SHI 360 is an Israeli Hip Hop and Jewish rap ambassador. He is an Israeli born Canadian rapper, producer and performer. Being raised by North-African parents in the complex reality of Israel has influenced his music to reflect an eclectic mix of Middle Eastern melodies, North African Rhythms and thought provoking lyrics. His dad, of Tunisian descent, would play an unconventional mix of Salim Halali, Otis Redding, Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Oum Kalthoum, Yehoram Gaon and many more…It was this rich musical environment that forged his artistic direction from a young age.
His ability to switch between English, Hebrew and French rhymes has opened up the doors to a global audience. His inspiring songs and socially driven lyrics touch many lives and helps him realize how powerful music can be. In an exclusive interview SHI 360 shared some of his experiences and views with us.
- How long have you been in the music business and how did you get started in the first place?
SHI 360: I started rapping in 1993 but really got official in 1999 when I released my first single on vinyl. I got into the business simply by putting my time and money into it. I was able to press my first 12″ and get it distributed….it was very different back then.
- Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
SHI 360: In terms of hip hop it was Rakim, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest. I had moved to North America in the late 80’s and discovered hip hop for the first time. I immediately connected to it.
- Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anyone of these that you’d like to collaborate with?
SHI 360: I’m listening to Kendrick Lamar, Prhyme and Paco De Lucia. It would be a dream to collaborate with Kendrick. He is really in a different league and one of the few to really deliver any substance.
- Have you suffered any ‘resistance’ from within the industry in your country, and if so how have you handled that, and how do you handle criticism and naysayers in general?
SHI 360: I LOVE the criticism. That means someone is paying attention. Also, I do not expect EVERYONE to like my music. Of course there will always be naysayers that speak purely out of hate…but that’s all they got, so what can I do besides feel bad for them?
- How difficult was the transition from rapping in English to rapping in Hebrew?
SHI 360: Really tough. Besides the language, its a completely different form, cadence, flow and delivery. It actually took me a while to adjust
- How did the fact that you could not perform live due to a heart condition impact your career?
SHI 360: It prevented me from sharing my music with many people. There was no YouTube or Spotify or Facebook back then. If you were not on the street, in the club or in the cars – you did not exist. But my fans stuck with me. I wouldn’t have made it without them.
- Essentially how do you produce your sound? Do you produce yourself, with loops, samples and software based beats , do you play instruments, or do you work with external producers?
SHI 360: I mainly use external producers but I am always involved. When I produce something, it’s mainly samples and loops. I play a little bit of guitar and keys.
- Which is your latest music release and where can fans find it?
SHI 360: Baba L’aziz is the name of my latest album that came out Sept 13th. It’s available everywhere on all music outlets.
- Which ingredient do you think makes you special and unique as a performing artist in a genre thriving with newcomers and wannabes?
SHI 360: I have a very unique story and background. I am born to North African parents and I grew up with Judeo-Arab traditions, culture and music. This is a concept many are not familiar with. That story comes through in my music and my content
- Of all your crossover influences, from North-African parents to, immigration in Canada, why the statement “Israeli Hip Hop and Jewish rap ambassador”, do you feel this is your strongest personal legacy?
SHI 360: In terms of legacy, it probably is. Also, I am a rapper, that is also Jewish, and I don’t conceal it in any way. I also use my music as a tool to help alleviate some of the stereotypes about the Jewish people. For example, in “Blue and white” – I am speaking about the story of the Indigenous people of the land of Israel – the Jews. Most people are unaware of the fact that we are a native people just like the Nubians for example. So you see, hip-hop can also help in educating.
- Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
SHI 360: it’s the liberty!!! It’s all about that! I am not discouraged at all actually, I’m in a very good place and I make high quality music.
- How do you market and manage your music career? Do you have a management team or do you control everything by yourself?
SHI 360: I manage it myself, but I ham surrounded by incredibly good people that help me. My boy Talent Display, for example, has been pivotal in helping me with this last release.
- How do you achieve your great sound? Do you work exclusively in a private home recording environment or do you use a commercial sound studio too?
SHI 360: I have been behind the boards for over 10 years now. I learned from some very talented mix engineers on how to make the music sound great. It’s a crucial element that, unfortunately, many indie artists take for granted.
- The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
SHI 360: I followed: do not compromise your sound and message. What i did not follow but I know now: Keep a very small circle. Trust few!
- Gives us your personal shortlist of hip hop’s 3 greatest artists – living or dead.
SHI 360: Biggie, Nas, Jay Z ….Kendrick is on his way to that list
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
SHI 360: I think it’s a mix of both. The internet is a necessary tool and a great one as well. However, as you said, it has allowed a lot of garbage to slip through, which hurts the culture as a whole.
- If someone has never heard your music, which 3 keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?
SHI 360: Love. Truth. Skill.
- We know what Canadian hip-hop is like, but how would you describe the current state of Hip-hop in Israel and the Middle East in general?
SHI 360: Israel is actually going through a beautiful hip hop renaissance after years of garbage… the new wave of artists are making real music and being very sincere. I am really enjoying it.
- As you work your way through your career, which more than any other fires-up your imagination – A Grammy award, Platinum music sales or some other tangible milestone?
SHI 360: performing to new crowds is my biggest rush. When people here me for the first time and they have that “who the f*** is this guy?” look on their face – that’s what it’s all about.
- What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do EVER, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
SHI 360: Shit on others to advance myself. Never that!