In 2006 local Iraqi-American rapper Timz got national attention when his anti-war video got him exposure on Fox News. “From there it went viral,” says Alvin Shamoun, who, like Timz, was also a member of San Diego’s Spring Valley Chaldean community. “I was his manager.” Shamoun had done well with his check cashing, cell phone, and marijuana dispensary businesses. “We started a record label,” Shamoun says. “I built him a studio.” But his artist, who had a degree from USD, became a celebrity. “He ended up getting letters of support from senators and other movers and shakers he met from doing the video. He quit music when he got a scholarship to go to Cal Western law school.”
"The Uber Song"
...by Biggie Babylon
But Shamoun could rap himself, so he became Biggie Babylon. “People started liking it.” When his dispensary closed after threats of property seizures, he made a commitment to music, got signed to Bungalow/Universal Records, and moved to L.A. “When I got up there I discovered it was a bad deal. When I started meeting successful people in the music industry in L.A. they said they wanted to get in the weed business. I told them, ‘Been there, done that. I want to do music.’”
Biggie also met some people who convinced him “to take some acting classes at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. I met some producers who said I had a good look. I’m a big dude, Middle Eastern, with a bald head. I always wanted to act. I got on a TV commercial for King Games, makers of Candy Crush. I wrote, directed, and starred in my own low-budget short film called Ryde, which is about an Uber driver.”
Then earlier this year Biggie Babylon took a serious run at music. “I’m in my 30s. I can do acting forever. I think I only have a few more years to do music.” He hooked up with producer Josh Franks (Nick Cannon). Local station Z90 started giving airplay to his party tune “The UBER Song” and to “Small Town Girl,” his hip-hop version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
4000 Kearny Mesa Road, Kearny Mesa
On November 1 he takes off on an 11-city promotional tour. “I get interviewed on radio stations in L.A., San Francisco, Fresno, Bakersfield... I have an album out in February called Mary Want Her Money. We’ll play the music on air and do an interview.” But he says the tour is not about selling his music. “I give it away. This is more about branding. My hope is to be a performer on a larger tour and build my brand. I’m starting a merch company with T-shirts and caps and cannabis-related items like grinders, lighters, and backpacks.”
Biggie Babylon appears November 13 at Pure Platinum in Kearny Mesa.