Apart from all the fine musical bands and acoustic individuals the AUB Music Club never fails to breed, JKeen is a unique case: he is the club’s first rapper, and he is known for his fire tracks.
Being inspired by things he genuinely believes in and from personal life experiences, Hakim opts for storytelling through rapping. “I feel like I share my story in a song,” JKeen said
A man with many stories but of many more names, JKeen used to go by JayDee in his early months of rapping but later decided to change his stage name to Jay-Wise, in reference to his last name, only to discover that it belongs to another musician. The name JKeen was born after the rapper contacted his cousin who “is good with words.”
The name belongs to AUB student Jad Hakim, who is majoring in Media and Communication and is set to graduate by the end of this fall semester. Hakim grew up in Abu Dhabi and came to Lebanon in 2012 to study at the American University of Beirut.
Hakim comes from what one could call a musical family, and played the guitar for five solid years. As a child, he was always into R&B and dreamt of becoming an R&B performer, but thought he lacked the vocals for it. After watching a group of his friends casually rap, he was inspired to pursue his own ambitions and began writing his own lyrics, recording his first song in 2010.
The rapper shared his thoughts on how the local rap scene in Lebanon is not too popular, but is fortunately growing at a slow pace. JKeen also mentioned his admiration for some of the local Lebanese rap artists and his hopes of collaborating with some of them in the future.
“When you go see live performances, maybe one performer out of 20 is a rapper, and usually these rappers don’t seek rap as their profession,” Hakim explained. Hakim also pointed out that booking gigs as a rapper is not an easy task and that he counts on the AUB Music Club’s events to perform. In fact, he will be performing in the upcoming Christmas gig hosted by the club.
In Lebanon more than elsewhere, people continuously underestimate rap as an artform but that only gives JKeen the chance to change their minds.
“People sometimes have a weird first impression and then when they listen to my work, they realize that it’s real work with actual effort,” he said.
Even someone who drops rhymes as sick as JKeen gets anxious about performing in front of crowds. The AUB Music Club, as mentioned by the rapper, helped him get over that fear.
“It has been amazing ever since I joined,” said JKeen. “When I first started rapping, I had a fear of performing in front of people, but then I joined the Music Club and attended the jam sessions, general assemblies, and other specific events that were hosted by the club. They helped me develop my performance and skills. I’ve been performing ever since and can’t wait to perform again.”
After deliberate thinking, JKeen disclosed that he doesn’t believe he would participate in large talent shows.
“If I join a competition, it would probably be just for the experience,” said the rapper. “The reason I do not want to join is because the judges will change my music into something they want the audience to hear.”
JKeen spent a semester abroad in the United States, the birthplace of rap, where he met a lot interesting people that made good music, and discussed future collaborations with them.
“The fact that I went there gave me more of an insight on what is happening [in the US]. The stuff I write about now are different from what I used to write about then,” commented Hakim.
Hakim has always been a fan of underground rap artists because he believes he can learn from watching them grow into the artists they are now and draw inspiration from the way their music evolved, and how they interact with their fans.
And if anyone was wondering if, as a rapper, Hakim raps or sings in the shower, he actually does both! The shower has proven to be productive, as JKeen comes up with a lot of his lyrics in there.
Hakim is releasing his mixtape, between 10 and 12 songs, in the beginning of 2017 as yet another step towards his professional rapping career.