Assasi dons the red tarboush (fez) and carefully arranges a scarf on his left shoulder before each performance. Every audience enjoys this sight, regardless of venue or country. He seems trapped between the past – a golden era of Arab music and culture – and the utopian future – a society free of today’s hang-ups and conflicts, in which individuals and their unique gifts flourish in safety.
Emerging from Aleppo, Syria’s most ancient city and cultural capital, Assasi traded his school uniform and basketball shoes for an unwavering commitment to hip hop. 18 years later he has graduated from the School of Hard Knocks with degrees in Disappointments, Tragedy, and Exile. Two albums languished stillborn due to insufficient resources. When his mentor and Bilad El-Sham movement co-creator Big K was killed, Assasi used the grief to fuel his first successful release, “Clinic of Bilad El-Sham”. The 10 tracks featured classic Oriental samples, lyrics exploring social issues, and vocals by Rai singer Cheb Wahid. The delayed release party featured a live band and kicked off experiments fusing hip hop with various instrumental accompaniments.
Like so many young Syrian creatives during the civil war, he landed in Beirut for a few years before hardening borders drove him to India, Nepal, Malaysia, and finally the United States. Hip hop remained Assasi’s anchor through it all. His newest project, “Third World Wide,” reflects this global journey as well as the friends, influences, and lessons Assasi picked up along the way.