Said, aka Farooq Al-Said, is adamant that he would still be in prison today if he didn’t have God on his side.
The rapper, activist and COO of 1Hood Media was arrested at the age of 17 for an altercation which, if convicted, would have meant 28 years in prison. Originally from Toronto, Saïd was sent to an immigration center and celebrated his 18th birthday in solitary confinement.
“While going to therapy, I realized how much it had changed my life,” he says. “For the past two years, especially the last calendar year, I’ve been the worst version of myself I’ve ever been. There was a lot of trauma that I didn’t realize I was finally dealing with… This album was so important to me because I found unhealthy ways to express it.
This album, Revolutionary but beautiful (RBG), released this year on his birthday, September 16, via 1Hood Media, has unwittingly become a healthy outlet for Saïd and his emotions. The 10-track project follows his 2020 LP The child with golden armsand uses old-school hip-hop elements and honest, free-flowing rhymes to share Saïd’s experiences with depression, social justice, incarceration and black resilience.
“All the content, everything on the album, that’s all I struggled with,” says Saïd. “For me, it was like stepping back in time and being completely honest with a lot of the things I was involved in.”
To go back in time
RBG exists, and Saïd is not currently behind bars for his teenage altercation, as his case ended in a mistrial.
“The police ended up tampering with my evidence, and I walked,” says Saïd. “God kept giving me these alley-oops. Right after that, my best friend was shot in the head. God was like, ‘You know what I mean? I’m giving you these opportunities. If you don’t want to listen, I gave you a sign of what’s going to happen to you. It kind of forced me into the music business because it was either that or the street.
Saïd has always been attracted to and had ties to the music world. One of the ways he learned English – Said’s first language is Arabic – was by singing or rapping along to songs. He remembers watching Paula Abdul on TV and looking up to Prince a lot. The first rap he learned was “Microphone Fiend” by Eric B. & Rakim.
In eighth grade, Saïd’s English teacher caught him freestyling with friends over lunch.
“She said, ‘You use a lot of colorful language in your rapping,'” Said explains. “I said, ‘I know, it’s rap.’ She was, like, ‘I love it, I love the way you express yourself.'”
This is how Saïd’s teacher makes a deal with the budding musician. She would provide him with vocabulary words at the start of each week, and he would be allowed to rap in front of class on Fridays, but he had to use all the new vocabulary words.
“Hip hop has given me all the opportunities I have right now, more or less. It’s my therapy, my decompression, my joy, my pain,” says Saïd. and found in the hip hop spectrum are an integral part of me.”
After beating his charges and getting out of prison, Saïd went straight into the music industry. Within two years, he signed a recording contract with Universal Music and Godsendant Music Group under the name Ayatollah Jaxx and was writing credits on Billboard tracks. It was a linear career trajectory dating back to before Said’s arrest. He was making waves and connections in the music business at a young age, but, as Said puts it, “The younger me had a problem for every solution.
“There’s this overlap between street and hip hop. I was introduced to the music industry because I shook the right hand,” he says. “When I was 15, I had a record I wrote for this R&B band that went to no. 23 on the Billboard charts. So [at that age], I had this idea that I was going to get into the music business, but I was super involved in the street. But God kept giving me alley-oops to get out.
Since 2018, Saïd has been a member of the socially responsible local arts organization 1Hood Media, of which he is now the director of operations. At 1Hood, Saïd does everything he can to build liberated communities through art and social justice.
“These are two components that are part of my being,” he says.
After quitting rapping altogether in 2010 – he says he felt disenfranchised from the music industry – Saïd, the son of a former Black Panther father and a mother who got political asylum from Lebanon, has set his sights on using hip hop to uplift, inspire and educate. youth, just as it did for him when he was a child. He had no intention of making another album, but when Saïd began to go through a difficult period in his life, hip hop, as he proved time and time again throughout his life, was the strength he hadn’t realized he needed. .
“I started writing all these feelings and I got all these instrumentals from the guy who produced the album, Hobbes [Duendes], which also came out of 1Hood,” says Saïd. “[RBG] was a passion project, something I wanted to get out of my chest, and I just had this platform and this artistry to do it. I wouldn’t say I’m back in the music industry. It felt like work that needed to be shared with people.
In 2019, Saïd lost his mother and his daughter soon after. These deaths, compounded by unresolved past trauma, caused Saïd’s mental health to plummet.
“So many people in my life felt like they were victims of this spiral I was in,” he says. “That’s why the title is Revolutionary but beautiful, because revolution is never pretty, but liberation is. And if I can free myself from myself, then that’s revolutionary and beautiful.
Saïd made a point of stressing that he does not want his daughter’s death to be a selling point for the album. Instead, he talks about the experience because it happened and because it affected him.
“It gave me something to say about what mental health looks like for black men, especially black men in their 30s,” says Saïd. “I really think this album is special because I give a side of black male vulnerability that we haven’t really seen yet, and I’m not sacrificing anything for it.”
Revolutionary but beautiful brings up topics and discussions that aren’t happening, and Said wants people to listen to the album not because he thinks it’s great (although he certainly does) but because he thinks that he can help.
“The album is a conversation black people should have,” he says. “It’s groundbreaking but beautiful.”