Blog Spotlight: Re-Volt
Fed up with the lack of diversity on the playlists of local radio stations, Hassane ‘Big Hass’ Dennaoui launched his blog Re-Volt in 2009 to showcase the talent of Arab hip-hop artists. Now host of Saudi Arabia’s first hip-hop radio show - Laish Hip-Hop? on Mix FM - Hassane spoke with MediaSource about the evolution of his blog, hip-hop culture in the Arab world, and his journey from blogger to radio DJ.
What inspired you to start blogging?
In 2009, I heard a mixtape that had a lot of artists I’d never heard of before, especially not on the radio. I was simply sick of what FM radio was pushing and playing on their rotations and calling ‘entertainment’ so I decided to start blogging to fill a void.
Re-Volt is a combination of two words: Revolution and Voltage. Revolution because I wanted to revolt against the mindless, against 'the powers that may be' and against how radio stations are demeaning our youth. Voltage because I would love to own a radio station one day.
What has been the response from readers?
In the early stages of the blog, I guess they were shocked to see that so many artists exist outside the circle of what goes on in the mass media. I have been blogging since 2009 and am blessed to say that I have earned my space and respect in the region when it comes to supporting our local talent.
Tell us about your journey from blogger to radio host?
It took a lot of sacrifice, hard work but most importantly determination and persistence. This clip sums up my journey from blogger to a radio host pretty well.
What do you look for in artists when they reach out to be featured?
For me, I look at authenticity - for both the radio show and the blog. The artist needs to be authentic. It doesn’t matter how many followers they might have - for me, that’s not a measure of how talented they are. They have to believe in their art, they have to sound authentic and it’s very important to somehow always include positive messages in their work.
What advice would you give to new artists looking to promote their music?
It seems to me that artists want to reach 'fame' quickly. That's not the right way. Build your audience, step by step, song by song, album by album. I would say be engaged on social media, and use different platforms to share your work.
What are your thoughts on the hip-hop scene in the region?
It's growing that’s for sure; but I think it still needs a lot of maturity. We have some great hip-hop in the region and, when I say hip-hop, I mean the full culture - rapping, breaking, graffiti and DJ-ing. But there is no support from mass media or even big event companies and that's what I have been working on for the past two years. I want to establish a platform for hip-hop artists to perform live in front of a big crowd.
With blogs, podcasts and social media, the Internet has completely changed how people discover and consume music. What does this mean for regional and local artists?
EVERYTHING. They can have their 'own' record label online. There are no more excuses really. I would say this, Good art is GOOD art and that's the mentality the artists should have. Be consistent, do what you love for the art-form and not to only gain attention and fame. If your art is authentic, it will reach the right souls and they 'the people' will carry you to fame land.
What are the trends driving hip-hop culture in the Middle East?
I would say production. The samples some of our producers use are old-authentic songs by legends such as Oum Kolthoum, Abdel El Halim, Wardah, etc. and I believe that is a huge plus for us. Are there areas that can be developed? YES. I just hope artists stick to being authentic, rapping about things that we as Arabs can relate to, and not 'gang culture' as we don’t have that in Arabia.
How do you measure the success of your blog?
Well, numbers talk right? But, for me, success is when my followers get to know an artist they hadn’t heard of before and start following their news. I am blessed to have created a platform where people can guarantee they will learn and see something new and that, for me, is mind elevation.
What will be big in your blogosphere in the coming months?
Focusing on urban youth events, maybe reviewing a couple of headphones and also pushing local talent and their video and music releases. To keep up to date, follow me on Instagram, Twitter, SoundCloud and YouTube.