Abuzayed The Free
With her upcoming album, Worlds Within (out May 13th), Abuzayed The Free stuns us with her broad musical range, from rapping to soulfully sung verses. She uses her music for self-empowerment and to make political statements. Abuzayed is both bold in words and expression, defying what it means to be an Arab woman in the music world!
TELL US a little bit about yourself and when you made the decision to pursue music as a career and art?
For sure. I love myself, for starters, and I believe that love always wins. I also love talking about myself so I’m grateful to you, the 107, for reaching out. I'm a Palestinian-American rapper, jazz singer, and channel of the Divine, who grew up in Louisville, Kentucky/rural Arkansas to a divorced Christian mama & Muslim daddy. Because I respect my intuition, I am currently relocating to New York City. My life has been a supreme trip. I got my hip-hop chops in Austin.
The universe definitely has my back and I never imagined I would be a rapper. It’s all - for real - because I made a declaration that true liberation was my greatest desire, and then all these talents, skills, and experiences I’d been accumulating my whole life activated and aligned me with this craft. Music is my service to humanity and it's probably the biggest reason I'm still alive. Basically, [I] made the decision to be a career musician when I saw how freestyle rap was accelerating my awakening and [I] knew I had to share the experience. Plus it’s fun; and healing. And god created me to be a rapper. The real moment of dawning was the night "So Much Swag" was recorded. I was driving home from Houston listening to that track on repeat for three hours like... hold up... this is life-purpose level.
I’m super curious about your artistic name, Abuzayed The Free. What does it mean? Where did it come from? What inspired it?
So I’m half-Arab, and Abuzayed is my last name; "Abu", in Arabic, means 'father of' and "Zayed" means prosperity or to grow in abundance. My desire for liberation inspired me to call myself "Free". So they just go together like that.
The full name came to me during a vipassana meditation retreat when I asked for guidance. I wanted my artist name to represent truth; and when it finally hit, I was like dope: it is both a political and spiritual statement. It allows me to represent my Palestinian peoples and stand as someone who is free beyond concept, beyond conditioning, and beyond this world. I’m also conditioning my fans and everyone who reads my name to associate “Palestine” with “Freedom”.
Worlds Within is a very self-empowering and philosophical album. How did this come about? What inspired the ALBUM?
Great question. In the title itself, I got that from doing a new moon ceremony at the Lama Foundation outside of Taos, NM. We were making collages to manifest what we wanted in our lives and I used a block of text that read “worlds within”. I swear everything just builds on top of itself. I did a technology-free meditation and camping retreat right before the ceremony that really sunk me into being. Like, silent – vulnerable – reflective – joyous – servitude – kindness – trust – beauty – and goddamn how "love always wins". That’s where my lyrical content comes from, Dhamma.
I got back to Austin and just started writing. I didn’t know what for initially, but then met Chris Rockaway and realized. I cut down my social life by 80%, made my home into a temple, and immersed myself in the project. I would go teach rap to kids, write bars, perform shows, memorize bars, listen to music, and rehearse bars. Creation is the best work ever.
I’m free at the end of the day –bottom line. I can be gorgeous, meditative, flirty, blunt, dangerous, indecisive, abstinent, compassionate, playful, agonizingly serious, lazy, tortured, or 100% accepting of myself.
It’s all there, it’s all welcome.
Jazz and neo-soul beats dominate your music currently. How did you come to the decision to follow those genres.
It wasn’t any sort of intellectual or mental choice, but an organic soul attraction. Hands-down, my preference for music on this planet is that with soul. The good kind of vibes that can hold you at your lowest, raise you up to the sky, and then let you coast in the chill zone.
For the record, I’ve created my own genre and it is wunluv rap (think one love plus love always wins). I feel my path in infinite potential, and know that I’ve made my own lane. So, even though I’m averse to labels, I’ve at least created my own genre name. It's a balance.
I was a band kid and grew up on the saxophone, getting deep into jazz even before I knew what a 16-bar was. I got into the blues during my darker days, and that’s how I taught myself to sing and embody honest and pure communication. I know the holy in my voice and allow the Source to use all that I am to shine light.
You have a great singing voice but you rap also. what is it about rap that made you choose it as a mode of delivering your art?
Man, so much so much. Hip-hop culture as a whole is liberating- from street art, to dance, to the grassroots-hustle philosophy; and the ways it unifies community. I'm honored to be practicing an art form with such a powerful history of straight-up warriors. People who have been through the trenches, seen hell, and committed their lives to telling the world about it. Strong women and men who promote equality, awareness, empowerment, and self-determination. The greats that have come before me have helped with my personal revolution and so I’m just giving back.
I started rapping because it was a challenging way to blend rhythm, math, melody, spirit talk, and poetry. Kind of like Spock; there is a good amount of heart in it because I am human, but we are all computers, so there’s that gratifying puzzle-piece aspect to it.
I kept rapping because I'm good at it. Plus bars just get me off in a way that nothing else can. I feel the best flowin free in well-defined boundaries. Rap is like an open-source, ever-evolving program. It contains space enough for me to talk about eternal life and criticize outdated beliefs in one couplet; and talk about my thighs and eating cookies in the next. I can play a character, tell a story, be mad cryptic, or hella simple.
Raps is spells and I’m a witch on a mission to free the world.
What is your favorite track from that record and why?
So, like a mama with her babies, my favorite depends on my mood. I’ve tried to answer this multiple times. Literally can’t commit.
The way you communicate and your lyrics pay homage to your ethnic/cultural heritage, how have audience received that, especially here in Austin?
I spit some intense bars in "Brown Girl (Ya Allah)" and wondered, during production, how people would react. I just did a show in Oakland with a dope collective called Oakland Mind, where they got really lit on it and soaked up every word. NYC has been feeling it, too, [particularly] Harlem and Brooklyn. Austin, apart from some amazingly supportive fans, has been fairly quiet. Different people align with different messages, you know. And no matter where I’ll be: some people sleep, some people woke.
I trust that my music will reach and affect exactly who it needs to, regardless of my perception of the situation.
I would love to see people reacting to my music on a global level--especially with our corrupt and heinous government-- so that meaningful, honest, and heart-centered conversations could be had. I want to see everyone sitting at the same table - fully aware of the collective pain and fear we've been pushing on ourselves, so that we can shine light on it.