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"ISSA : BET Break-Out Artist"

September 5th, 2008
BET Break-Out Artist of the Month
Portland, OR - Imagine a world where music cannot be put in a box. Free your mind from the standards of society, create bridges between cultures and dare to be a pioneer. ISSA's music is a blend of various styles such as Pop, R&B and Raggae. Envision Usher, R Kelly and Timberland having a baby but no one knows who the real father is. ISSA produces, writes and arranges his own music and finds inspiration from his diverse background that includes Africa, Europe and America.

His latest video, “Used To Be The one” is currently on BET (Black Entertainment Television). ISSA was nominated as BET Break-out Artist of the Month among the best reviewed artists which included Rapper: David Banner. You can find the quick link to the video on BET’s website at the bottom of the page.

This young singer has recently packed two popular venues on May 9th and 16th bringing an unconventional but energetic atmosphere to the Portland party weather. After bringing the week prior at ENVY Lounge one of hip-hop’s promising major artist Wiz Khalifa, Portland’s main promoters had ISSA performed in front of few hundred fans who packed the place in the record breaking manner. May 16th was marked by a performance by ISSA for Portland State University’s annual International Night which drew an attendance in the thousands. His recent tour took him to Africa where he performed and was the guest of diverse radio shows. He is also scheduled for an international tour to India within the next few months.

The interest in ISSA’s music has not only been local but national, he was recently invited to perform in Atlanta’s most notorious concert venue, the Atrium. His music can be downloaded through the popular online music retailer, iTunes, where fans have been supporting his music with purchases.

Log on to to find more information about the artist. You can also visit his official website at

The link to the video on BET is: - Just 4 The Records, LLC - Press Release

"Global Conspiracy"

With Americans' constant complaints about their home country, it has, disturbingly enough, become shocking to hear genuine praise for the good ol' U.S. of A.

Even more startling is that most of said praise has not come from people who grew up here, but rather individuals who fought hard to reap the benefits that most of us take for granted. Such is the case with West African born hip-hop/R&B artist Issa (pronounced E-suh) and his business partner Shaun Chine.

"We as Africans see the United States as the land of dreams," said Chine. To which Issa added, "Once you land from the plane, the first thing you want to do is kiss the land."

This positive mindset motivated Issa to pursue his musical ambitions by applying for the United States' green card lottery while still in his home country of Senegal.

After being selected, his parents spent their life savings setting him up as a resident alien in the U.S., where he began attending PSU in 2003. While majoring in marketing, Issa kept busy as a model, producer and musician until 2007, when he met fellow student Shaun Chine.

Chine, also a West African native, studies business administration along with the third member of their business-savvy trio, Shahram. The three have since pioneered a recording label and production company, Just 4 D Records LLC and J4R Productions, respectively.

"I don't even need to talk about my vision," said Issa of the bonds between the trio. "The passion is shared. Whatever we had to go through or spend didn't matter anymore. It was about the end product. And that's how we've been successful so far. We're just so hungry to succeed and make everybody proud."

With a BET recommendation for Issa's video "Used to Be the One," a recently filmed pilot for the Oprah Winfrey Network and music available on iTunes, Rhapsody and in Virgin Megastores, Issa and company are well on their way to doing just that.

"We don't sleep at all," says Chine, "Whatever it takes. We're ready right now."

If determination, dedication and idealism are worth anything, this trio is on the fast track to greatness.

However, despite their talents and successes, they refuse to succumb to the harsh tongues and backstabbing of their industry of choice.

After trusting too many undeserving members of pop culture's high society, they have sworn their loyalty to each other and the honor of their actions.

"It was the kind of experience we needed to go through," says Chine. "People can take your kindness for a weakness and we have had some bad experiences. Though we're nice, we're tough. I thank them for backstabbing us, it was a sweet pain. Now we've had success going different places in the world, but acting the right way."

By visiting so many different parts of the world, Issa and his production crew have earned global-spanning recognition. In August, they returned from an overwhelmingly successful tour in Africa.

They were, and continue to be, a radio staple, while fans recognize them on the streets and ravage the stage to obtain a free CD. They have become role models of success in Africa, and are extremely grateful.

"I want my music to be a musical bridge between cultures," Issa adds, "And I really feel like it's happening."

Issa is also scheduled to tour India in November, a country where his music has been making the rounds at nightclubs. His popularity is also growing in Europe, and Issa was recently solicited by a Russian rapper for collaboration.

"The music is really a mix of different cultures," says Issa. "The rhythms, the drums that I use, speak to different ethnicities."

Most revealing of their nature as individuals and artists is Chine and Issa's new project Free Issa, for which they will travel to high schools all across the country playing their music and speaking.

"We [will] share the music, share the message that we have, and hopefully create dreams and just have people believe in themselves," says Issa.

