Reem Nabhani is unapologetically up front, one half of the Auckland duo HEAVY, her raps will shake you up and wake you up, pulling you out of your nine to five dream state.
For Reem, there’s a connection between and rap and spoken word poetry, both which she’s been writing for years. “I can speak about mental health and I can also rap about it, the intensity, or depth rather, still exists in both, just exposed differently.”
Her hard-hitting raps often tackle themes surrounding identity and abuse, her track Rotten deals with sexual abuse and domestic violence. Far from light topics, she released it with a note that read “It’s for anyone who has ever been silenced, who has felt unaccepted and unwanted. This shit is not okay, so let’s talk about it.”
It got people talking. “A lot of people seemed to relate to Rotten which is really great, I like knowing that someone felt something powerful through my music.”
She says it’s important to highlight oppression because put quite simply, when you have experienced rape or other forms of abuse, your control is taken from you, your identity is stripped away, especially if the abuse took place when you were a child.
“I lived my life putting that aside, I didn’t realise it was because I lost control every time it was bought up that it became an issue in my life.
“I don’t want to lose control over it anymore, you know. I gain control by highlighting the fuck out of it yes, this fucking happened, it made me make terrible choices but you know what? I am so much better today, I worked hard and still do. I can say that truly, it makes me tear up.”
For Reem, highlighting important issues extends beyond her lyrics, having donated profits from some of the sales of her music to support trans rights, played at a Shakti Youth march, at a fundraiser for Rainbow Youth and a raft of other good causes.
But does she see her music as political, or as a form of activism?
“Well just by me existing, that’s quite political isn’t it, doing what I am doing, fighting to exist on a daily basis, is a form of activism in its truest form, yes?
“I mean for anyone growing up with any sort of oppression we wake up every day with that thought of, what can I do today to be better? It’s not even a matter of this is important, like I actually have to, if I want a better life for myself, and I do it feeling proud, I am proud of myself.”
As a young queer person in the local music scene, she says it’s really funny how things work in the world we live in. Life is her experiment, choosing and taking out what she wants.
“Everyone loves getting into others people business and stuff, I found I got more attention when I started dating non-cis dudes, which is funny ’cause I felt at times like it was “cool” to be different or something.
“I was just figuring shit out you know, and there’s all this outward social pressure to pick a category, “well what are you?”
“I can only speak on behalf of my own experience.
“In saying all that, I don’t care, I love being who I am, I am everything and nothing, and that’s the way I perceive things, there should be a platform for every single fucking human on this planet.
Reem says she grew up being a bit of a rascal and in her words; quite disturbed, not very girly and more like a tomboy.
“I am also Arab, so there’s a lot of beautiful culture shit but there’s also consequences if you don’t follow rules.
“This is where religion gets confused with culture, living in oppression, too white to be Arab too Arab to be white. So yeah, all of that comes through my music, you can see it in how I behave when I perform. Under all that though, is the sweetest, baddest bitch you will ever meet.”
And how does it feel to be playing Auckland City Limits?
“Two words: fucking dope.”
You can catch HEAVY playing as part of Auckland City Limits this March, tickets are on sale now at Ticketmaster.