Abu Rahss is a rapper who is one if the founders of the Forest Hills Tenleytown Music Group (FHTMG); here is a link to their website:
Q: How did you come to form FHTMG?
A: Friends of mine have been rapping and making music since high school so that is probably what first sparked the idea. In college some friends of mine and I made a mixtape called The Blizzard which was popular among our friends. When I finished college and came back to DC and got my own place I decided to get some studio and camera equipment and we decided to use the name Forest Hills Tenleytown Music Group since that’s the two neighborhoods (Forest Hills and Tenleytown) where most of us are from/ used to hang out growing up.
Q: Your about pages says you are the most subversive record label in the world; in what ways are you subversive?
A: For example, we took a Thanksgiving Trip to North Korea organized by a Palestinian (me) with rappers from the worst areas in DC (PacMan and Peso). We made a music video without the permission of North Korean authorities but instead of recycling and repeating the same old tired stereotypes about North Korea (they are all crazy and starving in concentration camps) we went in non-judgmentally and spoke honestly about our experiences. Our message after the trip was that North Koreans are good people just like you and me and they are rational people just like you and me. Pacman and Peso told the AP and Reuters that they were treated better in North Korea then they were in America and they feel Washington DC is much more dangerous for them than North Korea.
FHTMG is filled with people from all backgrounds (Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Arabs, Whites, and more) and we are big on things like: Black Liberation, Palestinian Rights, and many other human rights issues. Basically, just being who we are happens to be subversive its not something we aim for. And also there is not much subversive stuff out there in this day and age so its probably not too hard to be the most subversive.
Q: What inspired you to write the song, Trap out the Starbucks?
A: Pacman had made the chorus (kind of just a joke) and was singing it one day and I thought it was a great idea for a song. Everybody raps about trapping trenches and the slums (which is very important and is some of my favorite music) but there is just as much (if not more) trapping happening at places like Starbucks (and no music about it). And in this day and age where everyone works mobily, its also just a good anthem in general for getting work done (whether its in Starbucks, a hotel lobby, or anywhere else).
Q: Who are some of your musical influences and how can we see that influence in your work?
A: My favorite rapper when I was young was 2Pac and then Cam’Ron became my favorite rapper later on. They are two of my biggest influences. I also love Van Morrison, Wiley (British rapper), Gucci Mane and many others. I’m not sure how you can hear the influence but people sometimes say my styleof rapping reminds them of Cam’Ron or Gucci Mane so I guess people can see the influence.
- What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your writing?
After college I worked at BB&T for almost four years in commercial lending (this is when we launched FHTMG and went to North Korea) and since summer 2014 I work at a small investment company in Washington, DC. It doesn’t influence my music/writing in an overt or obvious way but its a part of my life so I think it definitely has an influence on some level.
Q: Why rap music and not another genre?
A: Rap has always been my favorite genre and also the favorite genre of most of my friends. As I’ve gotten older I have branched out more with my tastes but basically I only like rap music. We work with non-rappers (Zeroni for example) and are open to get involved in all kinds of genres but personally I just rap.
Q: How does living in DC influence your music?
A: Being born and raised in DC had a big influence on me and my music. I went to DC Public Schools from Pre-K until college sand that was an environment where rap and hip hop were the main music/culture. In elementary school we were all listening to 2Pac and then the Cash Money Millionaires and the Ruff Ryders. By Junior High and High School it was Three Six Mafia and Dipset and things like that.
Q: How did you get funding to make your videos?
A: We make all the videos ourselves (if we travel we pay for our own stuff but we only travel places where we have connections and hook ups). We got a Canon 5D camera before our North Korea trip and we have used that to make almost 30 music videos around the world. I’ve shot and edited most of them myself but different friends have also contributed.
Q: What is the overall theme of your music?
A: I don’t know I guess just to express myself as a person. Maybe the theme is “fuck everybody and whether they love you or hate you, just be true to yourself.”
Q: If you could write a theme song for one of the candidates who would you pick and what would it say?
A: I would write a theme song for Bernie Sanders and I would call it “Bernie Bitch.” It would be like a remake of Bobby Shmurda “Bobby Bitch” and it would just talk hella shit about the other candidates and white people and Israel.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.