A Rapper’s tribute to Dubai goes viral: Mo Mansour speaks to Atlantis
Hip Hop enthusiast Mo Mansour has arrived in Dubai 18 months ago and fell in love with the city. The Egyptian-Canadian banker has left Dubai to continue his career in Athens, but not without paying a musical tribute to the city with “Dubai State of Mind”, which has become a local sensation on local social media sites, blogs and radio stations.
Atlantis has interviewed Mo Mansour about his song, his collaboration with Emma Hayes, and future plans… and here are some exerpts:
When did you live in Canada, and what do you miss most about Canada?
I miss everything about Canada except the cold weather. I lived in Ontario and Montreal from 2002 to 2009. The people there are incredibly friendly. Almost too friendly.
What inspired you to write the lyrics, and have you been writing lyrics for some time now?
Well, the simple answer is that the city inspired me! I moved to Dubai for work right after University and it didn’t take long to fall in love with it. For me, it was a perfect mix between my background as an Arab and my “western upbringing”, for lack of a better description. This city has everything you could ask for.
I’ve been into hiphop since sixth grade. I progressively got more and more into it throughout University. I only started writing lyrics a few years back when I had lost my ipod, so I would keep my mind busy at the gym without music by thinking up my own verses. I’ve written maybe five or six completed tracks, but have only shared them with a few friends and family (the Dubai State of Mind track was also never intended to go public!).
What if Jay-Z found out? Would you like to see him live in Dubai?
If Jay-Z ever listened to my track, I would consider my life complete! He’s a legend and easily one of my favourite artists. I’ve seen him live in Montreal just after his album “The Blueprint III” was released. What a show. I’d give anything to see him again in Dubai.
How do you feel about the viral exposure gained by this video?
I’m blown away by it. I remember the night after I put the video up on Youtube I went out for dinner with some friends and we were checking the hits on our blackberrys and getting really excited when it went past 50 hits. Four days later it was over 10,000 hits which really took me by surprise. Then again, a video of a kid saying “Charlie bit me” has over 300 million views, so I wouldn’t call it viral just yet!
When the views first started counting up, everyone was ‘liking’ the video on Youtube. That was expected since the first people to hear it were all my friends and family. It is only when the video started getting ‘dislikes’ that I realized that this was going beyond my small circle of friends. So, ironically, I was happy when people started ‘disliking’ it because it meant that it was spreading to the general public.
Are you planning on making a video clip for the song?
Well, having just moved to Athens four days after the song was released, it would be a bit difficult to shoot a video for it. That being said, I’ve had a professional video producer approach me asking to make a video, so perhaps if I come back to Dubai soon on holiday, we’ll be able to put something together.
Do you and Emma Hayes collaborate on other projects? And are there any new tunes we should be watching out for?
Myself and Emma are both very happy in our own careers (touch wood) in banking and professional dance, respectively. Neither of us have ever released a track like this before. As for the future, who knows?
We’re pretty sure you’ve been asked a million questions about this from various friends and organizations, what would you say is the funniest or most bizarre question in your opinion? I found it funny when I got interviewed by one of the UAE newspapers and the journalist was really surprised that I was in a dress shirt and pants (my work clothes). I think he was expecting a guy with a t-shirt and backwards cap.
Also funny was when I was messaged by a stranger and asked to do a remix of the same track but dedicated to Muscat. I’m sure Muscat a nice place, but it’s hard to do a track about a city that I’ve never been to.
Anything else you’d like to add to this interview? I’m very grateful for all the response this song has gotten. I’m honestly very humbled by it all.
Thank you Mo for this interview, and we hope to see you soon again in Dubai. And all the best in your future in Athens.
Lyrics for ‘Dubai State of Mind’ – by Mo Mansour feat. Emma Hayes
Goodbye Canada, I must say you will be missed, I trade my winter gloves for a pair of oven mits, Flip flops in December, damn I’m loving this, And I can still go skiing at the Mall of the Emirates. All jokes aside… Dubai’s the best, Just host a visitor and tell me if he’s not impressed, Built from the desert but, you woulda never guessed, Best of the Middle East, sprinkled with some West. Perfect place to travel from, but this is where my base is, What a perfect blend of fifty different places, All the diverse cultures, languages, and races, Adds a real spice to life that everyone embraces. From a desert with some shrubs to a world hub, From not being on the map, to it’s own rap. Sheikh Mohamed raised his vision straight to the sky, Make your arms do the same, let’s hear it for: Chorus:
Dubai, concrete desert where dreams are made up There’s nothing you can’t do Now you’re in Dubai You’ve got to love the mentality Turn dreams to reality Lets hear it for Dubai, Dubai, Dubai
I say hamdullah that things are back to goin’ well, The economy and buildings are both growin’ well, So bring the tourists on, we’ll play some show-and-tell, Let’s add two to a five star hotel. That’s the Burj Al Arab, in case you didn’t get it, Just pick a record out, let’s make a bet we set it. And if it’s set then we’ll break it and we will maintain, Look up at the Burj Khalifa, just make sure your neck don’t sprain. Wanna see some culture? You can see them all, Wanna do some shopping? You should see the malls, Shopping on a budget? You can hit Karama. Wanna see Atlantis? You can skip Bahamas. Lookin for some nightlife? Don’t have to look too far, Pre-game at Caramel, party at Boudoir. Some say its artificial, more like official art, You really can’t deny, this city’s got some heart.
Something charming bout the old Dubai like Bur Dubai and Deira, But I still prefer the new Dubai like Downtown and Jumeirah, And I love the other Emirates from Abu to Fujeirah, But you really can’t deny that the party’s over here. We could go to JBR and just chill and tan, Or take a tour of some islands that were made by man, Big events are every month so you don’t have to make a plan, Rugby 7’s, Tennis Open, or the World Cup at Meydan, And I’m barely scratching the surface, This city’s got way too much for just a couple of verses. So if you need some more reasons to come and visit just aks me, Or better yet just move here, it’s tax free. They come in winters when the weather is a dream to ’em, Take off in summer when the city is a steam room. The only two seasons are warm and hot, It’s no wonder that this city’s such a melting pot.