We were lucky enough to interview one of the most prominent figures in the Lebanese hip hop scene — DJ Lethal Skills!  Hear his story — from falling in love with music at a young age in shelters during wartime, to recently releasing his sophomore album in which he collaborated with over 29 artists from all over the world, his tale is inspiring to hear.

When/how did you start DJing and producing? How did you learn?

Salam! My musical journey goes back to when I was a little kid sitting in shelters with my mom and dad in Beirut during the first Israel invasion to Lebanon around 1982. My parents used to play music for us and sometimes play live instruments like Oud to distract us from the sound of war upstairs. That being said, it kind of impacted me throughout my whole life — music became my escape. I started b-boying (breakdancing) at the age of 8 messing around and dancing with some kids on the streets. That was the time around the boom of movies such as “Breakin’” and “Turbo and his Broom Dance”. One day, I saw Herbie Hancock’s “Rock it”  TV and saw  Grandmaster DST starts moving the record on the turntable back and forth and thought that the sound was FRESH! So that was the spark for me to wanting to become a DJ.
From the age of 11, I started as a school DJ using tapes. I then began playing at house parties, and eventually the radio. I was one of the youngest radio DJ’s in the city at the age of 13. Though I was not allowed to work in a club due to my age, I used to slip from back doors to clubs at the age of 15 to DJ.  I got into turntables and learned the art form of using the turntables to manipulate the music, and found that it was also a way to express myself

My experience with production stems from my turntabalism days as well. Turntabalism taught me how to reproduce sounds live using the records by juggling and scratching and such. In 1995, I got back to Lebanon after a trip to Africa and hooked up with some local talents and we started imitating western hiphop music until we started representing our own sound, issues and culture in our music. We were growing up in parallel and learning more and more about the power of hiphop music and what it can do, beyond the kick and snare and heavy bass lines.

You’ve had the opportunity to work with artists from all over the Middle East. Which countries did you find to be the urban music scene particularly striking?

From my personal experience and involvement in the hiphop scene since 1994 in this region (excluding North African countries), Lebanon was one of the first initial Arab countries who was actively involved in the MC’ing art form from early 90′s given the migrations of Lebanese people due to the long civil war that it went through and lots of the youth coming back when situation cooled down, introducing hiphop to Lebanon. Also in Lebanon, we speak 3 different languages: Arabic, French and English — so that give the artists here a plus to express and tackle a wider audience. Also rap in Fous-ha, which is the standardized Arabic dialect, (we call it Fous-Hop) started in Lebanon around 1997. As for DJ & Turntablism, Lebanon & Egypt had official representation of the DMC & ITF battles around Mid 90′s. Graffiti in Arabic in Lebanon is heavy and very advanced; they also developed all out Arabic wild styles graffiti (real dope!). As for b-boys the gulf region is leading especially Oman & U.A.E, and I can definitely say that they are fit to compete internationally.

Who are your influences, production wise?

J Dilla, DJ Premiere, DJ Kno of Cunninlynguists, Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind, Scott Storch, Just Blaze, Q Tip, Pete Rock, RZA, Dre, Alchemist, and Prince Paul.

You’ve had the opportunity to meet many international artists and producers. Which ones did you enjoy your time with most?

Each was a blessing and a great memory — but off the top of my head, Dead Prez, The Last Poets, Posdnuos (Of De La Soul), Bootie Brown (Of The Pharcyde), DJ Q-bert, DJ Akakabe & Co-ma, DJ Cut Killer, and Timberland.

Your bio also mentions that you are a music tutor. What do you teach?

I teach turntablism & DJ Courses. I try to keep the turntable & vinyl culture alive as it’s my passion and definitely would love to see upcoming generations still at it and taking it to the next level.

What projects should we be looking forward to?

I just released my sophomore album recently titled “Karmageddon“. It features 29 artists from around the world — you can check it out and order it by mail or digitally through http://www.forwardmusic.net/music/karmageddon and  it’s also on iTunes and most online music retailers out there.
Peace to Multiverse!

You can purchase “Karmageddon” from the following link:

http://www.forwardmusic.net/music/karmageddon

Follow DJ Lethal Skillz on twitter @djlethalskillz

Don’t forget to hit us up @MideastDynasty & let us know what you think!