Sons of Yusuf are Here for the Next Generation

The kings of Arab hip hop got your back

Sons of Yusuf are Here for the Next Generation

It was sometime around the end of 2014 when Sons of Yusuf really blew up. Around the time the Kuwaiti hip hop duo (siblings Ya’koob and Abdul’Rahman Al Refaie) released the track Hala. But while global acclaim helped them open doors for arab hip hop (the singer and actor Tyrese Gibson labelled their sound Arab Hop) they’re currently taking stock. Away from the limelight, away from the music, plotting just where they take us next.

Sons of Yusuf

What are you up to at the moment?

We actually both decided to continue studying business and work on other things outside of music. But no matter what we do, music will always be a big part of our lives. We’re looking for new talent and to produce albums for up and coming artists. We’ll never stop making music. 

What are you listening to at the moment?

Sa-Ra Creative Partners, Mf Doom, Fela Kuti, Blackstar.

Much of your motivation came from misrepresentation of the Arab world. What sort of impact do you think you’ve made in changing that?

We think we made a big impact. We started seeing more artists do the same thing and embrace our culture. The term “Arabhop” is big now, and more artists started rapping and singing on Arabic drums and instruments as opposed to trap beats. I think our song “One Time” really sparked something in the Middle East – and beyond. We had amazing feedback from the people and major artists, people like Jay Electronica, Jay Z, K’naan, Kevin Durant and many more. 

What impact do you think had on Arab hip hop?

I think we were the first Arab hip hop group that toured around the world. We were getting booked everywhere – which wasn’t happening back then for Arab hip hop artists. We helped make the genre acceptable in the Arab region, too – for all ages. as well from all ages. We found commercial success through adverts and wound up on TV, too. We definitely openes the door for other hip hop groups.

Sons of Yusuf

You released a lot without a label. Why was that?

We’ve been in the music business for a long time, so we saw the changes within the industry. Before YouTube and social media and after. We actually were signed to a label at one point – when we were 15 or 16. After that we were producing for other artists. Then we started making mixtapes, and finally we started our own record label with our partner Mike Chav, releasing all our music through our label. We learned a lot from our experiences, and took it all very seriously from day one. 

How difficult was it to make a name for yourself in the beginning?

We were just doing what we loved and believed in. We went through a lot. We used to travel just to meet with producers and get in the studio and met a lot of artists that way. We started recording with cassette tapes then slowly started making our own music. Also we’ve been in and out of studios from a young age because of our father Yusuf. He really inspired us to make a change and follow our dreams. 

How is it working with family?

The best part is that we can trust each other of course. And we gotta be on our best behaviour all the time because we look up to each other. So we push each other to be better and stay on the right path. Money or fame never really moved us. It was always about making a change, inspiring the next generation and bringing out new ideas. 

Sons of Yusuf

You’re inspired by faith and people, but how do you translate that into your creative output?

Everything we do is from the heart. We don’t pretend to be something we’re not. We just do what we love and we keep God first always. That’s all 

What’s your favourite rap lyric of all-time and what did it teach you?

Maybe Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks”. Just the way it made us feel when it came out. It was like nothing we’d heard before. It made us feel like we were on the right path and that we should keep on going. Also,  Jay Electronica’s “Exhibit C” has some of the best verses of all time. He says things that you wish you wrote. Too dope. Too real. 

So you’re taking little time, but when can we see you next?

We have plenty of unreleased tracks – and they’re all fire. We can’t wait to share them with the world. But right now we’re taking some time off the matrix. No music, no social media. We just wanna spend time with family and study. We feel like we’ve been doing this for as long as we remember. A break is much needed. Well be back though.