They hope to motivate more students, particularly those going through difficult situations, to respect themselves and the potential they have to create and make an impact in the world.

Their message, their music and their dedication are inspiring, and both agree their primary goal is twofold.

"We want to be able to reach that level of success where we are in a position to discover music and distribute it to the world," says Issa.

That journey starts with their request for support from what they consider their American home--Portland. And, if their past is any indication, they won't be satisfied with a "no" answer. - Daily Vanguard

"ISSA as a Next 2 Blow Artist"

If Issa wasn't a recording artist, he claims that he would've found a way to somehow work in the music business and with such a response, it validates his true passion for music desiring to still be in it's vicinity. Yo! Raps asked a million and one necessary questions to the talented and attractive African born singer, and got the exclusive scoop on his recent nomination as BET breakout artist of the month. We also learned that he's scheduled to tour India, Europe and Africa as early as next year, and is also currently planning an East Coast tour in the USA. His fans describe his music to resemble U.S. recording artists, Usher, R. Kelly and Timberland, which compliments an eclectic Pop, R&B, and Reggae sound. Inquiring about his transformation from small town to big town success, he remarks that, "just like nature, the transformation was meant to happen." With so much on his plate, his local and international grind improves and continues by making mega-moves. It's all self-explanatory, because as a young boy growing up in Africa, Issa's inspiring motto was, "why have small expectations when you can dream big?"

First, we'd like to congratulate you on being nominated as BET Breakout Artist Of The Month. Considering the fact, what's your momentum like right now?

It is a very exciting moment for me, indeed. Being nominated by BET as a Breakout Artist for a music video, which formula was basically 5% dollars + 95% creativity is a great honor. I am happy that there are structures out there who are still interested in raw developing talents like me who tear down barriers. So as of now, I am on a high note managing all the interviews from magazines and shows who are hearing about me.

Were you discovered as a recording artist, or did you discover yourself?

Music has always been a part of me, and I am sure that every true artist would agree with me when I say that artists really discover themselves. The series of successful events that follow an artist's life span are on a matter of coincidence, and being able to be at the right place at the right time. For me, my right time was winning the immigration lottery to come to America and discover that I actually had a chance to make it in the music business.

Coming out of Portland, Oregon you managed to transform from small town dreams to big town success. How did you go about such transformation?

I think that just like nature, this transformation was meant to happen. I mean, you can't stop the evolution of a caterpillar into a butterfly, and I strongly believe that my music is no different. In fact, though I was just a little kid in Africa with no real means of making music, I still dreamed of big town success. As they say, "why have small expectations when you can dream big?"

We're hearing whispers from your PR camp that you're soon to go on tour to India. If it's true, when are you scheduled?

I am very excited about India! As a matter of fact, we have just received our visas to go perform there. If the contracts go as expected, we should be there within the next three months.

Not only are you nominated as a Breakout Artist, your latest video, Used To Be The One is also currently on BET. How did you gain that necessary exposure to achieve all this?

Honestly, it is hard work and humility that has taken me so far. I really believe in myself, so I always make sure that I present the right foot forward when I make an introduction. Getting on BET was really about believing in this project, gather contacts that share my vision and let a collective effort do the job. All I had to do then was to just submit the video to BET.

You mentioned that your sound resembles Usher, R. Kelly and Timberland. That's an interesting combo of proven names. Do you hear that often, or is it something you came up with?

It was hard at first for my fans to describe my music. Therefore, I began to ask, "Who this reminds you of?" As a producer, listeners automatically recognize my Timberland influence. The beats are very upbeat, and I mix lots of interesting tribal drums in my mix. Then, the flow of the lyrics really reminds them of Usher and R Kelly, in some ways. I really appreciate that, because those are some of my biggest influences.

You also mentioned that your music is a blend of various styles such as Pop, R&B, and Reggae. How did you first discover your "various styles" and what was the sole inspiration?

As an African born singer, I feel very lucky to have been influenced equally by my African roots, Europe, because of the colonization and now America. I was lucky enough to win a green card lottery to reside in the USA. The mix of all these cultures within me creates this unique style that I call Pop/R&B/Reggae. My ambition is to be able to share this culture mix with the world, and one day become a musical bridge among continents.

Performing live, you packed two popular venues on May 9 and 16 bringing an unconventional, but energetic atmosphere to the Portland party weather. What was that experience like?

The stage is where I find my comfort zone. It is always the best feeling in the world to be able to move people from left to right, and have them sing along your lyrics. I will always remember my first show ever at my school when I just started music, and was thrown in front of one-thousand people. I always wondered why I wasn't nervous. My guess is that I am made for this...[laughs]!

Your recent tour took you to Africa where you performed, and was also the guest on diverse radio shows. There's no doubt it was a meaningful and memorable tour considering it was in Africa. How successful were the radio show appearances?

