Born to Iraqi parents in Detroit, the 22 year-old (real name Julian Michel) arrived in Dubai 13 years ago. He explains that his regular shuttling between the US and the UAE plays a major role in his approach to music.
“That upbringing was the best thing for me,” he says. “In Dubai, there are so many people from all over the world. I learnt their cultures and traditions, ate their food and listened to their stories. In Michigan, it was a whole different culture. The lingo and way of life are their own. Both experiences define who I am as an artist.”
There is also Julian’s artistic lineage. His paternal grandfather performed with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra for two decades, while his father is a professional pianist. However, the creative world’s hard road to success initially made Julian’s parents wary of their son’s passion.
“Like everyone, Arab parents also doubt,” he laughs. “It’s just that they didn’t view what I did as a career choice, you know what I’m saying? But I started young. Started writing my own lyrics when I was 8 and producing when I was 14 years old. I wasn’t really good at school because I kept focusing on my music. Once they saw how into it I was, and knowing that I was working hard and dedicated to it 100 per cent, my parents became more comfortable,” he says.
Julian’s career is equal parts hip-hop fanboy and musicianship. It was his teenage obsession with artists such as Eminem, Notorious BIG and Puff Daddy that pushed him to write his own rhymes. The technical skills came after he learnt the guitar and piano under his father’s tutelage.