The Narcicyst has opened himself up with his online project The Leap of Faith.
The Narcicyst is making a leap into the unknown
As one of the most articulate and politically aware Arab MCs currently recording, The Narcicyst has a healthy legion of fans across the world.
But the Canadian-Iraqi rapper and writer aimed to do more than have his admirers download his new musical offering, Leap of Faith, when he launched the six-track EP. He also wanted to communicate with them personally, hear their voices and establish a forum for their creativity.
"I am an avid Twitter user and I started feeling like these one-way-conversations we are having could really be a more connective experience," explains the 30-year-old artist, who was born and schooled in Dubai. "But how many people use social media to really connect, as opposed to just say they've been there?"
So he set up a Tumblr blog on which people could post thoughts, poems, artwork, pictures, YouTube videos or anything else that is inspired by the title of the EP - the concept of a leap of faith, of letting go of your fears and jumping into uncertainty.
"Music is very much a one-way process when it comes to online projection, so I wanted to get feedback and insight into the people who listen to my music, by seeing their creative work," says Alsalman, who worked as a lecturer in hip-hop at Concordia University in Montreal but has recently moved back to his birthplace in the UAE.
"It's been very moving for people to share the story of their lives vis-à-vis my music," he adds.
For example, a quick scan of recent postings on the blog include a poem by a fan called Me Dreaming of a Leap of Faith, a clip of Public Enemy performing Fight the Power, while another showcases photos of street art.
One response, however, particularly affected him. "[There was] a young girl whose father died a year ago, and she hasn't been able to paint or draw him since," he recalls. "She said the album pushed her to paint a photo of him, and she posted it up. I was so humbled and moved. It was the best leap I could have ever heard of."
However, there have been some teething troubles along the way - not least when someone took it upon themselves to terminate the project.
"I initially opened the Tumblr and gave out the password but someone shut the site down and we had to start over," he says.
"Which is totally telltale of how diverse a range of opinion you can get. But it was a natural decision to also push myself to learn more about the people who support me, it's an important connection."
This hitch aside, the project is now up and running, giving Alsalman time to focus on finishing his new album, which will feature the Algerian-Canadian singer Meryem Saci.
He's also about to become involved in the Creative Lab project, an initiative run by the Abu Dhabi media zone, twofour54, to support Arab artists.
Acting is another of Alsalman's talents, with his most notable role being in the Emirati director Ali Mustafa's multilayered Dubai-based drama, City of Life.
Rumour has it that he will have a part in Mustafa's next project From A to B, on which filming will start soon. It concerns a group of friends heading out on holiday from Abu Dhabi to Beirut.
But Alsalman refuses to confirm this. "Be on the lookout for some interesting developments soon," is all he will reveal about future acting jobs.
For more information about The Leap of Faith project visit theleapup.tumblr.com