Qusai Kheder – formerly known by his fans as Don Legend the Kamelion – is a singer, songwriter, record producer, rapper, television personality, and DJ, and is known as one of the first artists to create a unique brand of Saudi Arabian rap and hip hop, bringing it to the Kingdom’s youth.
A regular on Saudi TV and a YouTube star with millions of views to his name, Qusai started rapping three decades ago in Saudi Arabia at a time when the genre wasn’t as popular and musical performances were still a rarity. His music, which explores everything from unemployment to marriage, is family-friendly, containing no expletives or vulgar lyrics.
"When I express myself, I have to respect my heritage, my culture, my ethnicity," he said in a recent interview on CNN. "Once people hear what I say, they might get influenced by it."
According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, Qusai, who was born in Riyadh and raised in Jeddah, was first exposed to rap and hip hop through his uncles and parents, who bought him records from the US whenever they went on trips.
Qusai then moved to the US at the age of 17 “to attend school, first moving to Vermont before settling in Orlando in 1998. While attending Valencia College, he worked with a number of local hip-hop artists, including Solillaquists of Sound rapper Swamburger and Dan Holznagel, aka D-Light.”
Qusai explained to CNN that he recorded his first tracks on cassette tapes and then sold them near his high school from the back of a truck.
“People always used to look at me and be like: 'Oh wow. You're doing rap and hip-hop like Tupac, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg and Wu Tang,'" he recalls. “I felt like I was introducing something totally new to the culture.”
However, the 39-year-old artist, who raps in both Arabic and English, has always embraced topics and themes closer to home despite having spent so much time abroad.
Having moved back to Saudi Arabia in 2005, he has since then created his own signature style of music, his tracks a blend of hip hop and traditional Saudi Arabian folk music. He now has three major label album releases since 2008.
In addition to his rap career, Qusai is co-host of “Arabs Got Talent,” which recently wrapped its fifth season earlier this year, and he was also the host of MTV Arabia’s flagship rap show “Hip Hop Na (Our Hip Hop).”