Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 24 January 2020

Emirati hip-hop producer Icekream on winning his father's approval through music

The beat-smith, real name Issam Freiha, recently released a collaborative EP with Saudi and Dubai-based rapper Majeed

A big scoop of talent: Icekream. Photo by Skyler Greene  
A big scoop of talent: Icekream. Photo by Skyler Greene  

Emirati hip-hop producer Issam Freiha’s debut release may clock in at less than 15 minutes long, but the promising talent on display is a fitting culmination to years of artistic and family struggles.

Released under his stage name Icekream, the five-song collection Icekream and Majeed presents Night Feel could be viewed as the first out-and-out trap-music release to come from the UAE.

The EP is a collaboration with Dubai-based Saudi rhymer Majeed, whose assured flows make smooth work of Freiha’s stuttering, somewhat zany beats. The EP functions as another stellar example of the burgeoning hip-hop scene in the UAE and also acts as a calling card to big-name artists in search of fresh and timely sounds.

But it’s about much more than winning the approval of the genre’s leading names. Freiha, who splits his time between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, says that the biggest satisfaction arrived in the form of his father’s much sought-after support.

“I think he finally understood what I am trying do. That I was taking this music thing for real and I have a passion and talent for it. I remember I was playing an outdoor gig not long ago, and my father came to see it. He was amazed by the crowd response and having a good time to the tracks, and he was very proud. That, to me, was a great feeling,” he says.

And it is hard-earned. It is the typical tale that has played out among many generations in various part of the world: the young child who decides to follow his artistic passions in spite of their parent’s views that they should get a “regular job”.

For Freiha, it all began when he was a young teenager residing in Paris. After witnessing the finals of the DMC World DJ Championships – which featured a young A-Trak, who went on to become a successful producer and DJ for the likes of Kanye West – Freiha was hooked into all things hip-hop.

“I was, like, 13 years old and it really blew my mind, man, and I became obsessed with hip-hop since that day basically,” he says with a chuckle.

“It was dangerous. You know, you grow up in an Arab home where everything is strict and obedient, [and hip-hop is] is really loose and you say what you want even if people were offended by it.”

One of those people weary of the young Freiha’s latest obsession was his father. The businessman approached his son’s interest in a pragmatic fashion.

“Basically, the deal was he was OK with it as long as I continue my education,” Freiha recalls.

However, it was after he quit a business course at American University of Dubai in 2009 – less than a month into his first term – that his father’s patience snapped and, thus began a long period of almost no contact.

Freiha admits to not taking his schooling seriously enough, and as a result, he had no option but to succeed in the music game. This prompted years of manic working hours, building his name as both a DJ and producer; days spent creating a range of experimental beats in makeshift studios, with nights honing his craft via DJing gigs across the UAE.

Now, the effort appears to be paying off: ­Freiha’s beats caught the ear of Majeed on SoundCloud. Such was their personal and artistic chemistry that the EP was wrapped in three months.

But perhaps more promisingly, Freiha recently signed a deal with Miami-based production house ­Epidemic, run by illustrious hip-hop producers Cool and Dre, who have worked with Lil Wayne and Rick Ross.

Cool and Dre will attempt to pair a selection of Freiha’s beats with US-based rappers.

With Freiha now spending more time making connections in the US, he is well on his way to making music into his career. As for the relationship with his father, Freiha states that it couldn’t be better.

“This is really the best ending for this story,” he says. “I have [made] some mistakes and I have learnt from it, but Alhamdulillah it all happens for a reason. The music is going good and my relationship with my father is amazing and I continue to learn so much from him.”

And with that, Freiha states he has to leave. It’s his father’s birthday and they are going out for dinner.

Icekream and Majeed presents Night Feel is out now


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Updated: January 16, 2019 06:23 PM