The BLTNM Standard

"Our approach to collaboration is more organic and family-oriented. Everyone in BLTNM is cognizant of each other’s background and lived experiences."

The BLTNM Standard
Menna Shanab

In a world where cultural expression is often co-opted and sanitized for mass consumption, the Palestinian independent label, BLTNM (Instagram) boldly challenges the status quo. With a fiercely uncompromising ethos, they have redefined the contours of Arab rap music and inspired a new generation of artists to follow in their footsteps. Emerging from a space of necessity, BLTNM dismantled and reconstructed hip-hop to fit their unique cultural context, laying the foundations for a new wave of music characterized by a distinct soundscape that defies genres and borders. 

Hailing from Ramallah, BLTNM’s mission has been clear from the start: to emerge as the foremost platform for Arab artists to produce and release their music, without conceding to the stifling creative compromises frequently demanded by major labels. “Being independent was the only option, as when we started there weren’t record labels laying around that we could choose from,” explains veteran producer Al Nather. “So if we wanted to release music, we had to do it ourselves.”

They’re determined to chart their own course, impervious to external constraints or the dictates of society, prioritizing authenticity and experimentation over commercial appeal. “Artists don’t need big labels to make it, and if we actually look at a lot of the artists signed with those labels, they flunk after a year or so, become obsolete, or produce very generic sounds,” says Tima AlWahida Head of Artists and Repertoire. “As those labels don’t know how to maintain and manage those artists and don’t quite understand what our generation wants to listen to. The sounds coming out of those labels are so different from the sounds we make. Also, frankly, they’re all so condescending. We love the freedom of doing whatever we want, in whatever ways we want it.”

Since its inception in 2019, BLTNM has become a veritable tour de force in the global music scene, etching Ramallah into the annals of international musical hubs. Their music is raw, unfiltered, and firmly rooted in the lived experiences of their generation, “Our music goes beyond the simple narrative of despite these conditions, these artists thrived and thus represent Palestine”. The reality is that the Palestinian music scene is a mosaic of different artists, styles, and scenes – we are merely a part of it,” shares BLTNM CEO Ahmad Bamieh.

Rather than following the prevailing narrative of cultural resistance, BLTNM’s music transcends the clichéd role imposed on Palestinian artists by foreign media. Their Palestinian identity is not a token to be consumed and analyzed by outsiders, but a cherished aspect of their collective spirit. BLTNM’s music is equal parts fun, liberating, introspective, and thought-provoking, reflecting their commitment to authenticity and experimentation over commercial appeal.

In fact, BLTNM believes that the essence of Arab rap music – its truth and beauty – often eludes the foreign ear. Driven by an unwavering dedication to excellence, BLTNM shares a unified set of goals – the production of high-quality music, the cultivation of a thriving cultural ecosystem, the creation of an industry, and a mission to inspire the next generation of artists, while bringing music to every corner of their region. They stand out as a refreshing and subversive force in an era marked by an oversaturation of political messaging.


At the helm of this now six-member collective is Shabjdeed, a rapper whose Kufr Aqab upbringing informs his intricate and astute wordplay on Palestinian life, complemented by a sound of autotuned, emotional rawness. Shabjdeed’s restless energy is palpable in his lyricism, an ever-flowing stream of words that fills every corner of his tracks, punctuated by infectious choruses that are impossible to forget. His unfiltered, unapologetic style and daring personal delivery immediately captured the attention of the underground Palestinian hip-hop scene, propelling him into the spotlight and drawing the gaze of industry veteran, Al Nather. 

The group’s musical backbone, Al Nather is a heavyweight producer and rapper whose expertise spans an almost irreverent range of genres. His dynamic beats have provided a rich canvas for the group’s subversive yet humorous lyricism, cementing BLTNM’s reputation as one of the most formidable collectives in the industry. Together, Shabjdeed and Al Nather forged a new sound, a unique blend of dark hip-hop and trap that marries Shabjdeed’s nihilistic lyrics with Al Nather’s richly textured and rhythmic instrumentals. Their collaboration resulted in a veritable storm of hits and culminated in the release of their critically acclaimed debut album, Sindibad, in 2019. It is this manic, eclectic approach to music-making that underpins BLTNM’s constantly evolving sound, with lyrics firmly rooted in the local dialect.

