Alternative singer and songwriter Al Hakeem Muhammad II, better known as HAIQEEM, has a variable background for a singer. Born in Oklahoma, growing up in Dallas, and singing everything from alternative, to pop, to electro-noise, experimental and more, HAIQEEM’s music is anything if not diverse.
After releasing his indie debut single “Nothing Sweeter” in 2010, HAIQEEM continued to blow his fans away year after year with “Socialite” in 2011, “Finally Over You” in 2013, and 2015’s “Don’t Give a Damn”, which reached #41 on the National Airplay Charts for Adult Contemporary.
In an exclusive interview, AXS reporter Ryan Stabile sits down with HAIQEEM.
Ryan Stabile: HAIQEEM, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. Tell me, after “Don’t Give a Damn” peaked at the #41 spot on the Adult Contemporary charts, what has that taught you as a musician?
HAIQEEM: Thank you so much, Ryan for having me; After “Don’t Give A Damn” peaked at #41 on the National Airplay Charts for adult contemporary; it taught me to value my existing built up tolerance for patience, and reinforced for me the art of persistence. If we count from the itunes-preorder date- It took the single fourteen months to chart. There where points where I do admit that I wanted to throw in the towel on promo for “Don’t Give A Damn” and start focusing on another single from the record; However I was advised by some of the mentorship; That I have been blessed to have help hone and nurture my talents, to keep ‘hammering it forward’ because it’s a ‘good song’ until the single made an impact before advertising a follow up.
Ryan Stabile: The name of your upcoming album is Without My Permission. How do you think fans of “Don’t Give a Damn” will react to that?
HAIQEEM: I think the fans will read into the fact that the record in itself is an embodiment of the first single “Don’t Give A Damn” as Without My Permission is a lyric within “Don’t Give A Damn” that in itself means that ‘no one can do more to you than you allow them’ as the lyric in full passes the torch of realization. Seriously, without my permission. Will you decide it’s over now? The reaction of such should surmise the angst and “seeing red” that I had encountered when penning this song and the rest of the record, which I promise is not all writhing with rage and agony and has bona fide levels that has an overall theme that ‘live does not have to suck’. Then again Without My Permission in itself is sort of an inside joke, as us musicians know that when we’re writing and composing, even though this record is sounding exactly the way that I planned. It viciously gains a mind of its own and communicates itself from a vulnerable very true place.
Ryan Stabile: For someone who has never heard of you and picks up Without My Permission, what could they expect?
HAIQEEM: For someone who has never heard of me; they should expect a Modern Rock album that is very 2016-2017 sounding in origin with an onward timeless feel; that is- The record gives significant salutes to the ‘Golden Age of Grunge’ – So there’s a ton of muddy distorted guitar, hooky lyrics, and monster chorus’s with some nifty auto-tune effects here and there along with significant wall of sound instrumental tightness that is highly synecdoche with the times. The record also takes inspiration from nu-metal, contemporary pop, folk, and has an intrinsic hip-hop feel to some drum patterns and lyric wise. That I occasionally refer to a couple of the upcoming tracks as ‘Trap-Rock’. I’ve gotten feedback that some of the ‘tongue-wagging’ lyrics are very hip-hopish, that being how I fit a tad more than usual words into a verse and rely acutely on rhythmic speech patterns and a-typical vowel contortions not all too unfamiliar with a skilled rapper.
Ryan Stabile: I had a chance to listen to your single “So Deep” off of Without My Permission. I think it’s a perfect blend of melodic dissonance that gets in your head and stay there. What was the process of putting this song together?
HAIQEEM: I demo’d this song to myself two years ago, and shared it with a couple of friends; I also conceived a no-wave version that’ll be the “Part 2” of the aforementioned, that has the same lyrics but happens to only be floating in cyberspace right now as I signed a contract with Viacom, changed my mind and asked to have it removed but it remains. So pretty much no one has knowingly heard this song before, especially in its current reincarnation- Until I was blessed with the opportunity to meet and work with Juno Nominee, Muray Yates, who is also the lead singer of the Rock band Forty Foot Echo agreed to produce my next record. Since I already had the lyrics and an augmented melody in my head and on the tip of my tongue; he and myself composed a post-grunge demo within fifteen minutes, I slept on it and nailed it in a couple of takes. Admittedly, it’s one of my favorite songs lyrically that I have ever written so far; especially since committing to Alternative Rock. The vocals in this track are akin to my teenage self, so anyone who knows my music growing up would think that I hadn’t changed very much. I think of this song as a sophisticated echo of my first album Nothing Sweeter; or at least it’s the way that I wanted to sound at 17.
Ryan Stabile: I have to say, it’s amazing listening to your style evolve from one record to the next. What is the driving inspiration behind the music on this new record?
HAIQEEM: The driving inspiration behind this current record is ‘coming of age’ and ‘adulting’. In a way I think of his record as a dedication to living in suburbia and transitioning into urbanization. I suppose I could have named his album “to become a city-slicker” in all honesty, it has not been a very smooth or agreeable experience, however I do value the lessons learned here. Without My Permission does reflect many of those realizations and hard lessons that I’ve had to acknowledge whilst continuing to move forward toward that beacon of light known as ‘goal’; so in the end it has been an overall wholesome experience with the knowledge that I have accumulated and continue to gather.
Ryan Stabile: What about your inspiration for the lyrics on your single “So Deep”?
HAIQEEM: The inspirations for the lyrics of “So Deep” are based on what I refer to as ‘The Disintegration of Plutonic Relationship’. I have discovered in my less than ten thousand days here on Earth that occasionally sometimes we meet people in life that we fall so drastically in “like” with. This infatuation then inflates an enormous Hindenburg of helium that as history has shown what happened to that blimp a’ la crashing and burning. A cautionary tale from myself to ‘take some time’ when you’re ready to fall for that ‘interesting new person’ instead of exhibiting or condoning the behaviors of a toxic person- Love bombing or receiving love bombing will only end up of in a catastrophic aftermath. When I say ‘love bombing’ I’m referring to when starting a new relationship; one is showered with praise, gifts, etc; anything undeserved by the unfamiliar. Hence “Don’t waste my time, listen to my rhyme I don’t care for “us” anymore. It’s a shame how I feel, about “us” two once in love so deep”. So pretty much a couplet version of the details of the aftermath of ‘love bombing’ and toxicity that has destroyed any further perspective of relationship. Infatuation is not the way to go.
Ryan Stabile: Where and when can people get their hands on Without My Permission and “So Deep”?
HAIQEEM: You should be able to get your hands on Without My Permission the second half of summer, or the second half of fall anywhere that music is sold. I have a ton of promotion and ‘live footage’ and ‘music video’ work to do so we most likely will kick out one or two more single’s before the album drops. “So Deep” however will be available for pre-order on iTunes starting Saturday May 28th 2016; the lyric video is now on VEVO. “Don’t Give A Damn” will be available in Japan and Uruguay in June.
Ryan Stabile: Do you have any upcoming shows? Where can people find out where you’re performing?
HAIQEEM: We have a slew of live video in-studio performances coming up; we may or may not allow fans to come sit in; all other shows will be announced through our website including a 3 day residency; before formally announcing the North American tour.
Ryan Stabile: HAIQEEM, it’s been a pleasure.
HAIQEEM: The four of us in the HAIQEEM band; myself HAIQEEM; vocals, Bo Hutch on Bass, Shelby P. on Guitars, and L. Lockhart Jr. on drums Thank You for allowing me to interview with you today, it’s been an honor.