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January 24, 2012 10:23 am

Shalom Haters: Interview with Israeli/North African MC SHI 360

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avatar by Erez Safar

Hip-hop artist SHI 360. Photo: Courtesy.

Israeli/North African MC SHI 360 releases “Shalom Haters” video which received over 30,000 unique views in one week and debuted on Vibe Magazine’s All Hip Hop site. This Platinum artist from Israel, has toured all over the world with acts from Subliminal to Killah Priest. The video shares a title with SHI 360’s full length break out English record, ‘Shalom Haters’ which hit stores world-wide today on Shemspeed/360 Music Records. SHI 360 sat down with Shemspeed’s Sarah Weiss late last week for an exclusive interview on Algemeiner.

SW: How did you get started in Hip Hop?

SHI 360: When I was a kid in Israel there was no hip hop on the radio except one pirate station called “the voice of peace.”  It was broadcasting from a ship somewhere in the Mediterranean (that was also their promo lol “from somewhere in the Mediterranean”). They used to play “American” music and that was when I heard hip hop for the first time – I loved it. When my family moved to North America, I heard hip hop everywhere and started really getting into it.  As a teenager we used to hang out at the park real late and freestyle and also during breaks. Many of my friends believed I should start recording but I never took it there. I didn’t believe in myself enough, until 1993 when I started recording my first demos on tapes through my earphones because I didn’t have a mic. I just took off from there.

SW: You rap in Hebrew more than any of the other languages you speak.  Do you find that it limits your reach? Why are most of your songs in Hebrew if you are from Canada?

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SHI 360: I actually started rapping in English and released an album called “Chapters”. When I moved back to Israel after 15 years in Canada I had to “learn” to rap in hebrew. My hebrew wasn’t as good as my English at the time, so it was a slow process. It was a dream of mine to rap in Hebrew in Israel, and spread hip hop there as well. I do find that Hebrew has more limitations in terms of phrasing and rhyming then English does. Rapping in Hebrew does limit you to a smaller audience, but it’s my people. This new album is now in English again because I got a lot to say and I want a larger audience to hear it.

SW: Would you call yourself a zionist rapper?

SHI 360: I don’t consider myself a zionist rapper, although many would say otherwise. I rap about social and political issues. In some of the songs I say things that people don’t get in the media and it makes people tag me as a zionist – that’s their problem. I tell it like it is. If a story is one sided, I will do everything I can to give you the other side as well, just so you can get a balanced picture and not be afraid to think for yourself. The media has put a lot of effort into vilifying the word zionism. Zionism simply supports the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish homeland – Zion. The Jewish people are native to the Middle East and Israel is our home. Many people have a problem with the term “Jewish state”. What if it was Muslim or Christian? hmmmm

SW: You were on Subliminal’s label, TACT and now you are on Shemspeed and 360 Music. What brought that on and how do you feel about the new home?

SHI 360: The move felt very natural to me. I was independent for a year or so, working on this new album. Erez (Shemspeed CEO extraordinaire) and I connected through hip hop and met in NY when I came to show support at a big Shemspeed event in Brooklyn. We started discussing different ways of doing business together and I ended up signing the new record “Shalom Haters” with them. Shemspeed has that great independent feel and a passion for music that I haven’t seen in many other labels. On top of that, their materials are right down my alley so the connection was real good. I’m very excited and looking forward to doing big things with them.

SW: Do you think that Israeli hip hop could ever make a mark on the mainstream world similar to some of the French hip hop that has made some waves?

SHI 360: I do. Good music transcends all boundaries. This new album is set to make some noise on a global scale and represent Israeli hip hop worldwide.  I believe Shalom Haters will be more than an album  – it’s a movement.

SW: What’s the story behind ‘Shalom Haters’? The title and cover art looks aggressive, but also in a way playful, it’s definitely catchy, but also controversial. What do you want the world to take away from such a phrase?

SHI 360: Shalom Haters was started by a good friend of mine and an incredible artist called Hebrew Mamita. I really loved it and asked to borrow it and make something of my own with it. With her blessing, this is not only the title track, but the name of the album as well. It is, like you say, very playful. On one hand, haters are real popular in hip hop. But beyond that, the Jewish people have so many haters that you just gotta say “shalom” haha I mean – I throw love at the haters you feel me? It’s the only way…I want people to take away that there is no energy to be wasted on haters. Just say “shalom” and wave.

SW: What’s the message behind “Forgive and Forget”? The title seems to say forgive those that wronged you and not to dwell on the wrong doings, but much of the song still seems to place blame and point out a lot of the wrong doings…

SHI 360: Forgive and Forget is there to remind us that we are often time blinded to believe everything the media shows us. These past few years, the media has spent so much time, money and energy on making Israel the “oppressor and aggressor” – it’s outrageous to me. There are so many sides involved and yet we only see one. I don’t want to get TOO political, but instead of looking at who to blame, we should look at how similar we are and how much we have in common. Extend our hand out and put our arms down.

SW: What’s next?

SHI 360: Shalom Haters – the movement – North American tour. Just gotta make sure Erez is all over it. haha




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