Arab Deejay of Lebanese Origin, DJ Lethal Skillz, one of the few DJ’s that can set a club on fire just by placing him behind the decks, is also a well known producer and a music tutor. His ambitions do not stop at playing in a club or event, but have exceeded to producing albums and videos all over the world.  He is known as one of the O.G.’s of Middle East deejaying and producing.  Check out what this Middle East hip-hop forefather has to say.

Would you agree that a common issue in Middle East Hip-Hop, that comes up among the artists and the public, is whether artists are representing “real” Hip-Hop?

Well, that depends on how much the public, and individual artists in the Middle East, know about the History of the Global Hip-Hop movement before it came to Middle East. How it started, what phases it went through, how Hip-Hop evolved from 70′s til today.. The changes it made, how it moved globally, and each different culture around the world who embraced it and made it their own. In the Middle East, for some, it’s talking about Palestine, Iraq, Middle Eastern political/social issues, and for some it’s fusing oriental sounds and sampling from old Arabic songs to bring it back to life. For others, it’s any Arab artist doing any kind of Hip-Hop, be it underground, mainstream, commercial, conscious, gangsta, etc.. You have generations that know of Zulu Nation, Run DMC and Beastie Boys, and you have kids who grow up on 50 and thinking this is HipHop.. So it all depends, really..

What do you feel is “real” Hip-Hop, and do you see anything wrong with artists making more commercial songs, as opposed to what others in the region consider to be “real” Rap?

Real Hip-Hop has always been a lyrical, poetic form, attached to conscious, social, and political issues. Mostly music for enlightenment and change to the better. But again, Hip-Hop music evolved so much since it started. Now there’s sub genres and so many different styles within. For example, in Arabic Hip-Hop now, we have music varying from Hardcore/Jihad Rap, to Social/Political, to Funky/Jazzy, to Abstract, etc.. I can go on and on. We also have Tarab Hip-Hop coming out now. Just to clear this point up, if you are an artist who’s not planning to make a living out of your music and getting your music on radios and tv internationally, expand your supporters and listeners beyond just internet. Have in mind to tour the world and collaborate with international acts, then you’re good.

Do you have any plans to cross over into the U.S. Market as a producer?

Definitely, the U.S. is like the Mecca of Hip-Hop. This is where the whole movement started. It’s always been in my plan to visit the U.S., spin in some clubs, and collaborate and learn from the culture there. Also to give back and expose what we have been doing in the Middle East, as an Arabic Hip-Hop movement, since the mid 90′s.

Have you produced tracks for any artists outside of the region?

I’ve been blessed, throughout my musical career, to meet and work with lots of artists from around the world. Varying from the Far East and Europe, to the U.S. From “Rewind DJ” w/ Eslam Jawad and De La Soul, to Deff ill in Linz, to Cashino in the UK, Vandal in Kula Lumpur.. None of my works has been on a mainstream level yet. I work with, and support, underground artists mostly, since I started producin. But now I’m working on expanding my listeners across the globe, and not only the underground heads. So expect big collaborations and releases, from the underground to mainstream, that will be on your local charts, inshallah, for 2011 onwards.

Who are some major artists you would like to produce for?

There’s loads, but out of my head now.. hmmm.. Vinnie, Immortal, Nas, and Jay-Z.

What was the first gig you DJ’d, and who inspired you to become a DJ?

When I was a kid I used to be a b-boy during the mid 80′s.. Days of “breakin”, the movie Turbo Broom dance and such, until I first saw Grand Master DXT in the “Rock it” video (Herbie Hancock) scratchin the “FFF, FFF Freshhhh”. This was my spark to move my interest from a b-boy to become a DJ. I got my first 2 tape deck player around 1989, and my first gig ever was in a shelter house during the civil war in Lebanon. I used to play music for the kids to get their ears and mind out of the mess happening on top of our heads.

As one of the pioneers for DJing in the Middle East, and one of the first Hip-Hop DJs, how did you actually learn to DJ and scratch? Being that you were one of the first DJs in the region, did you have anyone to guide you or did you have to learn everything on your own?

