By Tara Cavanaugh
Listen up, music moguls: MubbiMan is in the house.
MubbiMan is the stage name of Abbot Elementary fifth grader Mubarak. Just ten years old, and having worked on his craft for less than a year, his clever lyrics and positive messages have already gotten thousands of YouTube views.
The young rapper is confident, even boisterous in his videos, wearing an oversized coat and sunglasses as he raps through the urban landscape of downtown Ann Arbor. But away from the camera, he’s a thoughtful writer, often scribbling rhymes in the notebook he always carries.
“I know people have taken rap the bad way these days, thinking it’s a gangster thing,” he said one day after school this week. ”I want to show that rap is not just a form of music, but it is a form of giving a message out there. And I want to tell all the people and kids that there’s more to it than just rhyming.”
Sitting in a kindergarten classroom, he talks about the artists who inspire him: rappers Eminem and Lupe Fiasco.
Why those two?
“Eminem is just the king of rap,” he said. “He can rhyme, rhyme and rhyme forever. But Lupe Fiasco, he has so many meanings in just one line. And he also talks about good stuff.” Mubarak takes a second to think, sipping chocolate milk through a straw.
“There’s like five meanings in one line. That’s what I like about (Lupe). That’s where I got my metaphors in my rap. I figured out that rap is not about–” Mubarak slips into a rapper’s cadence– “Yo, I’m cool. You are a fool.”
Instead, Mubarak’s lyrics talk about doing well in school, respecting his family, and even mention his faith.
Mubarak has a partner in his craft: his 19-year-old brother Saif, a University of Michigan sophomore, helps him with the video and sound production that gives his words their flash on YouTube.
“He is my inspiration in rap,” Mubarak says of Saif. “Without him, I couldn’t do anything. He helps me record, he finds a good beat, he makes my voice sound better, he edits the videos and stuff. Without him, it would just be like a camera over there and me rapping. With no beat, no nothing.”
It was Saif who first encouraged Mubarak to try out making his own rap music. A couple of creative school assignments inspired him too.
Mubarak is well aware that he has come a long way as an artist in his short career.
“I guess it’s hard, but nothing can become good without some effort,” he said. “You have to try really hard to make stuff. I made ten raps which were bad but I had to keep on trying because every time I knew I was getting a little bit better.”
He brings up a rap he wrote for an assignment about the state of Colorado. “If I listen to it now, I know there was a lot of mistakes. Like too few syllables there, too many here. Wrong part and the wrong time of the beat.”
But no matter, he says. It was fun. And what’s especially fun for him now is the recording process.
Well, rather, the end of the recording process.
“I just recorded a new song last week. And it was like, ‘Oh my gosh I’m so tired of listening to this beat over and over again.’ I had to start it over, and start it over, and keep on deleting the track I just did,” he admits, eyes wide with exasperation.
“But once you finish the song and it’s all recorded and you press the play button and just sit back and listen, it sounds like, is this me, or is this is a professional?”
Writing, recording and editing is a laborious process, and Mubarak admits it’s hard to do while keeping up with school. He’s even taken breaks from the process in his short career, taking the occasional month off. So does he have any songs in the works right now?
“Actually,” he beams, “I’ve got nine.” And when he’s finished, that’ll be enough for his first mixtape.
Keep up with MubbiMan by subscribing to SuperSaifMusic on YouTube, the channel Mubarak’s brother Saif created. Below, check out his third and favorite video, “Fresh and Cool.”