I believe most UAE artists are not yet ready to talk about serious issues: Freek

Drill pioneer releases hard-hitting single, Kafi, centred on mental health and abuse and thinks it is time for the industry to evolve


David Light

Published: Wed 21 Apr 2021, 5:11 PM

Last updated: Wed 21 Apr 2021, 5:13 PM

WE OFTEN FOCUS on the UAE’s glitz and glamour, world record-breaking attempts and uninterrupted sunshine, but in recent years it has also become home to another valuable asset. Somalian MC, rapper, director and record producer Freek, who was born and raised here, has given birth to a thrilling Arabic drill sound that is only continuing to grow across the Middle East.

And the artist is once more back in action thanks to his latest release Kafi, which is the first single from his forthcoming album set for release in May. In the single he drops the tempo and ups the intensity to deal with a deep lyrical message.

“Kafi is an emotional track that is based on real-life events that happen every single day in some families, somewhere around the world,” says Freek. “It tackles the issue of child abuse and mental health issues and how children usually deal with this situation.”

It’s a powerful theme backed by a powerful track that rises and falls with the chorus. The simplicity of the song reflects its intended impact.

Kafi’s debut looks to cement Freek’s regional status alongside a back catalogue packed with big hits including Wala Kilma and Mush Fadi, which also made an international splash. Sports brand Adidas took notice and roped the performer into a campaign fronted by Egyptian footballing legend Mohammed Salah. That was followed by shows alongside The Future, Wu-Tang Clan and Gucci Maybe while Freek finished his recent UK tour with a sold-out London show. He also appeared on Dubai-based British DJ Charlie Sloth’s programme Fire in The Booth.

What can you tell us about your song? How did you become involved with these subjects?

Kafi was created from stories I heard all my life while growing up. My close friends used to tell me how they’re struggling at home and they are always trying to find a way to escape this reality. At first, I never understood this because this subject was so taboo in our community that no one dares to talk about. I want to shed light on this through my music and I wanted to open a door for people to start questioning and pointing fingers.

Was it difficult incorporating such hard-hitting subject matter?

Not at all, it’s the daily life of someone, somewhere and it has been happening for years. I felt comfortable talking about it now because it’s about time to talk about things that happen behind closed doors, which affect the young and adults.

How does the song fit in with the upcoming album? Are all the tacks as emotionally resonant?

The album is not specifically a concept album, but it will talk about social issues, as well as my journey in life and as an artist. You can find emotional tracks, and hard-hitting ones! You just need to be ready for it.

As a UAE raised artist, do you think the music scene in the Middle East tackles enough serious issues in music?

We’ve seen it before with some artists, but I believe most UAE artists are not yet ready to talk about serious issues. I think people like to play it safe and from their comfort zone. But things will change and more artists will start tackling these subjects more and more.

What advice do you have for people looking to get into the music industry today?

“Don’t get into music” is a phrase I heard most of my life, and I would never say it to anyone that believes they can do music, sing or rap. To be successful in almost everything in life, you have to grind and work hard almost every day; but also, this has to come organically or else if they force it, they will flunk and lose motivation. You got to love what you do so you will create waves.

How do you think your sound and musical tastes have evolved since you began in the industry? Who are your inspirations?

My inspirations are my family and every person I met in my life. In every song there are a couple of lines literally from people I met randomly and impacted me, and these people are not influencers nor public figures. My sound evolved with the knowledge I have gained. The more I do music, the more I learn and also collaborating with other artists in the region and internationally.

How do you describe Drill to those who haven’t heard it?

It’s therapy and definitely a dose of adrenaline rush music.

What are your plans for the rest of the year? What are you most looking forward to?

Working on a project and an album at the moment and planning my next tour! You’ll be seeing some epic music videos this whole year. You got to stay tuned.

More news from In The City