The tour was amazing, indeed. Africa has so much raw energy. The tour took me to venues all over the place; on the beach, in clubs, in neighbourhood shows, etc. It was such a humbling experience to be able to share the love as they say, and get it right back. At one point during one of my concerts on the beautiful beach of Yoff (Senegal), I started handing out copies of my album to the crowd and they ripped it off my hands with so much enthusiasm that I thought they would actually fight for the remaining ones. The radio played my songs several times daily.

I must admit that you've got an appealing look. Is that important for a recording artist to possess attractiveness?

I personally think that you need to have something intriguing about yourself to be an artist, whether it is your style, swagger, or genetics...[laughs]! As an artist, I understand the power of branding and I work very hard on my image to ensure consistency between the music and the brand. It's important!

Who do you wholeheartedly credit for your climbing success today?

I am very lucky to have people around me to keep me grounded. As I say this, I am actually amused by the paradox of "climbing success" and "staying grounded", but I think that it is extremely important to stay focused. My business partners Shaun and Schahram do a great job at helping me climb to the top. I trust them with everything I have, and do and I believe they are not only great business partners, but awesome friends and my number one fans.

With all honesty, which recording artist(s) today inspires and impresses you the most, and why?

I am always impressed with Ne-Yo. I am a true fan of his writings and I look up to him as a professional. I am very inspired by Timberland, because He is able to always reinvent the definition of music. Finally, Kanye West is one of the artists I respect very much, because no matter what he does, he will always find a way to justify why he should remain crowned king...[laughs]! Music is an art, and as an artist you should be the first one to believe in your art no matter what people think of you.

May we ask what's your affiliation with Just 4 The Records, LLC? Is it your very own record label?

I founded Just 4 The Records, LLC in 2007. I wanted to create my own opportunity to market my music to the world and not wait for a "hero in a shiny armor loaded with cash" to decide whether I could get granted a chance, or not.

Just out of curiosity. If Issa wasn't a recording artist/producer, what would his other occupation be?

I am glad you asked this question. As a musician, I want to be able to convey positive messages to Youth and aspiring artists. The music is my dream and passion, I never forgot about school and went to college to get a bachelor degree in marketing. Therefore, if Issa was not an artist/producer, he would have found his way somehow to work in the music business. Go to school Kids!

Your bio briefly remarks, "Imagine a world where music cannot be put in a box." Can you tell us word for word what that statement means, and why was it so important to include it in your bio? What exactly does it represent?

Imagine a world were music cannot be put in a box. As an artist, my worst fear is to be categorized, and have the world set my limitations. I have no limitations! It was important to have this sentence as an opening statement to my bio, because I want people to have a feeling about the kind of person I am and the ideal world I would love for us to enjoy our lives. Music out of a box represents freedom and creativity which are great components to breeding geniuses in my opinion...[laughs]!

Would you like to give us more details on your up and coming tour? Now would be a good time to give your fans added info. Maybe even direct us to an online website where we can learn more about you?

I am currently working on an East cost tour of the USA. Also, India, Africa, and Europe are in my schedule for next year. My team is expanding, and we know no geographical boundaries. We are currently working on a marketing campaign called, "Free Issa" that is meant to create more exposure, and buzz about the music. This next year should be very exciting for all of us. Make sure you keep posted by checking out my MySpace page at and add me, too! I personally read and respond to every message. Also my website www.issamusic.comis up and running.

- Inga "International" Newson - Yo! Raps Magazine

"ISSA, Emerging Portland Artist, Has Eye on Business"

