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Hip-hop is rooted in empowerment, especially through wealth creation and celebrating that success. The genre shows with vivid imagery that success is possible through hard work and perseverance despite your environment. Artists like Jay-Z, Drake, Nas & Kendrick discuss their wealth, but couple it with hardships they had to face to achieve that wealth.

On the other hand, Dubai's image on the world stage is understood as a destination to celebrate. Dubai is the quintessential city to celebrate success, wealth and indulging in the glory Hip-hop loves talking about. However, a collective but truly distinct voice goes unheard that lives within the incredible city.

All images are supplied and owned by MK-1. Use without permission is prohibited.

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There is an entire generation of 3rd culture-expatriate audience whose lifestyles are a far cry from the image Hip-hop projects for the city. Hard work, struggle, instability, ambition and wide-eyed dreaming speaks more to this generation of ex-pats than the opulence and braggadocio. MK-1 speaks directly to this audience with his latest single Sandbox.

There is a whole different side to the Dubai coin and not many rappers address

"It's not often you get to hear songs that directly address simple places you visit or small things you do on the daily. This might sound mundane to someone not from Dubai, but that tea shop in the corner is a part of our story. That conscious choice to avoid Salik (road tolls) or freak out about balance on Nol cards, that's a reality to a lot of people here. There is a whole different side to the Dubai coin and not many rappers address that" says MK-1.

Accident?

MK-1 identifies as an experimental hip-hop artist, producer and engineer. Up until the release of Sandbox, MK-1 has written, recorded, produced and mixed all of his projects by himself. Sandbox is an exception to his usual approach due to what MK-1 describes as a "happy accident."

"I came across the instrumental in a local rap competition and I was completely hooked. My friends and family loved my entry for the competition and pushed me to make a full song out of it. I immediately reached out to 77, the producer of the beat and asked for him to collaborate with me on this project. He was super supportive and cool about the whole idea. At that point, I just had to make a serious single."

Sandbox fuses a nostalgic-sounding trap production with melodically rapped lyricism. The song represents not only a lifestyle but a melting pot of sounds and influences MK-1 has picked up across the years as an artist/producer.

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With lyricism echoing the imagery of a Nas record and a melodic flow bearing Drake's influence, the song is truly unique from its conception to execution. The track references local businesses and activities Dubai-ites will instantly recognize. By the second half of the song, the lyrics begin to reflect on what goes behind the curtains of living in Dubai.

Writing with honesty and vulnerability

MK-1 says "being vocal about uniqueness in your identity is my whole brand, so making a complete song out of a beat a lot of other rappers used in a competition was a bit of a mental block. Eventually, I just realized I am going to approach this song focusing on lyricism and catchiness. Writing with honesty and vulnerability with pop sensibility is something unique in Dubai's rap scene. At least on an awesome beat like this, at least in my opinion."