Follow Vogue Man Arabia

Saudi-Sudanese Rapper Dafencii On the Highs and Lows of an Esoteric Entertainer

After a brief hiatus from making music, Saudi-Sudanese rapper Dafencii opens up about the highs and lows of an esoteric entertainer.


Dafencii in Not Boring. Photo: Abeer Ahmed

Omar Bin Mohammed Alfadel doesn’t like labels. He is not just an artist; not just a rapper; not just a poet. He is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Describing him as a multidisciplinary creative would be accurate, but a bit of a mouthful. He prefers Dafencii. It is a stage name inspired by Italian inventor Leonardo Da Vinci, though that is all Dafencii is willing to share for now. “I’d rather keep the mystery there,” he tells Vogue Man Arabia, a touch cryptically. “It’s too early to reveal the true meaning – but stay tuned.”

The Saudi-Sudanese performer was making music for five years with little commercial success before he was suddenly catapulted into the Middle East rap spotlight in 2022. The release of “King Al7alaba,” a collaboration with Palestinian producer Khayyat, won him immediate critical and popular acclaim – much to Dafencii’s own surprise. “To be honest, 2022 was shocking because I set very humble goals, but God ended up giving me more than I ever could have imagined,” the 22-year-old reflects. “King Al7alaba” has since racked up 18 million views on YouTube and its success led to Dafencii being nominated for three African Music Awards, including best act in diaspora (male), best African rapper/lyricist, and most promising artist. “It was a life changing year, not only because of the success of ‘King Al7alaba’ but also because of how much I learned,” Dafencii continues. “It taught me how to evade certain things that are unnecessary and have even more confidence in my craft and what I’m capable of. I thank God for everything that has happened so far since that song blew up.”

Dafencii’s razor-sharp lyrics and intrinsic musicality did not only emerge with “King Al7alaba.” His lexical dexterity began as childhood poetry before evolving into songs. “I was a young teenager who liked to write poems, and in parallel, listened to music since I was two years old,” he recalls. “My parents exposed me to a litany of different styles, to the point where I was discovering English, Indian, and Russian music. I always loved music and was inspired by it. Then I discovered rap. All of this inspired me to start applying my poems to the music. I poured out my feelings, wrote whatever came to my mind, and that made its way to the beat, which in turn became my first song.”

Dafencii highlights the crucial role his father played as an early champion of his abilities, lifting up the aspiring artist and setting him on the path towards his current position as one of Arabic rap’s most precocious talents. “My dad asked to hear the first song and I thought it was trash, but he loved it and was so proud and supportive. He gave me money to record this YouTube beat, which I did but never released it. Then in 2019, I went viral on Instagram because of some of my freestyles and the rest is history.”

Last year, while at the peak of his powers, Dafencii – seemingly out of nowhere – announced his immediate retirement from music on social media platform Threads. But as 2023 drew to a close, the creative pull of shaping new songs proved too compelling and he returned to rap. He joined a collective of prominent MENA artists to record “Rajieen,” released to raise awareness and support for the people of Gaza, before dropping his own new track, “El Maktoob,” in November.

“What a special song this is,” Dafencii explains. “This song pulled me out of a dark mental state. It helped me discover a lot of things; to believe that everything that’s written is destined. I was crying while I recorded this song; it was therapeutic. I’ll be super grateful for it forever.” Dafencii’s fans will also be thankful as “El Maktoob” appears to have reignited the young rapper’s musical fire. Now firmly back in the spotlight, and therefore back in demand, what would a dream future collaboration look like for Dafencii? “Kendrick Lamar. Hands down,” he says of the American, who is the only musician outside of the traditional genres of classical and jazz to win the Pulitzer prize for music. “We are born on the same day so that makes me think we’re connected. The attention to detail on his craft, from the music to the visuals and performances – all of it inspires me and is what I aspire to achieve in my own career.”

That career has already had its share of twists and turns but right now Dafencii is returning to what he does best: making music that celebrates his Afro-Arab identity and notably the Sudanese roots he holds dear. “Sudan inspires me in every single detail,” Dafencii explains. “It hurts me to see how my people are hurting and have been hurting for a while. Their resilience inspires me. Their kindness inspires me. Their humour inspires me. Their strength inspires me. Their cultural fashion inspires me. Everything about Sudan is deeply rooted in my character and my reason for being. It’s everything to me.”

From the unexpected mainstream success of “King Al7alaba” to the introspection of “El Maktoob,” influences from Sudan and Saudi Arabia have shaped the young rapper’s direction. When it comes to being an artist and storyteller of genuine depth, Dafencii appears to have cracked the code.

Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of Vogue Man Arabia

Style: Mohammad Hazem Rezq
Production: Mohanned Turki, Shamis Ali, Latoya Kessie
Production assistant: Hussain Battar

View All
Vogue Collection