Mustafa, a singer, songwriter, spoken word poet and member of the Toronto collective Halal Gang (Mo-G, Safe, Puffy L’z, and Smoke Dawg) — debuted his first single, "Stay Alive," in early 2020, leaving fans yearning for more.
Getting an early start at the age of 12, Mustafa’s powerful poetry and growing popularity have led to guest spots on CBC, songwriting credits on music from fellow Canadians Shawn Mendes and The Weeknd, and press features in Pitchfork, Complex and Rolling Stone. In the short time since his music debut, Mustafa has built a loyal following for his music on YouTube. In addition to “Stay Alive,” he released “Air Forces” this past September and shared music he collaborated on with James Blake.
His highly-anticipated debut album, “When Smoke Rises” will be released this year.
To celebrate Mustafa’s growing star power on YouTube, we did a quick Q&A to give fans an inside look at what inspires this up-and-coming Trending Artist on the Rise:
Where are you from? Mustafa: “I’m from Regent Park, Toronto, Canada, Nubian blood.”
Finish this sentence, Toronto is...? Mustafa: “Toronto is a dreamland and a graveyard.”
How important is it for you to incorporate your experience of growing up in Regent Park/Toronto into your work? Mustafa: It’s essential, I am because of Regent Park, without mentioning it people won’t understand my why and how.
What inspired the last song you wrote and/or recorded? Mustafa: “My love for someone was being tested by a state of war we were both in. It came in the way of what we felt for each other, I lost her but found a song... when life gives you lemons!”
What are your top priorities when it comes to making a new music video? Mustafa: “Staying heavy on documenting authentic emotion and nuance, always eliminating unnecessary VFX/surrealism, constantly asking myself how I’m stimulating the pace of the song with the visual.”
Do you remember the first music video you ever watched on YouTube? If so, what was it? Mustafa: “I remember “One Mic” by Nas, the narrative and video at the time holds real nostalgic weight in my life.”
What other Canadian artists have had an influence on the type of artist you are today? Mustafa: “Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. In the future, I’d love to collaborate with Neil Young.”
What was the predominant emotion you felt when you got a standing ovation at Toronto's Hot Docs Film Festival? Mustafa: “It was power, a thing a 12 year old black Muslim boy didn’t think he could yield then or ever, I knew there were 2 sides to that power, trying to stay on the right side of it.”
How does it feel to be part of YouTube's Artist on the Rise? Were you excited when you found out? Mustafa: “Absolutely excited. Imposter syndrome always strikes, but I’m grateful and humbled to have a platform to spread the light of my community further.”
YouTube has long served as a place for artists to find an audience for their sound, and from this, Artist on the Rise was born. This feature within the Explore tab on YouTube’s mobile app showcases the promising future of a new emerging artist every week to our Canadian users.