Springing from the American southern hip-hop culture of the mid-1990s, trap music has grown to become a force in its own right, spreading across the world and taking on a life of its own wherever it lands. When the trap wave washed over the Middle East, the hip-hop subgenre was met with open arms and is now fully embraced in as both a cultural and commercial force. Riding this wave instead of swimming against the tide, Arab artists put their own spin on trap music, putting forth a regional hip-hop revolution that stretches from the UAE to Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Palestine.
The UAE in particular is quickly becoming one of the trap music capitals in the region, with a vibrant rap that is welcoming of new sounds and styles. A small enclave of local artists is pioneering the new Middle East super trap music sound and among them is Dubai-based Syrian-Egyptian rapper, singer, and songwriter Moss Wada, professionally known as Uglymoss. Uglymoss’s sound is part of a new wave of trap undulating over the region, characterized by sonic experimentation that integrates trap and rage music with a melodic rock star approach.
We sat down with Uglymoss to get to know the rising rapper a little better, uncover his creative process and get his take on the evolving rap scene in the UAE, and the region at large.
Uglymoss, how did you end up in Dubai?
I was born and bred in Sharjah, a city next to Dubai in the UAE. My grandma raised me after my parents divorced and abandoned me when I was just two or three months old. Growing up, I picked up skateboarding and given that the sport was still nascent at the time, my friends and I would drive from Sharjah to Dubai for the skate parks. So, skateboarding is actually the link that connected me to Dubai. After connecting with the city and the subculture connected to skateboarding there, I decided to make the move and settle in Dubai.
How would you describe your style of rap? How do you see the youth music scene in Dubai growing?
My genre of music heavily relies on experimentation. I would say it is a fusion of melodic trap, rap, and rage music. It is a fresh, new sound that I am trying to introduce to the MENA region. I don’t want to be categorized or framed within a specific box. I want the freedom to be able to traverse genres without confining myself to one sound. I am always experimenting and trying to cook up something different.
As for Dubai’s rap scene, it is slowly growing, from the bottom up. Through the community, I have met a lot of new artists that are just starting, but [who] already have so much potential and create exciting new sounds. We have Freek here, for example, who is paving the way for other artists. We have a huge scene teeming with talent that is just waiting to be discovered and we’re making more progress every day, even on a global scale.
At what point did you realize you want music to be your medium of expression?
When I was younger, my friends and I used to freestyle all the time for fun. I wasn’t this instant talent. In fact, I was really bad at it, but I continued pursuing it because I loved the concept of free-flowing and the lyrical part of it. It was really just us dissing each other one-on-one. I didn’t actually enjoy the dissing aspect of it, but making music got me stargazing. You stand up, say what you have to say and everyone gives you an ear. It’s a way to connect with people on an intimate level.
So, my journey with music started with me simply writing and recording voice notes. These voice notes are where all my music lived until I asked one of my friends, Tarik, to take me to a studio. From then on, I never stopped recording. I knew music was going to be my career because it was the only thing I found joy in. The thrill of performing for huge crowds, and using music as a vehicle to channel my emotions, there is nothing else that is as fulfilling and enjoyable for me.
How do you see the rap scene progressing in the UAE? What’s the future?
I see the scene changing almost every day. I see new artists popping up all the time and it’s really encouraging and exciting. Every time I go to an event, there is a new artist with a fresh sound, a different style, a new approach. With the right push and the right team around them, a lot of these artists have the potential to go global. The UAE rap scene is growing and I’m excited about the future. All it takes is for us to pave the way and keep grinding. Keep your eyes and ears ready for what we have coming up.
Tell us about your very first track, and how it came about.
The first track I ever made was actually horrible and I don’t think I can ever listen to it again. In fact, it’s in my Soundcloud archive but I thank God for how far I have evolved since then and become what I am right now. One of my earliest memories of music is probably the first song I ever dropped on YouTube in more than ten years, and of course, that also is archived right now.
Tell us about your discography. How has your style evolved over the years?
I released my first album ‘Slime Plane’ in 2019 with only two features, Maison2500 and Seki Supervillian. In 2020, I released another project ‘Cyber Truck’ which was a five-track experimental EP, all singles, no features. I named it Cyber Truck because it signifies the ride to my main album after it. Following that, I dropped my very last English EP as a Soundcloud only-exclusive, called ‘After Life.’ After that, I dropped ‘3ashra’, my very first Egyptian rap release, which was also very experimental and I just wanted to test how it would perform. Then, I released ‘Zo7al’ with a music video. It garnered a lot of attention and buzz and put a lot of eyes on me. The video reached 100k views on YouTube within less than a month. My latest release is ‘No Policy’ which dropped with a music video and is out right now.
Your sound is quite experimental. How do you play with music to achieve your distinct style?
I feel like the way I play with sounds, to ad-libs, to my beats selection is very different and unique for the region and it will only keep growing and evolving.
If you could hop on any track with a verse, which would it be and why?
Trippie Redd & Playboi Carti – Miss the Rage.
I feel like the beat is screaming my name and I can definitely do something crazy on it
If you enjoyed this interview with Uglymoss, check out more of our music coverage from across the Middle East.