advoc­ates for soci­et­al pro­gres­sion, what role do you believe music plays in effect­ing change, and what mes­sages do you aim to con­vey through your music in the future?

Just like music, the world is con­stantly grow­ing and our tar­geted audi­ence is expand­ing. The youth are on the look for idols and influ­en­cers that will guide them through their tough times and import­ant decision gates in life. The world is full of harm­ful ideas which can lead to poor decisions and unhealthy cop­ing mech­an­isms. Mak­ing music is a respons­ib­il­ity, to the artist who is cre­at­ing and to the audi­ence who is brows­ing.

Music speaks to the soul, and the soul changes people, hence, the import­ance of the mes­sage. The right mes­sage being heard by the ripe mind and at the right time … the but­ter­fly effect this event could have on a nation, region and even the world is just mind blow­ing! Glob­al change starts with one per­son, as such, we seek to leave a mark in the indi­vidu­al, which will then hope­fully reach the col­lect­ive.

As for the next steps for R.Y.M, we aim to con­tin­ue the same path of self-improve­ment, enlight­en­ment and trans­par­ency. The road keeps on chan­ging but the end goal is set. Our goal is for our move­ment to grow, to have the youth from all over the world join us in our march towards human equal­ity, human rights, human dig­nity. Des­pite our dif­fer­ences, we’re all forever bon­ded. Spoil­er alert, the voices of the lost 13 year-old twins from Leban­on are about to make it major! Stay tuned for more sur­prises com­ing ahead!

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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.