French Montana and The Weeknd are more connected to Lebanon than you think. One has worked with Lebanese artists; the other has uttered localized gendered slurs. One performed at Lebanon's beauty pageant competition in 2018; the other is incredibly close to a Lebanese-American beauty pageant's husband. But how did it all start? And is the love triangle more disarranged than you thought? Probably, but I'll try to simplify that fragmented mess for you.
The credit presumably goes to one person in specific, though I'm not entirely sure of this claim. That man is Wassim "Sal" Slaiby, a partner at Maverick Management and CEO of XO record label, who currently manages the aforementioned artists.
The entrepreneur and music manager (who also goes by the name Tony W. Sal) was born in Lebanon in 1979 before moving to Canada with his parents when he was just 15 years old. So one could only assume his connection with the Arabic language is rather strong.
You may be wondering why I am suddenly talking about his bond with the Arabic language, right? Well, it's quite strange (in a good way) that one artist managed by Slaiby has been caught speaking Arabic, the Lebanese variety specifically, several times in the past. Yup, The Weeknd, eyes on you man.
Slaiby has been working with The Weeknd since 2011, according to Variety, so it must be that he taught the artist some random Lebanese words. The Weeknd couldn't have learned incredibly localized gendered slurs like "shlekeh" via the internet or Arabic lessons. So it must be Slaiby. It has to be.
Now, it's quite a different story with French Montana. The American rapper has jumped on the Arabic bandwagon as well, but that probably has more to do with his Moroccan roots than it does with Slaiby. But the coast isn't clear for French Montana as he obviously has some kind of connection with Lebanon as well ... and it has nothing to do with the language. He teamed up with Massari back in 2013, releasing a song titled "shisha" before working with the Lebanese-Canadian artist again.
Years later, French Montana worked with not one, but two Lebanese artists in one go. In 2018, he released a music video with Maya Diab and Massari, a remake of Amr Diab's 1996 hit song Nour El Ein. He then performed that adapted version live alongside the two Lebanese stars at Miss Lebanon 2018. The collaboration, which was released by Anghami, was the brainchild of Lebanese music producer Hadii Sharara and took two full years for the final piece to come together. Massari's production team, more accurately, wanted the remake to have an element of hip-hop, so French Montana seemed to be quite the perfect fit.
And what does Slaiby have to do with all of this? Well, for one, the entrepreneur is the head of international partnerships at Anghami, a deal signed in 2017. Secondly, the song was released as part of the company's efforts to expand the streaming service's music reach and lineup. Sharara even called Slaiby "the Godfather of the entire project." So if that's not enough of a connection, I don't know what is.
The rapper's bond to the country started off long before this collaboration, though. French Montana, just like The Weeknd, is managed by Slaiby. So when Slaiby tied the knot with former Miss USA Rima Fakih, who is also Lebanese, it was only expected to see both artists attend the wedding in the couple's home country.
The Weeknd and French Montana's visit to Lebanon in 2016 was all the internet talked about that year.
Basically, two artists, managed by a Lebanese person, flew to Lebanon to celebrate the marriage of that manager to his Lebanese wife, and got the chance to meet other Lebanese artists that same night. It sounds more than just a messy connection with Lebanon. It's like two degrees of separation between these artists and the Lebanese, thanks to Slaiby?
The Weeknd performed as the couple stepped out for their first dance before Wael Kfoury took the stage.
The two foreign rappers also hung out with a number of Lebanese artists, who were also in attendance, including Haifa Wehbe. They even took selfies together.
Embracing the Lebanese party spirit
Peace from the Middle East?
Slaiby's influence on both The Weeknd and French Montana is pretty obvious. The two artists have flaunted the Lebanese effect on numerous occasions. Remember when The Weeknd tweeted "wallah I relate to you fam" to his followers? Or when he wrote "aywah" in an Instagram caption?
Come on, the Lebanese effect is crystal clear. The Weeknd wished French Montana a happy birthday in 2018 by calling him an animal in Arabic. Can it get more Lebanese than that?
Dear Slaiby, you better be the reason why these two artists have some kind of bond with Lebanon ... or I just wasted my breath trying to convince people that's the case.