BY M. LAPHAM
Julian has given the Chaldean community a voice in the world of hip hop.
Before Julian, no Chaldean had broken into that musical genre at this level, and he takes it as a point of pride that he can bring his community into it. The ability to be that ambassador is important to him.
“I could be that Chaldean artist who can make it,” says Julian, “I want to do that for my people.”
His depth in the community shows in his work, right down to the words he chooses. “I use a lot of Chaldean slang in my music and mention things that only Chaldeans would understand,” he says.
Julian gained major attention from Soundcloud, a music and podcast streaming platform, where his independently released singles “Love Me” and “Barbie” surpassed 150,000 plays. From that success he was offered a contract with Platinum Records/Independent. Now he has a debut single called, “Got It on Your Own”, featuring American singer, songwriter, and record producer Jeremih.
“The storyline talks about a girl who’s lost in her problems, emotionally and mentally,” he explains. “At the time I was dating this girl. That was her hang up. After we broke up, I dated this other girl, and she had a similar issue. The part where she’s fighting with her mom in the song is true. In the lyrics, she talks to her dad because girls often will turn to their fathers. It’s a real-life experience. We thought Jeremih would be the perfect fit for it to catch the listener’s attention.”
All of his music reflects Julian’s life. The idea of being genuine is important to him. This is why he does not write about drugs or guns given that he has no experience. He cites examples like fellow rapper Drake with similar views on their music.
“I never talk about things that aren’t me,” he says. “You’ll never hear me talking about abusing drugs or guns. I don’t do that. I talk about who I am and what I do. My family background is all music. It may be classical, but I took a different path. I just want to keep making more and more music. I hope people feel it.”
This could explain in part why he stands out. Not only is rap music a genre that focuses on such themes, but those subjects are also negative stereotypes tied to Detroit. His music may act as a type of positive PR for the city.
While Julian is not sure if that is the case, he says it could be, and he would proud to be that ambassador.
Part of his commitment to authenticity comes from his music being a form of catharsis for him – for whatever is going on in his life.
“I’m the type of person who doesn’t really show emotion face-toface,” he admits. “If I was sitting with you, I wouldn’t tell you if I was mad at you. Rap was the gateway for me to express my emotions, though.”
While always interested in music, he decided to pursue this career in earnest after he attended a Dubai conference hosted by Timbaland, Quincy Jones, and Will.i.am.
He says Eminem, Lil Wayne, Biggie, Puff and Michael Jackson are his biggest influences. He first started to rap along with fellow metro Detroiter Eminem’s “Encore” album at age eight. This was between more classical music lessons.
He also admired Michael Jackson’s style and charisma and views Biggie as the one who took hip-hop worldwide. Still, Julian’s music has a unique Chaldean flair.
Much of that connection comes from his big family. They celebrated all the Chaldean traditions and forged a deep internal connection that reflected the culture.
That deep familial relationship is where Julian’s musical talent originates. His father, an accomplished pianist, teaches at a music school in Dubai – which is where Julian got much of his musical background, though it was not hip hop. It was there he learned about classic guitar, piano, and the basics of song writing.
He is the third generation to be immersed in music.
Julian and his siblings were taught music from an early age by their father, who began learning to play the accordion at age 4 with the assistance of Julian’s grandfather, who was the first in the family to make a name in music. He was in the Iraqi symphony for 20 years.
The musical abilities of his father and grandfather inspired Julian to step into the family tradition.
His personal style of music is the result of that upbringing as well as the time he spent in two very different cultures. Most of his time was spent in Dubai, with two to three months in Michigan. That made him a man of two worlds, and that life split between Michigan and Dubai has given him a unique take on the world.
“That upbringing was the best thing for me,” he says. “In Dubai, there are so many people from all over the world. I learned their cultures and traditions, ate their food, and listened to their stories. Coming back to Michigan, it was a whole different culture change. The lingo and way of life are their own. Both experiences define who I am as an artist.” Even in Dubai, where the Chaldean community is very sparse, Julian and his family made connections. It also made his time in Michigan a treat because of the large Chaldean population here.
“We were all raised the same,” he says about his Michigan Chaldean connections.
His Michigan link shows up in his music as well. You’ll sometimes hear the words “party store” – a phrase rarely heard outside Michigan.
Whether you want to call him the Chaldean Elvis or another Eminem or Elton John, Julian has become the Chaldean voice, and he never forgets what that means.