Yet, perhaps much of BLTNM’s success in staying at the forefront of the music scene is its openness to the integration of younger, fresher voices. According to Daboor, one of the collective’s new signees. “I started writing rap in 2020, the first time I wrote a line in it was from here,” said Daboor, “It was a dream come true because I was a big fan of BLTNM and used to chase after them at every concert.” Daboor’s track “لتر بلاك” caught the attention of the collective, and he was signed shortly after. However, it was his track ‘Inn Ann’ that took him and BLTNM to new heights. “I arrived late to the studio, and my deal with Shabjdeed was that we wouldn’t sing together at first,” he said. “Then we shot a video for ‘Inn Ann,’ and it blew up and got a million views every day for two weeks.” The track, with its confrontational lyrics and masterful flow, quickly became a sensation during the historic “unity uprising” against the occupation of Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza.

BLTNM’s global reach and impact continue to expand while maintaining a unified sonic identity as a larger collective. “While we operate on high standards when it comes to production, our approach to collaboration is more organic and family-oriented. Everyone in BLTNM is cognizant of each other’s background and lived experiences,” said Bamieh. “We spend holidays together when we can, and celebrate each other’s birthdays. We find this sort of community-led approach way more effective than a corporate one.” This is more than a record label; it is a family bound by a shared sense of responsibility that only intensifies with the addition of new members such as Daboor, Fawzi, and the newest signee, Ramadan. 


BLTNM has left an indelible imprint on the rap scene, inspiring young artists to take their craft seriously and make a difference through their music. As signee Fawzi explains, “When I first started rapping, I didn’t take it seriously because I wasn’t convinced that it could have a meaningful impact. However, everything changed for me when I discovered BLTNM. It was amazing to see people walking down the street and listening to rap. They made it a normal thing. This inspired me to start writing and uploading more songs on SoundCloud.” Eventually, Fawzi’s dedication and hard work brought him to the attention of BLTNM, and he was offered the opportunity to join the collective.

Throughout the years, Shabjdeed has exhibited a remarkable ability to transcend his musical persona by seamlessly and deftly switching between aliases, a feat that stands as a testament to his versatility and artistic range. Now, with the upcoming release of his second album with Al Nather, Shabjdeed is unveiling a new alter ego, Sultan, a darker and more introspective side, showcasing his range as an artist – the album also shares the name. Reflecting on his new alter ego, Shabjdeed elaborates, “My own interpretation of Sultan is similar to how Sindibad al Ward is not the Sindibad we hear the original stories about. It is my own made-up character, my own reflection of what this alter ego would be if they were born in my place.”

Three years in the making, this highly anticipated sophomore album represents a daring departure from the norm, as the duo continues to explore uncharted musical realms and expand their sonic palette beyond conventional boundaries. “The process didn’t really change in this album, the only thing that changed was us, as we are dropping this album as established artists, so we want the impact of this album to be bigger and one that matches the era we are in. Which basically heightened our standards even more,” said Shabjdeed.

Yet for all its thematic and emotional depth, Sultan was created through a refreshingly organic creative process, with Shabjdeed and Al Nather meeting in the studio to hash out their creative vision and direction, “The process is simple: we would casually record a track and then this track would influence the track after and bit by bit there was a lyrical, sonic and thematic bond between all the tracks creating a unified piece,” shares Al Nather.


Sultan’s lyrics are a poetic and existential reflection on the everyday realities of life in Palestine, infused with existential reflections that resonate far beyond its geographic confines. The album serves as a powerful encapsulation of everything the duo has learned and experienced over the last three years – from their daily interactions and musical inspirations to the challenges they’ve faced together. “What I can say though, is that due to the fact that my songs are heavily affected by who, when and where I am, and since we’ve been working on this for more than three pretty chaotic years, for us as artists and for us as young men in these amazing times, Sultan is what connects all these years together,” says Shabjdeed. It embodies the very essence of their shared journey, serving as a compelling reminder of the enduring bonds that unite them, “I want to be able to look back at my career and find albums that date the different eras of my life and the sounds that those eras produced,” he says.

With its dark, apocalyptic overtones and aching undercurrents of melancholy and hope, Sultan serves as a poignant soundtrack for our tumultuous times. The trap and drill elements are there, but the album also showcases a bold new musical identity that draws from a vast array of influences.  

With BLTNM leading the way, Palestinian artists are carving out a new space for themselves in the global music scene, and their influence is only set to grow.

For more stories of musicians and singers from across the region, head over to our dedicated pages.