I self-taught myself. I listen, watch and try to imitate what I see and hear for years. Unfortunately, during the days I started to wanna be a DJ, there was no internet technology out yet and I was living in a war zone. Access and exposure to things was extremely difficult, but I was lucky enough to have friends who came in and out from abroad during the war. It’s through them that I used to get late 80′s DMC DJ Battle tapes on VHS, and access to Mixtape kings series. We used to hustle duplicates in Beirut by reselling them in high school so that I could start building my DJ set, and to get my first personal turntables, mixer, speakers, and amp. Of course, thanks and respect to Doctor Dre and Ed Lover for the “Yo” MTV Rap days.

Who are some Hip-Hop acts out of the region that you think people should look out for?

We’re blessed to have loads (of Hip-Hop acts) in Arabia. They’re multiplying by the day. Out of my head now, you have The Narcicyst, Offendum, Eslam Jawad, Cilvaringz, Salah Eldin, Ramallah Underground, Dam, Arabian Knightz, Weghet Nazar, 961 Underground, Shadia Mansour.. And some of the new great rappers making lots of noise in Lebanon, like Ramcess L’hamorabi and Fareeq el Atrash.. Much love to everyone I didn’t mention.

Which artists do you think have the best chance at crossing over into the mainstream? If you feel like there is no one at that stage just yet, what do you think they need to do in order to get to that level?

For me personally, as far as Arabic Hip-Hop is concerned, I see the Paranoids (The Narcicyst, Offendum, Ragtop), Eslam Jawad, Cilvaringz, Salah eldin, Fareeq el Atrash, MC Moe, Malikah, Zoog, and Arabian Knightz are all doing their thing and it’s going global. It’s still real Hip-Hop, but accepted and supported by many.. Music that promotes Justice, Unity and Peace worldwide in a positive approach. As for others that are aiming to go “multiversal”, they need to expand their subjects and talk about Global things, not only local and regional. They need to be bilingually versatile, if they can, so they can reach out to the masses and try to stand out from other rappers. The also need to step their game up and make sure not to get too caught up with the haters.. Just keep doing your thing.

What are some good things you see going on with the Hip-Hop scene in Lebanon?

Scene is a bit slower than before, in a way. I mean, peeps are doing less than before, but it’s more effective because it’s more in the right approach and places. The scene is maturing and most artists are investing their time in projects that make noise and go beyond just Lebanon and Middle East. Again, due to the major amount of talents we have in Lebanon, from MCs to producers, it made the benchmark so high for Lebanon and the region. It’s going up by the day. We’ve been blessed to have so many International Hip-Hop acts, from various corners of the world, underground and mainstream, to come and perform in Lebanon and do workshops.

What are some bad things you see going on with the Hip-Hop scene in Lebanon?

Lots of people in Lebanon, and rest of the world, are not blessed with defining an objective and knowing their passion and gift in this life. All they do is sit and hate on people they wish they could be. Peeps are too sensitive and get caught up with gossip and s**t. They need to invest more time in the studio and chasing their own dreams. Better than chasing who said what and what not.

What’s the best gig that you’ve been part of, one that you never forget?

Hamdellah I’ve been blessed in many moments in my life so far, and in meeting and opening up for lots of my Super Hip-Hop Heroes. My special one was back in London in 2005, opening up @ “One Nation Under A Groove” event for Pharaoh Monch, Dead Prez & The Last Poets. That was back in the very post 9/11 and 7/7 event (in London). Bringing together Arab, African, Caribbean, British and American artists and meeting my fam “Ramallah Underground” after 4 years of working with them over the internet, and not being able to meet them or have them meet me, as I reside in Lebanon and they Live in Occupied Palestine.

What’s DJ Lethal Skillz wish/dream?

My wish for Arabic Hip-Hop is to cross borders internationally, to be recognized, and for Arabic Hip-Hop take its place on the map, like other cultures who embraced Hip-Hop culture, and put it on the International map like France, Europe and the Far East.

Wish Peace upon the Middle East, Stolen lands given back to its people, Arabs uniting politically, economically, religiously, and Peace upon the Multiverse.. Salam!

DJ Lethal Skillz a.k.a PhonoSapien Monk of da 3′rd W0rld