In this raw interview with Yalla! Let’s Talk. Neemz discusses her existence as a hijabi Arab female pop star in the USA, her fears and motivations, her journey, and her newest song, Awake.
With the influx of Arabian artists erupting from the Arab diaspora, they are redefining themselves in unique ways and are changing the face of music through their voices.
The rise of third-culture kids is no new news, but today, individuals are changing this confusing morale and using their voices to show the world how amazing it can be to be able to identify with so many different cultures.
Boston-based Palestinian artist and model Tusneem Abuhasan, known as Neemz is an Arab Muslim pop star who likes to wear her heritage and where she comes from on her sleeve.
Her uniqueness is her hijab that she proudly wears and flaunts as part of her identity which is rarely seen among many singers!
In terms of her music journey, she started at a young age, and it has helped her shape into the singer she is today.
“I have been writing spoken word and poetry for a long time, since the fifth grade. In high school, I took my writing more seriously and would share my words in my high school and mosque.”
Further speaking of her spoken poetry, Neemz divulges into what her work was about.
“A lot of my stuff came from a painful aspect, like from personal experiences or looking at the world and what was going on. One of them was when I was getting bullied for wearing a hijab, or being an odd one out. My writing had a very strong perspective though, it was derived from pain, and I would make it my strength.”
Although starting her journey from a young age, it was only in 2019 when she took her music seriously, revealing that her anxiety would get the best of her when she would try to share her work.
“I used to shake every time I shared my work with anyone. Back in the summer of 2019 before walking NYFW, I was like why am I so scared and fearful to showcase my work. This summer I decided to plug in and revolutionize music.”
She then adds on smiling, “I would have never guessed I would take the musical approach.”
When asked how she started to create her music, she started like every new kid on the block.
“I would go onto garage band and make beats and create music for myself. I would sing it over with the aux mic and record myself, and I would send samples to my friends.
Although hesitant at first, she made the step to make her art public because of the constant support she had from her friends and family.
“I finally made it public and that is what got me into music. I have always been into writing, so melodies would be very easy for me.”
At the beginning of her career, she tried out many different types of music because she wanted to find her style.
And although starting with her debut rap album in 2015, Neemz: The Album, she went through life-turning events during that period which halted her music career.
Finally, after a three-year hiatus because of her anxiety and fears, she found solace in pop music.
When bursting out of her bubble and entering the music industry after her hiatus, she recalls how she was treated with positivity.
“With producers, I shared my demos and they said that I had a unique voice and saw the spark in my sound.”
The love and passion of Neemz towards music is the reason why as a newcomer she was given a chance right off the bat.
Thus, in 2019, her debut pop album Nothing But the Truth was an immediate hit with the Arabian diaspora who related to her lyrics since they were raw and painfully real.
This girl is on a roll!
Now with her recently released album song Awake in 2021 after a 1.5-year hiatus, we asked her about the album, and she shares her heart-breaking reasons for her lengthy break and inspiration behind Awake.
Starting with the backstory of the writing process, Neemz is filter-free and doesn’t hide anything.
“When I was writing that song, I was recording at 5 am, and I was at a very low point in my life. I was thinking of a lot of things and overthinking.”
Further revealing that the direction to her song was her realization of life, “I was thinking if I were to be cloned what would Neemz look like and what would Neemz think?”
Fear is the constant barrier in her life, and she tells us how that 5 am was the God-given life-changing time.
“When I was writing at 5 am, it was the perfect moment, I saw the sunrise, birds chirp and it felt like an awakening moment. Pausing for a moment, she continues to say, “at the same time, I was looking at myself and it made sense. A lot of my music comes from talking to myself and this goes back to my poetry days.”
“Writing the song for myself, I can write it better and it’s nice for me to hear it as well. It’s okay to cry and let the emotions come out of you.”
“When people hear my music, they find it relatable, so they feel like I am saying it to them as well.”
In a powerful emphasis, Neemz beautifully says, “Being vulnerable in front of myself was super powerful and I don’t think many people can do that.”
She further explains that the creation of the song was not only for her to heal, but more for her to connect with herself by observing her low points.
“For me, I looked at the beat at that moment, and even if they were not uplifting, I saw the beats and knew they would carry the song. The beat was uplifting, and I decided to make my vulnerable words and songs into positive ones.”
“If you can turn the sad song into an uplifting one, and I can heal myself, I’m sure I would be able to help others too. You can’t make it to the top without going through stuff.”
And for her listeners in her song Awake, she tells them to fight their fears.
“I’m breaking my fears/Don’t let yourself slip away/Bae you got it now/Drive around/Heal your pain.”
Thus Neemz showcases how sadness leads to beautiful endings because, at the end of the road, we can pick two paths, we can stick to negativity or positivity, with Neemz choosing the latter she tells us that success can be enriched through positivity.
Further, mental barriers often stop success and Neemz discusses how she breaks them after continuously battling them.
“Optimism is such a key in life to see the better side of things. Even in the worst of the worst, you always need to think of the positive sides. You can’t dwell on everything and never take anything too personally. I need to be able to see both sides but always take the positive one.”
Moreover, she recalls how she became the mature woman she is today.
“You have to go through things to get enlightened.” Casually adding, “I heard this comment in middle school like I would be hanging around the older kids at the mosque and they would never believe I was in middle school.”
“For maturity, you need to go through experiences and negative things to get a clearer understanding. I always chose groups that were amazing! Drama free, no gossip, determined, and ambitious and this reflects in my art.”
Further adding, “my mom is a huge factor, and taught me how to view myself as a woman and how I can be the best version of myself. The fact that she was able to add to those experiences was amazing.”
Neemz gives us all a lesson! We need to have a supportive community (and some negative experiences) to help us grow and realize our potential.
We love how she emphasizes her mother because often in the Middle Eastern community, it is common for Arab parents to be unsupportive of their children following their passions and dreams, especially for Arab women.
Her mother is a breath of fresh air, and we hope that parents can become like her mother to give their children the freedom to choose their dreams and shape their futures by supporting them along their journey!
Nearing the end of this interview, we ask Neemz to tell us the best advice she has ever received so we can all apply it and motivate ourselves like her.
“The best advice is to protect your identity. Not everyone is going to want the best for you, and not everyone will be able to understand you. Make sure you only share your energy with those that are worthwhile, and that especially goes for wisdom.”
Neemz believes that there is a time and place for everything. During the interview she discussed some of her future plans that she was looking forward to: she wants to release a new album, go on tour, and open a modest clothing line.
We can’t wait to see this fresh journey this transformed Neemz will take and are excitedly waiting to see where her life and career will take her next!