@skopemag Feature Q&A – Iconic Bond

1. First off, tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Iconic Bond the person and the artist?

I’d like to think of myself as nothing more than a traveler just journeying through this world. I am an artist that finds his inspirations from so many different aspects of my life and even observing others lives. I have always been somewhat of an outsider to every group of people. Growing up Muslim in the states and moving around a lot is what made that a reality. Never really fit in anywhere, whether it be the Muslim community, the hip-hop community, etc. But it also made for countless learning opportunities for me. Being that I had this type of life, I was able to connect with people from all walks and gave me an amazing perspective on the world we live in and even the music industry. So to answer the question, who am I? I am my music. There’s nothing that I wrote or rapped that wasn’t true. Everything comes from some part of me and I hope to one day tell the world who I am fully through my music. I just have to figure out the rest of who I am…

2. What’s the journey been like from when you started as an artist to now?

When I first started out, I wasn’t recording anything. I was just writing. I did this for about 10-15 years before finally deciding to record and release something! The very first song I ever released/performed was called “Reside” off of my 1st mixtape The Breakthrough. It was such a scary and amazing feeling to be honest. It took me weeks to finally decide to release it to the public because to me, my writings have always been private so to let someone hear my thoughts was somewhat scary. In all honesty though, what made me feel comfortable enough to continue doing it, and starting this journey into the music industry, was the other artists I met through the process. The music community, for the most part, is very supportive and motivating. I had people asking me what’s next, when’s the next song, when’s the next project, etc. almost every time I performed or dropped a new project. It gave me the feeling that I can really continue doing what I love and not be so worried about what people might think or if people will like it. Now, I’m focusing more on making better music, being more creative and experimenting with different sounds and vibes. Also, my focus has shifted a bit in that I am starting to see Iconic Bond as more of a brand too. Over the years I have come to realize that music is what I really want to do full time as my career so naturally I am starting to see it as a business now. I still have a “trick” of sorts to remind me why I did this and to make sure that I remain as organically me as I can through the process. It’s hard to say to yourself “hey, keep on doing it your way, stay as you are” when you see what type of music makes people successful in hip-hop.

3. The music industry has been described as one of the toughest industries in the world, but it’s also one of the most fulfilling when you’re able to share your music and your message with an audience. What are some of the things that drive you and keep you motivated in the pursuit of music?

There’s a few motivations for why I started this in the first place and what keeps me going at it. What pushed me to start initially, at the time, I was involved with some local youth work. I decided it was time for me to give back the things I learned on my life’s journey to the ones coming next to help them see the reality of the world, how to navigate it, and what not to do. Something clicked in me during that time working with them that made me feel like I had to either provide them with music that was more thoughtful than what they were listening to or at least show them that anyone can create music if they really wanted to. I’d like to think I succeeded on both fronts given that now some of them have started making their own music (one of them being Big O from Desperados!) and, due to certain songs I made, it sparked discussions about certain topics. That was the spark for my music to really get kicked off. Throughout the process though, I came to realize that there wasn’t really a Muslim Arab presence in the hip-hop scene. People will say well how about DJ Khaled or French Montana. Yes, they both are, as far as I know, Muslim arabs, but to a Muslim arab, they are more representative of the hip-hop culture than the Muslim arab culture if that makes sense. I want to be a representative to the ones just like me who come from immigrant parents, who grew up around majority Muslims and went to Muslim schools, who have the same struggles with being Muslim and Arab in the states, or to the ones who feel like outsiders everywhere they go. Representation is a very powerful tool and I want to be that for my people. Lastly, I will be leaving a legacy behind, whether I like it or not. My music is purely my thoughts and feelings, and when all’s said and done, my music will be a testament to who I am, or who I was, and people can remember me using my music as well as everything else I do in life. Whether I become famous or not doesn’t matter. If even just the people closest to me listen to my music, I will have succeeded as an artist. Because ultimately, music is just a tool we use to express ourselves. But to express yourself requires someone to receive that expression, right? So if one person receives these expressions that I am giving off through my music, then I will continue to make it.

4. As a rapper, what is the process / dynamic like as far as all the elements of the songwriting, production, and managing the affairs of your budding music career? Do you find yourself wearing many hats?

