Hip-hop: Civil rights attorney doubles as popular music performer


Photos courtesy of Omar Aburashed

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Balancing life as a civil rights attorney and a successful hip-hop artist can be a challenge for Omar Aburashed, a.k.a. Omar Zidan. “But I try think of others in less fortunate situations as a means of preventing excuses,” he says. “I like to think of attorney life as ‘Bruce Wayne’ mode, and music life as ‘Batman’ mode.”   
A graduate of Albion College and Detroit Mercy Law School, Aburashed started his legal career at The Mike Morse Law Firm in Southfield, before teaming up with close friend Sharif Aref to hang out a shingle as Aref Law, P.L.L.C.

“It took me about 20 years to realize it, but I was always the kid on the playground daring enough to face any bully or challenge,” Aburashed says. “Helping others stand against injustice and unfairness, or simply stating things people think—but are often afraid to say—makes me feel alive and of purpose.”

The youngest of four siblings, Aburashed was heavily influenced by his family’s diverse taste in music. Long car rides with the family included his parents’ choice of Arabic music, R&B and soul from sister Rima, hip-hop and reggae from brother Samy, and an eclectic choice from brother Rany—“any genre depending on the day,” Aburashed says.

He began writing songs at the age of 14 and continued throughout undergrad and law school. “I always collected my notes from over the years and after law school, finally decided to piece them together,” he says. “My writing includes pretty much anything and everything around me. As cheesy as it sounds, there’s a story behind everything—every place, person, feeling, picture, sound, moment and experience.

“Ultimately, my aim is to paint the world I see—and want to see—through music and art that connects people. I often cover topics and themes from love and heartbreak, anxiety, addiction, mental health, religion, war, greed, and corruption, to sometimes simply making music revolved around me dancing alone in my apartment.”

While musical influences possibly number in the hundreds, leading contenders include AbdelHalim Hafez, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, The Beatles, Wu Tang Clan, Mos Def, Eminem, D’Angelo, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and Anderson Paak.

“Music plays so many important and diverse roles across the world,” Aburashed says. “Describing exactly why I love it is difficult and complicated—that’s love though, right? All I know is I feel connected to it.”    

For the past couple of years, Aburashed has performed at a variety of local venues, along with “freestyle” events in between; but in recent months, performances have taken a backseat while he focuses on new projects.

That includes the recent launch of OrdinaryKidz, a creative collective and independent record label aimed at connecting and providing opportunities and platforms for independent and marginalized artists. “There’s way too much creative talent in Michigan, and more importantly, way too many people afraid to do anything with it,” he says. “As a music label, we’re still very young and in our beta phase, but we’ve got a lot in store.”

Aburashed is very close to his family. “Family is everything,” he says. “I have 12 nephews and nieces and have been an uncle since the age of 8—and my roles as an uncle, son, brother, friend, attorney, musician, community member, and citizen of the world combine to form my ‘North Star.’ I grew up in and around many diverse communities, from my neighborhood and schools, to my local Muslim, art, and music communities.”