MC Buffalouti

MC Buffalouti

Everybody knows that post-revolutionary Tunisian underground hiphop is cool.
Until I got my bars together for the song that will ignite my status as a bonafide citizen of Bizerte’s North side Rapdom, I was set on doing the next coolest thing which is to write about underground rap for Nawaat.

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As soon as I landed in the motherland, I contacted the one neighborhood “vendor” I was sure knew everybody that was to know the fuzzy concrete jungles of North Bizerte. I had a few threads worth following to track down a rap connection and I asked about The Gzez Prod. studio/crowd. I had seen these words jolted, quite predominantly and memorably at the beginning of admittedly forgettable music videos (the kind with a bunch of dudes mobbing around looking threatening while referring to an obscure third-person enemy).

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What I gathered was that there is an “exclusive” garage-turned-studio somewhere around the big mosque that goes by the name of Gzez productions.

My connection was not at all responsive to my aim of “publishing something” about the rappers and he stayed true to his impeccable shady responses. I was not getting closer to being introduced in the way I wanted.

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The weather was improving by the day and my motorcycle trips started diverting me to the rocky Bizerte beach of “il Guelta”; I laid off the subject every time I met “the connection” before heading to the beach.

The heat was another obstacle in the way of my writing project and but took on strange relevance: my Afro was growing uncontrollably and my college-days left-over braids were quickly unraveling. “Project dreadlocks” was the only way to salvage this mess without having to massacre it. The same connection that I thought valid to penetrate the hiphop community was the adequate go-to to find a dread-master capable of starting on a task about which I knew little (and had attempted before to no avail, because waxing and no-washing methods that are abundant online aren’t compatible with hygiene or prayer requirements–water has to be able to penetrate between hairs and the scalp for the ritual of purification).

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My friend was indeed very keen and relaxed about hooking me up with the “Rasta” folks. His justifiable wariness of the media wasn’t a problem in this arena.

I was excited when the day came and he organized “the reasoning session” where I was finally to meet the Dread-master. Of course the shadiness continued to some degree until the moment where I met il BuFF. Wait a minute–wasn’t this one of the main rappers of Gzez. Prod ?

Indeed it was. There was no ice-breaking and confidence-building needed for me to gain access as MC Buffalouti was to spend many many many hours with a crochet needle and there were many reasoning sessions to take place until I had dreadlocks.

The rapper, the crochet and how the first dreadlock was born

The rapper, the crochet and how the first dreadlock was born

Underground hiphop project and dreadlocks project seamlessly merged into one as the rapper and dread-master was the-one-and-only. It was quite a nice coincidence of “firsts” joining together, and with no compromises. MC Buffalouti was an active front rap-man for Gzez Prod. and he also seamlessly mastered the art of mechanically/instantaneously crocheting dreads out of North African hair.

It really motivates me to rap along with Ta9shira -the second member in the Gzez Prod. duo- (with whom I participated on a subsequent collab that produced a hit video. The clip was edited by MC Buffalouti whose versatile talents also include video editing). I really think he is the greatest rapper in Bizerte and it’s a huge part for me.

As the reasoning session progressed, the dreads grew in numbers, my questions seeped into loosened conversations, and I got to know more about the narrative of “il Buff” as his friends call him.

We hit this thing together. For 4 years now since the Tunisian revolution. I did jail time after I got caught growing a Kush plant and as soon as I got out I released my first single, a collab with Ta9shira.

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Gzez. Prod studios is a relatively new project that we built it from scratch and piece by piece. In its current format we only had the studio for 6 months. It’s the garage attached to Islem Marley’s house. Cool dude, you should meet him, he would like your articles too. You know the guy with the long long dreads. Along with his hiphop work he leads his own grassroots donations network from the city towards the rural areas around Bizerte.

The studio was actually a stable working unit. There was a couch for the studio facing a booth equipped with a mic and some basic sound isolation on the walls and door. Beside the booth and after one crosses the narrow space in front of the couch (stepping on the occasional shoe and inadvertently interrupting the sound mixing happening on the adjacent computer) there was a little enclave that served as photography studio for videos and album artwork complete with makeshift, yet quite effective lighting and a little basketball hoop. Much “reasoning” happened in these quarters and it was usually “cloudy.” The walls were my favorite part as the crew diligently covered them with old and historical newspaper front pages (including some announcing the fall of Hitler and the end of the Big war).

Before we used to record in different places. One of our first studio’s owners and producers actually went to fight in Syria after he “repented,” ditched music and completely changed his life course. He died there. RIP UMG. We also linked up with Lak3y and his Da next level production house.

There were always thick beats and verses flying abundantly and I managed to catch MC Buffalouti and record him freestyling on my phone:

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– Buff. Do you promote virtue or evil with your music?

– Hard question. I think the most honest answer is I represent reality. There is a lot of filth around here you know. I am against the system…

– “System?”

– Yes. My rap is against the system. The system? The cops are the best symbol. Cops are the system.

There were some people knocking on the metal garage door. When that happens whatever sound activity is going on inside is interrupted by the loud banging.

Ideas get tangled as il Buff informs the people on the outside that there are “people recording in booth.” This was understood by all those who came as “No studio chill-time for you” to be respected. In the intermission there was some more freestyle flow when I manage to capture another sound bite.

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– How do you create and push the music out there? Do you follow the single/album progression?”

– I will make albums when I get paid from this. As of now there isn’t really a revenue stream from this music thing. We just produce continuously and I publish the songs on Youtube and promote on FB as soon as they are recorded and mixed.

– Where do you see yourself in the rap game and what’s the potential for expansion?

– I think 60% of people listen to rap and I am reaching 10% of that audience. Regionally, in Bizerte I am a front runner among all the young hiphop fans for sure. It’s a pretty fast game, the rap game. If you don’t put out titles for a minute there will be an avalanche of other productions and nobody is solidly entrenched or assured an audience portion in the underground hiphop field. We repping North side Ayyyyt.

I enjoyed this journey in the hiphop underground of Bizerte’s North Side and came out with the friendship of some very talented hustlers. I couldn’t help but ponder the magnitude of progressive cultural output that we can gain in Tunisia if creative processes like these are supported by appropriate revenue streams. In the Western world, labels and author’s rights guarantee a certain channel to monetize hiphop music and we must start creating frames that bring that about in our context.

However that is an idea for another article. Until then, enjoy these Rap tunes and the exploration guaranteed through the many links I put forth.


Check out MC Buffalouti’s facebook page and Music at his Youtube channel and SoundCloud (or hit him up to get your dreads done. He’s pretty good at that too).