As an avid fan of Hip Hop, I was intrigued to find about how extensive the influence of Hip Hop on the Middle East has become. From graffitti to clothing to music; it is obvious that this art form and lifestyle is growing across a region that has a very traditional and conservative society. Of course there are exceptions to this conservatism and hip hop is becoming a symbol of a growing rift in Middle East society between traditional and western norms. I would like to point out that Hip Hop has been adjusted to accurately depict the cultural legacies of the regions it impacts. This is evident in Arab Hip Hop which discusses critical issues in the Arab World such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, the American occupation of Iraq, and much more. Another interesting component of Arab Hip Hop is that artists are emerging both domestically within Arab States and internationally among the various Diaspora groups. It is on the latter which I want to focus on.
Four main artists come to mind within the Diaspora group and all are well educated.
Lowkey is a rapper of English and Iraqi ancestry who grew up in London. Lowkey is known for his outspoken political activism. He is particularly critical of U.S. foreign policy and the American occupation of Iraq. A perfect example of his criticism of the American government is his song “Terrorist.”
“Terrorist” by Lowkey
Narcicyst grew up in Canada and, just like Lowkey, is of Iraqi descent. He is also known for his political commentary. But he is also the most renown for his ability to combine American Hip Hop with traditional Arab instrumental music creating a unique song. His most well known song, P.H.A.T.W.A. is a critique of American views of Muslims in the post 9/11 world.
“P.H.A.T.W.A.” by The Narcicyst
Originally from Saudi Arabia, Omar Offendum is a Syrian-American that grew up in Washington D.C. He is known for his combination of political and social commentary in both English and Arabic. HIs style is based off late 80s and early 90s Hip Hop that came out of New York like Public Enemy and Nas.
Shadia Mansour, also known as the “First Lady of Arabic Hip Hop,” is a Christian Palestinian singer well known for her commentary on domestic Middle East politics. She grew up in the United Kingdom, but has since returned to the MIddle East and become a major critic of Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories.