Proving that great Hip hop doesn’t just come from the West. Read on to find out more…
Founded in mid 2012, Leaf of Trust (L.O.T) are a Hip hop group based in Doha, Qatar. The group consists of 4 members; Mars, Too Dope, Trak and Yeezykay.
Their recently released music video, Doha Cypher, caught the attention of many, showcasing great promise for the future.
Funky Qatar Blog is pleased to bring you our interview with Leaf of Trust…
1. Leaf of Trust (L.O.T) tell us about you as a group and in your own words what you think each of you brings to the table?
“I’m Yousif Khalil 21, from Egypt/Dubai, UAE (currently) before Doha, Qatar.
“The group is very diverse, we each own different styles which is good. We inspire each other and naturally compete, this makes us improved musicians, we put out better music every day. I have been rapping for long time but with this group I seem to get better at my craft”.
“Tayeb ‘TooDope’ Hajo. From Sudan. 23 yrs old”.
“I like to think I’ve managed to create a different unique flow/style from any other rapper you might have heard, I add flavor to my music in the way that I deliver it.
Though we vary in styles, the sound we make is very harmonious but at the same time we each have our own distinct sound.
YeezyKay is one of the fastest rappers I’ve heard, he mastered the flow and he’s in control of it.
Trak is a genius when it comes to picking beats to match the lyrics in a way to make you the listener feel exactly the vibe he wants you to feel.
Mars brings strong lyricism to the table with an endless supply of puns and metaphors”.
“My name Ammar Abouelghar, aka, Mars. Originally Egyptian but born and raised in Doha, Qatar. I’m 21 years old”.
“Each of us was rapping solo initially. L.O.T started as an underground hip-hop label, the group came about as an initiative to unite Doha’s hip-hop scene under one umbrella, giving a more focused and collective exposure”.
“Omar, 24, Egypt, Raised in Doha!
TooDope is the creative melting pot really when it comes to music, art, vision and his distinct style is always fun to work with. Yeezy is the wildest out of the wild-bunch lol direct and uncut”.
“I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan just for the fact that I haven’t heard a lot of their music, but I definitely heard enough, their song ‘Fuel’ was so big in the 90’s (1997 I believe) that it was hard NOT to listen to their music when it was playing everywhere.
Most people think rappers can only be influenced by other rappers but this isn’t true, I only actually started listening to rap recently. Before that I’d say one of my biggest inspirations was Michael Jackson, his style of song writing and performance.
5 artists that have influenced me within Hip hop in a major way are Rakim, Eminem, Big Pun, Tupac & Wu Tang Clan.
I aspire to be up to bar with the likes of J.cole, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, T.I. and Drake”.
“Not that this list doesn’t change on a weekly basis, but what’s bumping on the system recently is a lot of J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Notorious B.I.G, Big Pun, Weeknd, Ab Soul ,Schoolboy Q, EPMD, Jay Z, and a ton of Deep House”.
“The whole American hip hop scene is my main inspiration, we try to step up our skills to one day maybe compete with them. Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Jay-Z and Drake are people I want to one day be better than, they inspire me but I also see them as competition”.
“My earliest inspiration would have to be Eminem. He’s the first one I heard rap. I admired how personal and expressive his music was. I thought he was African American at first and I think finding out he was white made me feel like, ‘Oh, that means I can do it too!’
Following that I had many different phases, from Pac and Biggie, to hardcore underground like Immortal technique. I had mainstream phases, some even called me the Egyptian Drake.
Recently however, my biggest influences have been TDE (Top Dawgg Entertainment). Others incl. Kendrick, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q and my current favorite; Isaiah Rashad changed my perspective and approach. J. Cole is also a huge influence.
One thing I would like to point out is that we are fans of the music before we are artists, we are students of this genre. Every influence has left a mark and this has developed me into the artist that I am today.
This variety of influence has made us harsh critics. Being so involved in the cooking made us evaluate and see the music differently. In our own work we are hardly satisfied and always striving towards unachievable perfection”.
3. Doha Cypher left many of us wanting more! When can we expect to hear new tracks or better yet a full length album?
YeezyKay takes centre during the Doha Cypher shoot
“Very soon! we have been quite inactive since we dropped Beleaf two years ago. This year will be a lot busier. We have an actual music video coming up as well as individual albums being worked on. Now that you’ve got a little taste of each artist, it’s only fair that you get the full experience. The first album to drop will be Mars’s – Theeb EP”.
“2015 is going to be a big year for L.O.T, Trak’s Mixtape will follow after Theeb EP and then the Murder to Excellence mixtape – a joint effort between myself and YeezyKay. There will also be more music videos, singles and collaborations”.
“So there’s pretty much 3 albums/mixtapes def coming out this year and a few music videos to bring everything to life. I think at some point there will definitely be an L.O.T album in the works but right now, its all bout getting our solo and collaborative works out”.
4. What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Is there anything you need from Qatar and beyond that you think would help you to meet your goals?
“In the short term, we would like to see the scene here flourish. We have put in time, effort and money and we would like to see some of this back. We do this because we love it but when you see your work, whatever it is, being appreciated, it’s always a bonus and definitely a great feeling.
Long term, I can summarize in one sentence from Kendrick Lamar what I want, ‘I want the world to sing about me when it’s said and done’. To be an icon that made an impact in society and in the Hip-Hop world and to be the first fully Arab born and raised artist to do that”.
“My dream is to go on a world tour and sell out arenas across the globe, and the one thing we need from Qatar is their support and for everyone to believe in us and to give us a chance to show the world that this region has talents good enough to compete with world-class acts and out shine them even”.
“Being in Qatar makes it hard for us to get attention as there isn’t much support for Hip Hop in the Middle east, its a very small scene but that’s also a good thing because we can shine and steal the spot light and be the first rappers from here to make it big. I personally would like to sell a million records and go multi platinum but it will take time and hard work. I have to make it and I’m doing this like there are no other options for me. Persistence is key. I am an artist and that will never change”.
“For me its about progress, I want to do this full time, inspire others, perform to the masses and just do what I love every single day till I’m gone. As far as the city’s concerned, support, raising awareness, word of mouth, and building up a scene are all important, unfortunately Doha’s musical infrastructure is pretty much non-existent especially for certain types/genres of music”.
5. How do the Eastern and Western hip hop scenes compare?
“Obviously the western scene is a lot bigger and older with a strong culture and background that facilitates the rise of up and coming artists. That support allows for more creativity, but for artists, this could be a down-side because the competition is insane.
The eastern scene on the other hand is younger. Each country seems to have its own local scene that’s trying to break through, it will take time. There’s a lot of people that love Hip-hop and listen to it on daily basis, but are not ready for the idea of a Hip-hop artist from their home country who lives like they do and eats what they eat. The majority don’t take it seriously and have a very passive attitude towards it.
There’s good in the midst of that. Hip-hop is a niche market here so there’s more opportunity to step in and stand out, we’ve helped others and we are probably the best in the Gulf, if not all of the Middle east (not being egotistical). These are big statements but the fact that the we are the first ones to do this here allows us to own such bold claims”.
“I think the eastern scene offers a new flavor that the west has yet to hear. In the west, Hip hop has its own rules but over here everything is fair game. The way we explore and experiment with music is different. The places we grew up in aren’t the same and that in itself adds a new twist to just regular old hip hop music”.
“The eastern scene offers another story, the themes and reflections of our culture will be evident in our music. It has another taste and it gives people a different lens to see Hip hop through. There are many similarities between both scenes but that’s the beauty of it, we mix it and hopefully people will notice our skills and appreciate the art that we create”.
6. L.O.T Tell us a secret or two!?
“I get criticized for my name YeezyKay as people think I copied Kanye but my friends have been calling me Yeezy for the longest time, my name is Yousif Khalil so YeezyKay came from there, for marketing purposes I might need to change it”.
“We were calling him Yeezy way before Kanye West used it (you can imagine how he felt when he first heard Yay say it)”.
Also, The idea for the groups name was inspired by a leaf-shaped chain that Yeezy had.
“We’re not only rappers. Some of us can sing, some of us can dance…you’re going to have to wait and see to find out who”…