Moroccan rapper accused of praising hashish released on bail

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Moroccan rapper ElGrande Toto performs during a concert in Rabat, Morocco, Friday, 23 Sep., 2022. The Casablanca-born rapper was taken to custody and is being investigated after statements he made about smoking cannabis. He later apologized for the comments. (AP Photo)

RABAT – A rapper arrested in Morocco earlier this week on accusations of incitement to drug consumption, violence, and defamation was released on bail Wednesday pending a trial, according to his lawyer.

Taha Fahssi, known as ElGrandeToto, was detained late Monday after legal complaints were filed against him by musicians, a journalist, and a police officer.

The Casablanca-based rapper, 26, became a household figure in the Moroccan rap scene when he released his debut album, “Caméléon,” in 2021. The 17-song album garnered mixed reviews but achieved significant popularity on Spotify, making him the most searched Arab artist in the Middle East-North Africa region on the streaming platform.

Over the years, Toto has pushed boundaries. He appeared on Instagram while smoking hashish and flaunting his numerous tattoos. He filmed himself drunkenly carrying a bottle of alcohol at one of his gigs. This caused widespread criticism and condemnation among Moroccans, with many believing that his actions set a bad example for his audience, mainly children.

Then, speaking at a press conference last month during a music festival held in honor of the city of Rabat being named the capital of African culture, the rapper bragged publicly about his hashish use.

“I smoke hashish, so what?” he replied defiantly to a question asked by a journalist. “Do I get it from somewhere else? “No!” he added. It’s just around the corner. We are barely 300 kilometers away from the source of cannabis, and it’s well known worldwide. People come here from all around the world to smoke it. ”

A few hours later, Toto used profanity at his show in Rabat, drawing more criticism.

Cannabis has been cultivated in Morocco for centuries and the country is one of the world’s biggest cannabis producers, but cannabis use is illegal in Morocco and across the region.

The rapper later expressed regret during a press conference. He said that his comments about hashish and his use of coarse language onstage had been misinterpreted.

“I apologize to everyone, including the general public, the families who were there, the police, and the organizers. We are not bad people. We perform rap. Rap is not bad. It has a specific language," he said.

Despite the apology, Moroccans attacked Toto via social media. Belgium-based Moroccan journalist Mohamed Tijini accused him of encouraging drug consumption in a concert organized by the Ministry of Culture and paid for with taxpayers’ money.

Toto fired back on Instagram, allegedly threatening to “liquidate” and take “revenge” on the journalist. Tijini then filed a lawsuit against Toto for defamation, insults, death threats, and breach of public morality.

Three other Moroccan musicians and a police officer followed suit and filed complaints against the rapper, accusing him of defamation, threats, insults, slander, attacks on honor, and exposure of facts and secrets linked to people’s private lives through social media without their consent.

After hearing these complaints, the prosecution at a Casablanca court decided on Monday to take Toto into police custody.

The musicians Abdelouahab Doukali, Abdallah Issami, and Moulay Ahmed Alaoui later dropped their complaints.

Last year, the Moroccan parliament passed a law that allows farmers in the northern regions of the country to grow cannabis for medicinal, commercial, and industrial purposes. The first 10 permits for the use of legal cannabis were issued earlier this month.