Mostafa: On lyrics, life and connection
by Mike Roe
Hip-Hop music can be broken down to its simplest form consisting of two main elements: beats and rhymes. The recent commercialization of “rap” has left the art form unbalanced, with most of the emphasis on the beats. This focus on creating big club-friendly EDM production has left the lyrical side of mainstream hip-hop a bit stale, leaving some to even proclaim that hip-hop is dead. But Bellingham’s own lyrical wordsmith, Mostafa, still believes that the words an MC spits on a track demonstrate true skill and love for the craft and an optimism about the directions of hip-hop. He is on a mission to spread the word of love, community, and family to the masses. His lyrics are positive and uplifting and carry a weight that is not found in most hip-hop today.
“I think that the lyrical side of hip-hop is gonna make a huge come back,” Mostafa said. “We definitely went through a phase where lyrics were overlooked, but these days there’s a lot of up and coming artists that are amazing lyrically.”
People like Landon Wordswell and Task1ne “are both amazing lyrically, traveling the country and killing shows. Then you’ve got the old school legends working on new projects and getting ready to release new albums. Seems like it’s all coming full circle,” he added.
Live on stage or in the studio, there is no sleep for Mostafa, who is currently working on several studio projects, all while touring the West Coast, playing live shows almost nightly.
“My most recent projects are Calendar Year with producer Deep Lemon and Tatterdemalion with Walrus Mageever,” he said. “Also, I recently released a single with Landon Wordswell called “Listen” produced by Thaddeus Gincig. I’m currently about five songs away from finishing up a full length Calendar Year 2 with Deep Lemon, which is scheduled for release sometime in the next month or two.”
Mostafa added he is also currently working on a 5-track EP with Landon Wordswell “which we plan on releasing through his label Cult Classic Records.” He is also currently working on a live band album with Matt Taggart on bass, Josh Black on trumpet, Nick Robinson on drums, and Ryan Butter on guitar.
So who is this hip-hop workaholic who has artists like Landon Wordswell calling him their “favorite artist out right now”? Mostafa was born in Egypt and as a child moved around to Oklahoma City, Qatar, and Los Angeles, until finally settling in Bellingham at the age of 14. He knew at a young age that music was going to be a part of his future.
“I started writing songs around the age of 10, but I didn’t start actually rapping and showing them to people until around age 16. I think I’ve always known I wanted to be serious about music.”
Mostafa started in the local hip-hop scene at the Sunday Cypher Crew, and from there he made connections and built an audience. He uses music as a tool to help himself grow and also to help others who were struggling with issues.
“I enjoy making music because it teaches me a lot about myself. The writing process involves a lot of self reflection and really focusing on your good qualities as well as your flaws. If I saw someone I loved going through a hard time I’d make them a song to help them through it and let them know that I cared.”
It’s this raw emotion and ability to look deep within himself that makes Mostafa’s lyrics so real and allows him to connect with audiences and other musicians.
“The thing that motivates me is the connection you make with people through the music. You really connect with people on a deeper level. It’s a beautiful thing.” Mostafa said. “I’m a really shy guy, and when you do a show it’s a lot easier to meet people. Traveling the country doing shows has made it to where I now have friends and family across the country. I’ve even met and became friends with a lot of amazing people here in Bellingham that I probably would have never met if it wasn’t for music!”
When it comes to style, there is no doubt that Mostafa is influenced by a wide range of artists. “I grew up listening to everything. My sister had a huge collection of tapes. Everything from Nirvana to Tupac,” he said. “I listen to Brother Ali, Blu, Landon Wordswell, Atmosphere, Blackalicious, Task1ne, Grouch, Ra Scion, Jesus Chris, Murs, Intuition Blueprint, Zion I, The Roots, De La Soul, Outkast… the list goes on and on. I listen to all different kinds of music though.”
This variety of music shows through in Mostafa’s own music, which incorporates elements of many different genres, all with the common thread of solid “boom-bap” production and extremely tight wordplay and lyrical ability.
Check out Mostafa’s music online at mostafa.bandcamp.com. He will be back on the road in the beginning of May, so stay tuned for local show dates.