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Refusing to follow rap industry standards, Toronto hip-hop lyricist Arabesque (born Steven Kawalit) decidedly created his own path by writing songs unafraid to explore controversial issues or distressing emotions. The Canadian-born Palestinian, who also goes by the alias Aramaic, launched his rap career when he was young in his mid-teens. In the early 2000s, he cut his teeth in Canada's rap scene with several self-pressed singles, including his first release, "The Reason," in 2002. However, his biggest crossover in Canada came with the heart-wrenching track "Choked Up," which detailed the death of his girlfriend. Urban radio in Toronto put the 12" single in regular rotation along with the MTV Canada and Much Music video networks. Arabesque's underground sensibilities, combined with polished, '70s soul-inducing productions, earned him a loyal fan base and caused some major labels to come knocking at his door. He preferred to stay independent, however, and signed with U.K.-based record label Sin Nombre in 2005. His debut LP, Frenzy of Renown, arrived in the U.K. and Canada in late 2005 but came in the U.S. early the following year. Hardly noticed, the effort received little fanfare outside of Canada, where the album was nominated for Rap Recording of the Year at the 2007 Juno Awards. Following the nomination, Arabesque inked a deal with Toronto-based URBNet Records for his Hang Your Heroes EP (2007), which featured ex-Flipmode Squad rapper Rah Digga as host. ~ Cyril Cordor, Rovi