Moroccan Issam Harris signs the biggest deal ever for any Arab artist with Universal France

The Moroccan rapper’s music video for his single Trap Beldi has over 10 million views on YouTube

Moroccan rapper Issam's first record is due to be released in January 2020. Photo: @issamharrris

by Staff Reporter

Entertainment 26 May 2019

This is a big step for Arab rappers and hip-hop artists.

Issam Harris, who goes simply by Issam, is a Moroccan artist who has released a number of singles and music videos on his YouTube channel.

They’ve racked up views in the millions and it’s obvious why.

The Casablanca native, who doesn’t actually have a record or EP out, is paving the way for Arab rappers and hip-hop artists in a huge way.

According to Huffpost Maghreb, a source close to Issam revealed that he has signed a contact with Universal France, which may possibly be the biggest ever by an Arab artist. Issam himself has been sharing the article on his social media platforms.

Details of the contract haven’t been released yet, but given the way Issam’s music has gone viral over the last year and the fact his sound is something that is both authentic to the Arab region but has universal appeal, we wouldn’t be surprised if this will be the biggest ever deal by an Arab artist with an international record deal.


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At @izudizzy’s house. Thank you @hassanhajjaj_larache. Photo by @l4artiste.

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The rise of musicians releasing songs and music videos online has introduced the world to many main stream artists working today (Lorde, Justin Bieber). And for Arab artists who aren’t represented in the music industry, platforms such as YouTube provide a crucial way for them to get noticed by the right people, build a fan base and break into the international music scene.

Particularly in Morocco, where a legitimate infrastructure for young and new musicians and artists doesn’t exist, Issam’s achievement on YouTube, and possibly now with Universal France, can only mean good things for the contemporary Arab music scene.

Issam’s sound can be described as Moroccan Trap music. His lyrics and music videos are a window into the world of contemporary urban Morocco, a sub-culture that isn’t seen or represented in the Arab world or even globally.

READ: Two Arab Women make Time Magazine’s ’10 Next Generation Leaders 2019′ list 

Trap music is a style of hip-hop that started in the late 1990’s in the Southern US. The sound is bleak, dark but catchy. Themes in the stories revolve around surviving street life, poverty, violence and urban life.

These are universal themes and although trap music is incredibly on trend right now in the music world, Issam’s version uses traditional trap sounds such as auto-tuning and TR 808-generated beats that are also layered with classic Arab melodies, Arab Moroccan rap, and traditional Arab instruments.


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Captain. Photo @artsimous

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‘I’m more interested in making music that includes elements from my home culture in Morocco. I have a lot of pride in the music I’ve released so far, since I’ve created something original that blends these two cultures,’ Issam said in an interview with The Fader.

Issam started gaining noriety online when he released  singles such as Hasni, released in August 2017, a tribute to Cheb Hasni the Algerian raï singer and Bavra, released in January 2018, a more mainstream sounding track that currently has close to four million views on YouTube.

But it was his single and music video for Trap Beldi, released in November 2018, that has over 10 million and got music labels such as Sony and Universal to notice him.

WATCH: Issam’s Trap Beldi and tell us what you think

It’s obvious why Trap Beldi been became a massive internet hit.

Issam and his entourage are dressed in retro Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian football jerseys – a very cool way to show North African patriotism – and are hanging out in unglamorous, real, urban locations while riding Motobécanes, the popular French manufacturer of bicycles and motorcycles, while dressed in bright tracksuits.

The music video, though, is more than just about stunning visual contrasts. The catchy beat and the confident, self-assured style that Issam delivers his lyrics are mesmerizing, poetic and experimental.

His latest single, Makinch Zhar (There’s no Luck) proves that as an artist he’s able to work within the lines of his style but isn’t sticking to a particular visual or lyrical formula. Check out the music video for Makinch Zhar below.

WATCH: Issam’s Makinch Zhar and tell us what you think

The single takes the somewhat common theme of the “artist’s struggle” for creative recognition. But here, Issam focuses on the issues that pertain to artists in Morocco while also recognising that these obstacles affect all artists everywhere.

The music video combines Arabic and Moroccan cultural symbols such as evil eyes, with contemporary visuals and bright patterned avant-garde clothing influenced by traditional Moroccan clothing.

The stunning clothes, a major feature of the music video, are designed by Moroccan designer Artsi Ifrach of Maison ARTC.

We’ll keep you updated with any news on Issam’s historic deal and his record which is due to be released on January 2020.

What do you think of Issam’s music? Let us know!

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