Moroccan artist ElGrandeToto has always lived outside the box


COLORS showcases exceptional talent from all around the globe, focused on the most distinctive new artists and original sounds.


Moroccan artist ElGrandeToto has always lived outside the box

If you asked ElGrandeToto who his biggest fan is, he would confidently respond, “I am”. Born Taha Fahssi, Toto grew up in Casablanca, Morocco. Toto first discovered hip-hop when following in the footsteps of his older, b-boy brother. For several years, he used the dance style of krumping as his main artistic outlet before turning his attention to music in 2016. Once Toto embarked on his musical journey he was determined to do so on his own terms; by being unabashedly himself.

Toto quickly gained recognition in the music scene, becoming one of Morocco’s most celebrated hip-hop artists within a year. His success was cemented by the release of his 2017 single, ’Pablo’, followed by his 2021 debut album, ‘Caméléon’, which earned the artist global recognition. Now, Toto is taking his music on tour through Europe and North America before heading home to Casablanca, where it all began.

Following his A COLORS SHOW performance of ‘WELD LAADOUL’,’ we spoke to ElGrandeToto about the importance of staying true to himself, maintaining his family ties, and his upcoming music.

We originally had this interview planned for earlier this month, around the time of the earthquake in Morocco. I want to give my condolences to your home country. How have you been? How are you dealing with the news?

It was devastating, but we have to take the good out of it. Seeing how the Moroccans showed up for each other–not just those in Morocco, but around the world—was amazing. It’s sad that it took an earthquake to show the world real Moroccan values. But, it’s how the saying goes, “even in the darkest places there’s a lot of hope.”

Are you currently in Morocco?

I’m in Morocco but I’m leaving soon—for good.

Where are you going?

Haha! Make sure to write this down: I can’t answer this question because I don’t want to be followed. I want to be at peace. I want to eat bananas, smoke trees, and have kids!

Where does your artist name, “ElGrandeToto”, come from?

It’s a reference to the Italian mafia, and to a neighbor who lived on my block. His name was Toto, and my name is Taha. I hung around him a lot as a kid, so the neighbors used to call me ‘Little Toto’.

What is your earliest musical memory?

Listening to my mom play Cher’s ‘Believe’. Growing up I didn’t know it was auto-tuned. Later, I saw a show on Netflix and discovered Cher was the first person who really utilized autotune. Her sound was so powerful.

I love Cher. She’s a true pop icon.

Cher is like a mother to me. If I met her I may cry. I would be speechless.

Your introduction to hip-hop was through dance, right? 

My brother was a b-boy—he used to bring me to the streets to dance. When I got older I started krumping. Krumping is rough and real, people don’t understand it when they first see it. You make ugly faces, pull at your shirt, and look angry, but inside you’re happy as fuck. When I was young, I would try new things then quit because I felt people didn’t understand me. I always thought I was the problem. Now I understand I’m just someone who lives outside the box.

Has your time as a dancer influenced the style of music you create?

There’s a hugely competitive side to krumping: you can’t let yourself or your team down.  I kept this aspect of dance in my music. I’m always trying to do my best. I’m my biggest competition, my biggest critic, and my biggest fan.

You started releasing your own music in 2016. What have been a few of the most challenging aspects of breaking into hip-hop from Morocco?

Being myself. Most artists are creating an image, playing a role, and trying to be entertaining. I can’t do that. I was in love with the realest rappers growing up. I fuck with Biggie, but I love Pac. Pac stood for something, he defended his ideas. In Morocco, speaking-up for yourself can be hard. I do it in a really harsh way. I take no shortcuts, no tunnels, I take the highway straight on.

Other than that, the biggest challenge I’ve had is getting visas. There’s a stigma around rappers, so it can be hard to convince people to provide us with the right documentation to travel outside the country.

In 2021, you released your debut album ‘Caméléon’. On it you rap in Darija, French, and English. How do you approach creating music that blends multiple languages?

Whenever I travel somewhere I adapt and blend in. For example, I went to Tunisia, five days later I was speaking like a native. I went to Lagos for a video shoot with CKay, six days later I was doing half-a-verse in Pidgin. When I love a country and its culture, I try to get the most out of it.

“Once this new album comes out, you’re going to need a fire extinguisher ready. There’s gonna be fire everywhere.”

Tell us about the song you performed for COLORS.

‘WELD LAADOUL ’—which means “the son of the adel”—is about my family. My grandfather was an adel—a public official in Morocco—and the song is a reference to my father and his brothers. They were called ‘the sons of the adel’, a nickname that was lost with our generation. I wanted to bring it back. I thought about making a music video for the song featuring the whole family, but my grandmother passed away last Saturday. In a poetic way, adels simultaneously represent justice and injustice. I feel I’ve inherited my grandfather’s adel side by always putting justice into my own hands.

What new projects do you have on the horizon?

I have a new album coming out. It’s nearly ready—it’s currently being mixed. I’m also heading on my world tour. We’re going to L’Olympia de Paris and it’s already sold out! We’re also touring through Canada, the US, and Europe. The aim is to do the last show in Casablanca, and for that to be the biggest gig of all.

If you could send one message to your fans right now, what would it be?

I want to thank my fans. I took a long pause in terms of releasing music, but once this new album comes out, you’re going to need a fire extinguisher ready. There’s gonna be fire everywhere.

ElGrandeToto is a Moroccan artist whose A COLORS SHOW was released on the 27th October 2023. You can watch the full performance on our YouTube channel.

Text: Katerina Lytras

Photography: Megan Courtis

Videography: Lucas Sanou

Video Editing: Katia Fisenko


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