Better known as one-half of Auckland stoner-rap duo Heavy, Reem Nabhani has stepped out on her own and is now making music as MEER. Not that Heavy are going anywhere; both Nabhani and her co-conspirator Liam Dargaville have been spending their downtime between records carving out and exploring their own distinct corners of New Zealand rap music.
For Nabhani, that means using her new project as an opportunity to comment on issues facing young people in her community. "Growing up in a really religious household that denies you any sort of freedom of any kind—and is really silencing, especially when it comes to sexuality, abuse and rape—is something most Arabs experience," she told us recently. "I've come across so many that are too afraid to be what they want because their family won't accept it, amongst other reasons. It can lead to mental health issues."
Unapologetic in her approach, Nabhani's debut single, "Mango" is a continuation of her determination to shine a light on oppression.
Dargaville produced the song, and Madison Eve—aka Peach Milk—another emerging New Zealand talent, recorded, mixed and mastered the sub-two minute gem.
Noisey: Last time we talked, you said that this project was about shining a light on injustices within the Arab community. Is this new song a continuation of that theme?
MEER: Yes, it is. I'm only speaking about my own personal experiences as an Arab individual, but I'm sure other people can relate too. But you won't really get it unless you have grown up in a similar environment.
What are some of the personal experiences that you're speaking about?
It's the feeling of thinking that you are trapped, mentally, in a really religious Middle Eastern household, when outside of that is completely the opposite. So I'm stuck living in two different worlds everyday. So many people go through this, and I just want to shine some light on this matter. Enough is enough!
How has growing up in New Zealand as a young Arab woman influenced your decision to tackle these issues?
I pretty much grew up teaching myself everything. I didn't learn much from my family—and if I did, it was what not to do. I never had anyone tell me what was right or wrong and it kills me to know there could be other people that are growing up the same way. I don't want them to feel alone.
You've said that your parents hate that you don't follow the norm. What's their reaction been to the music you've been making?
My mum started ripping her hair out. Not actually, though. Just pretending—to be dramatic. I was eating hummus at the time and I was thinking man, this hummus is really good.