The Arab uprisings have changed Arabic hip-hop by greatly raising the profile of Arab rappers across the world and spurring intensive collaboration among them. We take a closer look at the genre and present you our favourite Arab hip-hop artists of today.
Before 2011, international coverage of Arab hip-hop artists was quite rare. The youth-driven nature of the recent uprisings, though, has made Arab rappers, especially those in the diaspora, a go-to source of insight. International media coverage, as well as the continuous rise of social media, have both played a critical role in expanding Arabic hip-hop’s audience, spreading the revolutionaries’ message, and helping artists from across the diaspora and the Middle East to forge a more unified, vibrant, and coherent Arab hip-hop movement.
The Arab uprisings gave Arabic hip-hop new energy, vitality, and inter-connectedness, and in Libya and Tunisia, it could be said that they have sparked a ‘revolution’ in the Arab world’s hip-hop scenes. Here are our favourite Arab hip-hop artists that are leading the scene at the moment.
The Narcycist or simply Narcy (a.k.a. Yassin Alsalman) was the first Arab rapper I ever discovered back in 2010! Narcy’s family is from Basra, Iraq, but he was born in Dubai. Later on, his family moved to Montréal, Canada where he’s now based.
He describes his life as a constant back and forth between the UAE and Montréal — his high school years were spent in Dubai, but he went to university in Montréal. Narcy is an ambitious artist; he’s also an actor, journalist, and educator, seeking to transmit his experience of being Arab (especially Iraqi) in the West through his work.
Born in Saudi Arabia and raised in Washington D.C., Omar Offendum is a Syrian rapper, poet, and activist (or “peace pusher” as he calls it). Starting out as part of the N.O.M.A.D.S. duo with Sudanese-American rapper Mr. Tibbz, he then moved to Los Angeles to collaborate with Palestinian-Filipino trio the Philistines.
Offendum raps both in Arabic and English and has said that his music works to convey the complexity of the Arab-American identity. He tours the world not only with his music but also holding lectures and workshops at major universities like Stanford.
Shadia Mansour is one of the most powerful and beautiful voices of the Palestinian resistance. She is a British-Palestinian MC, though she became known by performing classical Arab protest music at an early age. Mansour is now dubbed the ‘‘first lady of Arabic hip-hop,” though sadly, she’s probably still one of the only ladies in the game.
Her family hails from Haifa and Nazareth, and she spent most of her summers visiting extended family there. Onstage, she reps the Palestinian people by wearing a traditional Palestinian thawb (see the video above).
She is, no doubt, an outspoken and patriotic Palestinian, rapping almost exclusively in Arabic. She describes her music as “a musical intifada (uprising) against oppression,” whether it be the occupation of Palestine, the repression of women, or the conservative opposition to her music.
What do you think of Arab hip-hop movement? Do you have any favourite artists?
Text: Irina Gorskaia