Hailing from the small West African nation of Senegal, one emerging R&B artist is looking for the same American Dream so many other immigrants have. He wants to be an internationally famous musical sensation. And with tour stops in Senegal, India and cities across the U.S., he might just be on his way.
ISSA, a recent Portland State University business marketing graduate has already recorded an amateur music video, launched a website, planned a worldwide tour and is releasing a single on iTunes in January. Aided by his business associates and fellow international students – Schahram Rezai of Austria and Shaun Chine of Nigeria – ISSA is driven by a need to succeed in Portland, the United States and the world.
“The U.S. is the heart of the music industry, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” Rezai said.
Coming from a professional, middle-class family of five siblings from the developing West Coast of Africa, ISSA was expected to be a lawyer, doctor or businessman – the traditional definition of a successful career. Business partners Rezai and Chine say their families expected the same thing.
“They would say music is a waste of your time,” says ISSA. “I always had to make music and hide it.”
Before coming to America, Chine says he had no idea you could actually make a living by being a musician or athlete. He says his parents are still highly skeptical of his dream of a career in the music industry. For ISSA, his family’s skepticism forced him to hone his vision and explain in it in a business-like fashion.
“Once things got a little bigger, I was able to mature and explain my vision,” he said. “They became supportive of my vision and project.”
Even coming to America was a challenge for Rezai, whose family is originally from Persia.
“My parents at first didn’t believe in any (music) project I was doing,” he said. “My sisters, would say, you’re wasting your time. Go, work, take a simple job. I hate that, I’m not this guy who can do that.”
Cultural skepticism has its influences on the way the ISSA team carry themselves and approach their projects. They say they have a lot to prove not only to their families, but to their world community.
“There’s not a lot of role models for musicians (in Africa),” ISSA said, noting the exception of the late, controversial Afro-Jazz-Funk legend Fela Kuti – an icon to whom their parents don’t exactly look up to. “We want to be those role models who can succeed without using drugs, without drinking, without smoking.”
And presumably, when looking at the themes ISSA sings about, without the political activism of an artist like Fela Kuti. ISSA says he gets much of his influence from American artists such as Usher, Timbaland and Akon, among others. He says he also incorporates traditional drumbeats and music traditions from his native Senegal and from India.
“This is really new,” says Chine. “It’s exactly what record executives are looking for. Not the same old R&B or hip hop. It’s a new kind of beat.”
ISSA says his inspiration also comes heavily from dancehall reggae, rhythm and blues, pop and sometimes rock. His storytelling style, however, comes directly from Africa.
“The way to tell a story through my music is the African style — capturing the listener from the get-go with a story and trying to hook you up with that,” he said.
So far, all the production work and instruments are performed exclusively by ISSA, who says he is self-taught on both mixing and recording equipment, as well as many instruments, including the piano. His first video – available on his website – was produced with no money, just the help of fellow students.
That video, which ISSA sent to BET, earned him the honor of being nominated as a Break-Out Artist on national television.
“If I could create something that is ISSA,” ISSA says. “That’s where I take it all from, we want to be a musical bridge between cultures.”
And with fan mail coming in from Europe, India, Africa and America, it’s clear he might be able to do just that.
Listen to ISSA’s music and view his videos online at Upcoming shows include the ENVY Lounge on Nov. 26 in Portland. Other shows are being planned for Aura nightclub and the Satyricon. - The SKANNER - Portland/Seattle


ISSA - EP (November 14th, 2007)
Available worldwide on iTunes, Rhapsody, AmazonMP3, Virgin, Fnac



ISSA (pronounced E – Suh): (Producer/Singer/Songwriter/Artist)
Some people look at Issa and assume he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Try a wooden spoon.

Though his father is an engineer and his mother is a pharmacist – prestigious professions that would guarantee them upper-middle class status in America – Issa’s parents were not born in America. They’re from Senegal -- a country smaller than South Dakota where the average citizen earns less than $2000 a year.

Issa grew up in Dakar – the nation’s capital which is also unique for being the westernmost point in all of Africa. Even though his parents were considered well-to-do by Senegalese standards, they both grew up dirt poor so they encouraged Issa and his five brothers and sisters to excel in school, steering them into practical, high earning vocations like computer science and engineering. All of the kids followed the plan. Except Issa.

Issa loved the arts, loved music, which didn’t exactly sit well with his parents since the only people who made a living singing in Senegal were beggars. But the vision Issa had for himself was bigger than Dakar, bigger than Senegal, bigger even than West Africa. Issa saw himself as a man of the world, making a living singing in such exotic locations as Europe and the United States. Since he was a little boy, his dream was to come to America to seek his fortune.

As a boy, Issa used to tell his grandmother – a colorful, oral storyteller -- about his dreams of coming to America and she would encourage him, asking him to remember to buy her a cell phone and to bring her to America to visit so she could know first hand what the “land of opportunity” looked like up close.

But Issa had no hope of ever coming to America. His folks just didn’t have the money. The one hope poor West Africans have of coming to America is through a miracle network called the Diversity Visa Lottery. You submit and application and if your name is picked, you win free entry to America. Once you get there, you’re on your own but, bottom line, you’re in America. Issa’s four brothers and sisters had tried every year to win one of the coveted Diversity Lottery spots with no success.

In 2004, on his very first attempt, Issa applied to the Diversity Visa Lottery… and won. But before he could begin making his dreams come true, his parents had to sell everything they owned to raise enough money for his plane fare.

Since landing in the United States five years ago, Issa managed to earn a degree in Marketing from the Portland State University and is now pursuing his passion – music. That is what makes his new album, The Rules of Attraction, so special. It is the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of blood, sweat and tears that crosses two oceans and continents. His songs are about pursuing your dream, about love, identity, acceptance and achieving the type of success every young person dreams of.

Issa dedicates the album to his late grandmother, Coumba sy, for teaching him the value of storytelling; and to his parents, Mbareck and Maimouna Diop, for teaching him discipline and helping him to pursue his dream.

- Michael Ajakwe, Jr. -
(Emmy Award-Winning TV Producer)