A multi-faceted artist living in Montreal, Narcy is an Iraqi-Canadian artist who has dipped his hand in a variety of different creative disciplines, establishing himself as a leader and ambassador for the Arab-Canadian community. His unapologetic nature coupled with his natural talent and disciplined work ethic have allowed him to succeed both here in Canada and abroad. Below is Reda Zarrug’s interview with Narcy ahead of his show at Queen St. Fare in Ottawa.
Reda: Have you always been this comfortable in allowing your identity to be influenced by your eastern roots and your western upbringing? And how?
Narcy: I never really question it. As a generation, I feel we belong nowhere and everywhere at once. It’s been a pretty natural process to be honest. I have also had the ability to travel back and forth. That has kept me rooted and displaced simultaneously.
Reda: Your love of hip-hop doesn’t stop in the studio, but rather it has extended into academia as well. You taught a class at Concordia University called “Hip-Hop: Past, Present and Future”. Being a lover of academia myself it was nice to see the merging of these two worlds. Why did you decide to pursue this opportunity?
Narcy: I started recording music at Concordia while studying. I would book the studio under the guise of doing school work and knock out albums and mixtapes. I think that also naturally translated to me being in the institution with a non-institutional approach, which later became the ethos of my classes. The opportunity came to co-teach, then take over a class. And here I am.
Reda: On the topic of hip-hop’s past, if you had to pick a time in hip-hop that was your favourite era what it would be?
Narcy: It would have to be the mid-90’s where lyricism was at its peak and production was expanding. I am very embracing of all eras, hip-hop is not a stagnant voice, it changes every day. If we don’t embrace that then we lose the actual essence of hip-hop culture and music.
Reda: In a world where the consumer’s opinion is the driver for artistic expression, how do you make sure to stay original to the music you want to make, while still making sure you stay relevant to your fans?
Narcy: I don’t think about who will listen when I make the music. I just think of people who may have had the same experience of Diaspora and identity as me and make sure its quality over quantity. I just keep my head down and try to expand my creativity and thought. Also in that process, it becomes a simplified version of the same narrative that I’ve been sharing in my music for ages. Expanding and honing in at the same time.
Reda: In 2013, you changed your name from The Narcicyst to Narcy, and to me it seemed like the music changed in tandem with the name. Why the name change? And is my observation correct or is it some sort of sonic placebo that I’ve created?
Narcy: I think when I changed my name, the music became more about the micro experience of being myself as opposed to the macro view of the world. Though the politic and social awareness is still present, I felt the necessity as a creative to just be personal and close to the listener, as opposed to criticizing larger systems of thought in the music. I can do that in my interviews, my classes, my conversations, but the music became gentler and more…me.
Reda: What does your creative process look like?
Narcy: Every song is different. More recently, I’ve been enjoying writing in the moment and not overthinking the process. Just being free has been the most fruitful and enjoyable process to be honest.
Reda: Your pride in Arab culture in a time of rampant discrimination and Islamophobia is refreshing. What do you believe is the biggest ailment crippling the Arab world right now?
Narcy: The biggest Ailment crippling our region would be leaders that don’t accept free thought and will. The people are like people everywhere; they are creative, happy, and beautiful. The systems of rule, though there were attempts to change them, have not changed. The Arab Spring was a puppeteers’ game. We still lack true leadership that is representative of the Arab World and unity. I doubt we will ever have that to be honest.
Reda: Your artistic expression isn’tt only within hip-hop but you’re also a published author as well. “The Diatribes of a Dying Tribe” felt like our urban, Arab, western cultural experience written by our ambassadors. What was the inspiration to writing that book?
Narcy: That book was my thesis study on Arab Identity and Hip-Hop Culture. The book was an expansion on the thesis, involving all my friends and colleagues in the music game. It was a study of why I loved hip-hop and what I have to do to pay homage to the culture that helped me find myself.
Reda: This new album Spacetime is one that seems even more different than the rest. This album is full of creative risks and almost an unwavering authenticity. Tell me about the name Spacetime. Tell me about the concept of the album.
Narcy: SpaceTime was really about being in the moment. It was about the feelings I had while recording; the doubt, and the fear, reaching for the stars and falling, and getting back up. It is also about claiming my space in this time, to show that we are resilient people who will never waver our position. This album is the most me. I am not a person that enjoys being one type of artist; I love risks and pushing myself towards a bigger light. I am also obsessed with space, planets, the Universe, and the cosmos. While recording these internal feelings, I was watching a lot of space footage, documentaries and reading about the Sumerian history and relationship to the Cosmos.
Reda: Describe yourself in one sentence?
Narcy: A complicated, self-aware-self-critical family man.
Narcy will be performing at Queen St. Fare in Ottawa, Canada on February 15, 2019 along with supporting artist Hevve. Click below for tickets.