Music

Casablanca’s ElGrandeToto: A Force to Be Reckoned With

Many may know ElGrandeToto today as a star of the North African hip-hop scene, but when the young Taha Fahssi was still dreaming of becoming a breakdancer, little did he know that music was his true calling. Toto’s relationship with music began to crystallize during his teenage years in Casablanca, and his first single, “7elmet Ado,” which he released in 2016, did not go unnoticed. Soon, new horizons began to open for Toto. With his unique musical style and bold lyrics, Toto became the voice of the young generation, masterfully capturing their lives and challenges with an unforgiving writing style that brims with powerful similes and flexible rhymes.

When “7elmet Ado” came out, it reached thousands of listeners organically — Toto’s voice smoothly found ears without any promotion or marketing. He knew how to capture listeners while also instilling in his music the messages he wanted them to hear. After several other solo releases, Toto’s 2017 track “Pablo” proved to be a turning point in his career, amassing millions of views and reaching new local audiences.

The track began creeping into the public sphere, and soon found its way to local radio station Hit Radio. Learning that his voice was making an imprint on the Moroccan street gave Toto a huge confidence boost, and he began taking part in local festivals such as Festival L’Boulevard and others, eventually cementing his name as one of the rap scene’s best emerging artists.

In 2018, he made several notable collaborations, including “Slay” with Manal, a fusion of pop and rap with the masterful production of Soufiane AZ and the outstanding flow and performance of Toto and Manal. In early 2020, Toto launched “Hors Serie,” a track that brought together Don Bigg, a star of Morocco’s old-school rap scene, and emerging rappers like Khtek.

Toto worked with local producers like Hades in his early days, then began collaborating with the new generation of producers such as Draganov, Nouvo and Yo Asel. His collaboration with Nouvo on VitamineDZ gave us one of the most beautiful Moroccan duets and helped consolidate the “trai” genre, a blend of trap and Rai music. Toto recorded the track during his first visit to Algeria, and as an ode to the country that helped shape his musical identity, the track samples Cheb Khaled’s hit song, “Abdel Kader.”

During this period, Toto also released his first LP, Caméléon, which he had been working on since the early days of his career in 2017. With this album, Toto further established his visual identity. The artwork shows Toto’s face painted in the colors of chameleons – a metaphor for his ability to integrate and thrive in any space or circumstance, especially as his sound was increasingly overlapping with the local culture and expanding on the regional and global scales.

Then came the biggest turning point in Toto’s career with the track “Mghayer,” which showed the evolution of his sound, whether in terms of performance through his delivery and flow, or in terms of writing. The track pays tribute to his mother, who passed away in 2020, giving Toto a space to express his grief and sing about his pain to an entire generation. The track became one of the biggest hip-hop releases in the Maghrebi region (comprising western and central North Africa, including Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia) and amassed millions of views.

Between Caméléon and his latest album, 27, which he released in 2023, Toto dropped several solo tracks and collaborations, including a North African collaboration with Wegz in “Msh Khalsa,” a collaboration with CKay on a remix of his global hit song “Love Nwantiti,” and a local collaboration with Small X on “Thezz.”

In 2023, two months after dropping the single “Weld Laadoul,” Toto released his long-awaited album 27. Toto told Billboard Arabia in an interview that while Caméléon introduced people to ElGrande Toto, 27 was a much more personal album that tells the story of Taha Fahssi. To his usual poignant lyrics, Toto added a dash of the sophistication he acquired over the years, resulting in a powerful album.

The acclaimed 27 placed eight tracks on Billboard Arabia’s Hot 100, including “Blue Love,” “Dellali” ft. Hamza and “Razones” ft. Morad, which remain on the chart until the time of publishing. Toto also snatched the No. 2 position on the Billboard Arabia’s Artist 100 chart in the week of Dec. 11, 2023, remaining there for four consecutive weeks. Toto continues to chart in Billboard Arabia’s Artist 100, competing with the biggest Arab names in the world of pop, hip-hop and other genres. Following the album’s resounding success, Toto became the first rapper from the region to perform at the iconic L’Olympia in Paris, before going on a tour across Europe to promote the album.

Today, ElGrandeToto has become a hip-hop force to be reckoned with, cementing his position as one of the pillars of Maghrebi hip-hop. Thanks to his diverse releases and notable collaborations, Toto’s work resonates with a wide audience and influences the entire North African music scene. 27 served as a platform for Toto’s self-expression and artistic development, propelling him to new heights, wider audiences and bigger successes. Meanwhile, in 2023, Toto was the Middle East and North Africa’s most exported rapper, according to Spotify. Through his tours and concerts, Toto continues to share his music with an ever-growing audience and collect achievements and accolades.

ElGrandeToto
ElGrandeToto

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