Marwan Abdelhamid, the 22-year-old trilingual singer who records as Saint Levant (French for “holy rising”), released his debut EP From Gaza, With Love earlier this month. You may know the young artist from a viral snippet on TikTok that caught the attention of nearly 14 million viewers. The sultry rap clip features his 2022 single “Very Few Friends” and its seductive, baritone hook: "I wanna take you to Paris and spoil you," transforming Saint Levant's muscle-tank-and-mustached brand into one that relied heavily on sex symbols, both visually and sonically.
Now, Saint Levant, a child of the Palestinian diaspora, sets out to prove that his artistic identity encompasses more than the flesh and blood carnality of his fans' favorite TikToks.
"From Gaza, With Love is an ode to the place where I spent the first seven years of my life, a beautiful city by the sea filled with love, memories and unfortunately great pain, suffering and oppression," Abdelhamid tells PAPER.
As the son of a French-Algerian mother and a Palestinian-Serbian father, the Gen-Z heartthrob spent his early childhood in Gaza before fleeing to Jordan with his family. He explains: "We are much more than the dehumanizing images you see in Western media. This song is a message to the world, and I sign it with love."
Drawing on early-2000s R&B, Arabic trap music and Franco-Arabic rap, Saint Levant's title track "From Gaza, With Love" is a heartfelt homage to his culture with danceable, Middle Eastern flair that infuses the hook and song's thesis — “I came from Gaza with love/ (But I’d feel like a tourist if I ever went back)" — with multicultural soul. The project uses the chameleonic powers of his trilingual upbringing — having spoken English at school, French at home and Arabic in a Palestinian refugee camp — to invite global listeners to embrace the sensuous riches of his Middle Eastern culture.
While bringing awareness to Palestinian occupation, Abdelhamid invariably handles his politics with love and empathy. And most of all, he doesn't shy away from imbuing his art with a political message.
Check out the PAPER premiere of the "From Gaza, With Love" music video below, where Saint Levant serenades his viewers against a backdrop reminiscent of 1980s public access television.
Photos courtesy of Saint Levant