When I started off, it was actually me and one of my best friends Badlogic (producer of my first studio album “Day Won”) and we just decided to do it together, him being the producer and me as the rapper. So in terms of producing, I don’t really produce any beats. I have tried doing it and realized it just isn’t something I have an ear for yet. Could be because I never learned music or how to play any kind of instrument. And since I started, I’ve just been building with other producers and somewhat collecting beats haha. I have hundreds of beats I have yet to even hear because I work with a lot of different producers. The writing is always all me and will always be all me. That’s something I just cant let go of. Because music to me is very personal, it has to come from my pen. So I spend most nights writing. I never go too long without at least sitting listening to beats and writings feelings or vibes I get from them. Outside of the music itself, the business side (social media management, distribution, promotional stuff, etc) yes I am doing that myself as well. I have a little help here and there for like creating content to post and stuff, but, as much as I would love to write more, I have to do this part of it. At least until I start creating enough passive income from it to offset paying someone else to do it. Now, I will say, I do have a creative team that does the pictures, videos, write-ups, content-creating, all things creative. Primarily, I work with Mizghund Productions (did the video for Desperados, and almost all my other videos too) and they take care of the majority of my creative sorts of things. Even doing a little producing for me too (shhhh don’t tell anyone though…).

5. Let’s hear about your new single, “Desperados”. What’s the backstory behind the song, and what’s some of the message(s) you wanted the audience to draw from it?

So Desperados was inspired by a collection of moments throughout my life, specifically throughout my musical journey, where people have attempted to direct my path. As I grew older, I reflected more and realized that throughout my life I have been bombarded with people, either directly or indirectly, telling me whatever I was doing was wrong in a way and should be done differently; should be done their way. That thought was triggered when I heard the beat. My mind immediately thought “desperado, rebel, against the grain”. Once that thought was triggered, it was all I could think about; all the times people said my music sucked or that maybe I should do more Trap music because it sells better, or maybe I need to change my clothes because its not cool, or that I need to not say certain things, or simply just conform, all these thoughts came in. And at the same time, it reminded me of Big O. He was part of my youth work for about 10 years so I saw how he went through similar things and immediately reached out to him to collab with me on it. The main message this song is saying is, we will not sell who we are for anything in return, we will remain us, even if that means being seen as a rebel or a bandit or a desperado, because we will continue to push harder than anyone else in everything that we do and we will find success in a way that suits our happiness. See the important thing in life isn’t being accepted by everyone or liked by everyone or even pleasing everyone, its happiness in the choices you make and the steps you take. There are these things called social constructs that guide a lot of the choices that people make in general. Some of them are great and should be there (stealing is bad, killing is bad, etc), but there are some that aren’t based off of anything or harming anyone, they are just opinions. And being an Egyptian (arab), there are a lot that come from our culture. And in hip-hop there are some too. I felt the push from the external throughout my entire life in almost everything that I pursued. So, I wrote this song to express that and how I felt about it and what I’m doing about it. And I hope anyone that feels the same way or had similar experiences can draw some inspiration from it knowing that it’s okay to make yourself happy and make the choices that make you happy. In today’s internet world, happiness equals success which equals the most followers, the most likes, etc. What that does to you as a person is make you feel like people have to like what you do in order for you to be happy. That’s neither healthy or real.

6. You featured Big O on the chorus of the song, which was a tasteful move on the chorus. How’d you cross paths with Big O and what’s it like working together with him?

So Big O was a part of the youth work I was leading for around 10 years. I’ve known him for even longer. And throughout the years I’ve seen him get better at writing, better at singing. Not only that, he specifically popped in my head when the concept came to mind because I knew he had dealt with the same things that inspired me to write this song. It was honestly just a blessing that it all just came together like it did. Big O is awesome to work with. He has such a cool attitude and he’s very creative. So being in the studio just listening and vibing and talking about the track was a great time. We will definitely be teaming up again on other projects.

7. You recently released a killer music video for “Desperados” as well, which really carried the essence for the song. What were some of your thoughts and ideas going into the concept of that video and how did it go during the making of it?

So Mizghund Productions has been working with me for a while making videos and we always had this one concept that we wanted to do where we had people dressed up in suits, riding nice cars, typical like Godfather/Mafia type stuff. Every one of us just really loves those types of movies and shows haha. So, when me and Big O finished writing and recording it, I sat with Mizghund and the both of us had the same image: mafia video! So, we played off of certain parts in the lyrics like “Hip-Hops Pharoah”, “rolling through the city with my dogs like some desperados”, and also the concept of someone trying to take something of ours and making it their own. We ended up putting the whole concept together pretty quickly because we had the same idea in mind which was great. The making was a bit hectic as anything is when you add more people to it, but honestly, there were no regrets. We made the best possible video we could’ve with the resources we had.

8. Any last words / anything you’d like to share with the readers?

I really want to thank everyone that has been a part of my journey and specifically Desperados. It took a lot of people to make it possible and I appreciate everyone that gave their time and energy to it. And thank you to everyone that has supported me through it all too. The support is what keeps it growing and keeps it honest. So be on the lookout for more new music! I’m in the giving spirit these days so I will likely be releasing consistently for a while!