By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Innovative Life picks up around this time — Nazel having earned a name deejaying alongside Egyptian Lover — with Arabian Prince’s first recording, “Strange Life.” Like a lot of electro, the song is a minimal work of heavy beats, light rhymes and airy effects, but Arabian’s voice and ear were among the best of the time. Middle Eastern synth lines chase reversed vocals; live guitar and bass add spacey depth; and the effected drums demonstrate far more range than usually heard in those pre-sampler days. His approach is impressively off-kilter, as are his observations about life and ladies in the ’80s.
“I’m a nut,” Arabian says. “People tell me that Walt Disney probably threw up in my brain because I’m into cartoons and I’m never sad or mad. I had a sense of humor, and I wanted to put that in my music. I just wanted everybody to party. From then until now, that’s been my only goal. Even with N.W.A. When the scene started to change and the music got harder, I just stopped writing. I really didn’t have anything gangster in my head.”
Beyond his technical abilities and friendship with Dr. Dre, it’s hard to understand why Arabian was brought into Eazy E’s hyperviolent vision of rap’s future. To Arabian Prince, N.W.A was just another project (in addition to his solo work, he’d been producing and performing with rap parody group Bobby Jimmy & the Critters — remember “Roaches”?), but it was also electro’s death knell. By ’86, the year Ice T released “6 N The Mornin,” the peaceful parties were going to the gangs, and when N.W.A formed in ’87, Arabian’s high-energy tracks (see “Panic Zone” on Innovative Life) were sore thumbs jutting out of his new group’s clenched fist. Even so, to this day Arabian cites poor payout as his sole reason for quitting just a few weeks before Straight Outta Compton dropped.
“Dre had a Mazda RX-7 with no back window, and I had a ’76 Mercury Capri that overheated, and we’d drive out to Rialto to visit two of the girls from J.J. Fad,” says Arabian. He and Dre co-produced Fad’s Grammy-nominated classic “Supersonic.”
“We’d listen to the radio on the way out there, hearing our hits playing, and be like, ‘These are songs that we made, but we’re not getting the money.’ I figured I could go back to doing my own thing and make a lot more.”
He was right, sort of. After a fantastic final stab at reviving electro under his Professor X alias, Arabian released a couple of middling G-funk records, then turned his professional interests to the hobby that had consumed him while on tour: computer programming. His special effects company worked on Independence Day and Power Rangers among many others, and more recently, he’s lent his [voice and beats] to the Grand Theft Auto franchise (which he also play-tested) and designed cartoons for Korean television. Arabian has been plenty successful by way of staying innovative, and in a slightly ironic turn of events, 20 years later, the music movement that he helped to start is picking up steam again. He’s just returned from a [series of German dates] with Egyptian Lover, and before he gathers his golf clubs, he reveals that he’ll release two albums of new material before the year is out. Of course, if he makes it onto the PGA tour (a sincere hope of his), the man who still introduces himself as “Arabian” may have a different story to tell.