Two Tone, aka Rachid Ben Messaoud, is a Dutch-born artist with Moroccan roots, based in Dubai. As an MC, Two Tone has made a name for himself in the city with his lively summer track, ‘Senorita’ followed by ‘Keep on Going’ which went straight to the number one spot on iTunes upon its release. Since ‘Senorita’ premiered back in June 2014 on Virgin Radio, the rapper has received international attention for the hit and has spent the summer touring across South America, Europe and the USA.
‘My passion is hip-hop but as I’ve grown more as a person and as an artist, I’ve started to explore mixing hip-hop with commercial music. ‘Senorita’ is a mix of Spanish, Reggaeton and hip-hop, so that’s opened up a lot of doors for me,’ he explains. ‘I’ve collaborated with Erick Machado, a Cuban artist who lives in Dubai, on both tracks. MTV introduced me to him, so we met up and went to the studio and we just tried to come up with something together that was feel-good happy music. It only took about two hours to create the track.’
The Latin-inspired song tells the story of a guy meeting a girl and showing her the world, taking in locations such as Miami, Morocco and Dubai.
‘We name all the fun cities that we’ve been to. I’ve heard that people think the track is Pitbull. In hip-hop you have a few genres and in commercial hip-hop there are only a few people, such as Flo Rida and Pitbull, that have this kind of sound. For me it’s good because he’s one of the best artists out there right now, so it’s not like I’m being compared to the worst,’ he says.
Growing up in the Netherlands, Two Tone had a passion for street rap in the ’90s and was part of a group called 252 Maindrive, an underground street crew. ‘When you’re young there’s a lot of peer pressure and you might get into bad company but when you grow up you start making changes and that’s what I’ve done, I have learned from it. My life is beautiful right now, I’m in Dubai, and I have a successful business and family.’
The artist has been writing his own songs since the age of 14 and his music has Latin and Arabic influences, touching on his Moroccan roots. ‘Growing up I listened to rap from the West coast of America – NWA, Snoop Dog, Ice Cube and Tupac. I wrote my own song and performed with a live band at school and of course back then it was a brag song, bragging about being the best,’ he recalls.
He pursued a degree in business before moving to Dubai in 2008 where he set up his own record label, Selfmade Entertainment DXB. ‘I write all my own music and co-produce with my producer. For me, it’s important to write my own stuff because only you can know what’s going on in your head to express yourself. If you listen to the radio right now, ‘Senorita’ and ‘Keep on Going’ are different to what’s being played. It’s not what you are used to. When people realise I’m Dubai based, they are actually surprised and that’s what I want to do. Dubai’s not really known for its music internationally. I want people to associate Two Tone with Dubai.
He explains the name Two Tone comes from his ability to sing with both a low and high voice. When he is not putting his vocal skills to use, he runs a successful souvenir business, Robin-Ruth, in Dubai.
‘I’m far from having my big break, but I’m working hard. It’s a big challenge to get on the radio everywhere. I want to release a few singles and create enough demand to release an album. I’ve had offers from record labels but they didn’t match what I want – I’ve invested a lot in myself. Eventually, I’ll have to team up with a major label to open up doors that are closed now, but at this stage I’m free to do whatever I want. Once you’re with a major label, you have restrictions on what you can do.’
With the success of his latest tracks across the Middle East and Spain, the talented Two Tone is no doubt on his way to the top.
Find out more about the artist and listen to his latest releases at www.twotonedxb.com.
Dubai artists to watch
Hamdan Al Abri
Watch the talented singer perform his soulful tracks alongside Funk Radius every Tuesday.
Free. 9pm-3am. Atelier M, Pier 7, Dubai Marina (055 147 6034).
Treasured UAE soul man Adam Baluch, whose Bohemian style and smooth sound has the ability to loop together a myriad of raw musical instruments into one, can be seen every Saturday at from 5pm to 7pm. Free entry, picnic packages from Dhs733.
Noon-3am. Zero Gravity, Skydive Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 399 0009).
Clarita de Quiroz
The UAE’s number one-selling classically trained pianist, percussionist and vocalist is influenced by everyone from Nina Simone to The Roots.