July 9, 2012 By Shameer KS

Thera hips around, We gonna hop

Shameerks_advtWholesale destruction around someone can influence her in two ways: personally, the trauma can unsettle her; culturally she will begin venting anger to the trauma in a medium which she uses to express herself.  This general statement regarding war and self-formation as well as war and creativity is eloquently expressed by YasinAlsalman, the hip-hop singer nicknamed the Narcycist, in his denunciation of the US invasion of Iraq:

“It affected me on a very personal level, where I saw the effects of the war upon my cousins in the way they deal with regular things that we take for great. You know my younger cousin would cover his ears when gunshots would go off in films.”
….It obviously affected the content of my music because I felt there were not many voices speaking out against it.’
(From Interview with Sharif Abdul Kouddous in Open Democracy)
In hip-hop, personal and political memories converge and the most vociferous (which in the hip-hop glossary is a positive adjective) hip-hop expression, or any cultural expression for that matter, comes out of the most traumatic memory one has. In Black America, there is the collective memory of racism; in Palestine, there is the memory of an implanted power dispossessing people of the land of their very existence; in TahrirSqaure, there is the memory (albeit colorful) of people confronting the mighty power that be with nothing but determination. There is always the hip (meaning current in Afro-American English) of political memories from which the singer hops with her throat filled with cries.
Let’s get back to the Narcycist to have a broader definition (I mean picture-in the post-modern art definition is a banned term) of the phenomenon we call hip-hop:
“Hip-hop was a jam where people came together and let go of all negativity that was surrounding them and holding them down and just had a good time together.”
Yes, hip-hopping is not just the activity of a performer; It is the activity of mass or the recievers or participants, too.
The term was popularized, in the words of Samy Alim, the historian of hip-hop, ‘when the hip-hop pioneer AfrikaBambaataa launched the Muslim influenced Zulu nation in the US in the 1970s and expanded the movement globally in places like France in the early 1980s. He was networking to help spread socially and politically conscious ideas and ideals, to build a community of people who would actively resist social political and economic subordination.’ (Samy Alim: 25)
Before the involvement of Bambaatta, Hip-Hop was merely an entertainment for the sake of entertainment, which was restricted to parties and ever-active night life.
Two important features of hip-hop are eclecticism and immediacy. In the Hip-Hop the elements of emceeing (Emcee is derived from the abbreviation M.C. or “Master of Ceremonies,” which also implies “move the crowd.” An emcee is a person who raps to inspire people with well-written, crisply-delivered, clear and concise lyrics. Most people would rather ‘rap’ or rhyme words in a catchy manner, but few take the time to actually emceehttp://rap.about.com/od/hiphop101/p/Emceeing.htm.) Deejaying (Disc jockeying), break-dance, graffiti and a chosen lifestyle are harmoniously blended. But eclecticism lies not merely in its style, but in its production as well. The Narcycist, for instance, explains the process in which ‘his’ much acclaimed Hash-tagging January 25th , a famous album celebrating the Jasmine Revolution in Egypt, got produced:
‘I first got contacted by somebody I call my ‘partner in rhyme’, Omar Offendum, who is Syrian American MC based in Los Angeles. He wrote to me and said, “You know, my friend Sami Mater, who is Palestinian-American producer, produced a song and he wants us to do it for Egypt.” He sent it over to me. I wrote a verse. And we sent it over to an African American rapper called Freeway, who is very dominant in the hip-hop scene, a very great individual and artist. So he wrote a verse and then he had Amir Sulaiman, who was a Def poet and he wrote a verse. And then we felt a lady’s voice in it. It’s very important to incorporate a lady because you know ladies have a part in the revolution, you know. And they have always been a strong part of the Arab community, be it in home or society. So we contacted Ayah, who is a Palestinian and Canadian singer. And that is how the song came together.’ (Narcycist,)
The phrase ‘came together’ typically defines the eclectic nature of the hip-hop. It should be noted in this context that the very concept hi-hop divests artists of their exclusive authorship and, by extension, ownership of art, which is a defining aspect of the post-modern art. Hash-tag January 25th is not the product of the Narcycist. He did for Egypt what Sami Master did for Palestine. And this post-modern condition of the death of the author is the hallmark of hip-hop music and it releases the artistic form from the confines of parochialism to the horizon of universality and political solidarity: ‘my personal struggle relates to somebody’s struggle in Brooklyn or somebody’s struggle in, you know, Los Angeles, or somebody’s struggle in Denmark, because at the end of the day we are all human beings and men are all fighting the same battle which is against the destructive system of economic or political repression.(Narcycist)
And immediacy is another factor that makes hip-hop come about in the same way that you raise your voice against someone:
‘All you really need is a microphone and a pair of headphones to record and then a good engineer to mix it. So it does not take much to create it, as well. It’s not like a rock song, where you have to record a whole band. So I think these are the two things that facilitate the music to be such a strong force in the Middle East. It is that it is so immediate, it can be put out immediately.”
Diversity of the Tradition

Since hip-hop is not just a form of art, but rather a vehicle of protest and political oppression and responses to the same is a diversely distributed phenomenon, it can’t be tethered to a single tradition. Though it originated, to use the words of Samy Alim, from the Black American oral tradition, hip-hop is diverse. We shall have a sneak purview of some of the most important traditions and famous artists associated with them.

Black America

The link between slave trade and hip-hop was documented by DrKwaku Person-Lynn in Rap Music: Africa to Hip Hop. Hip-Hop and its blood relative rap (rap is a form of art, while the hip-hop a form of life) can be traced from West Africa where ‘a majority of the first so-called slaves’ (Prisoners of War) were kidnapped from,’ says Adissa, the Bishop of Hip-hop, quoting Person-Lynn. . The roots of hip-hop lie in the formation of Zulu nation and in the towering genius of AfrikaBambaataa (Alim). Hip-hop is polemics in its style, which can only be traced to Black America where people spoke out in plain tongue against the whole racists. And in typically polemic expression, Adissa explains to his detractors the origin of hip-hop in Black consciousness:
‘Our Pain, Black Pain, our music is soulful expression from our hearts. And none can deny this. So all who felt pain feel us when we speak our minds….I knew Q-Bert, Mix Master Mike and host of other DJs before the world recognized their worth. But I ask you, who invented scratching? Answer-Grand Wizard Theodore-an African American.’ (Adissa)
Adissa attributes major elements of the hip-hop music to the life and culture of the Black. He says the breaking moves in the hip-hop originated from the Afro-American Caporia and the graffiti to the Egyptian hieroglyphics (and Egypt means ‘the land of people with burnt skin’)

Muslim Hip-Hop
It was hip-hop journalist Harry Allen who described Islam as the official religion of hip-hop (Alim). Islam made inroads into the Black community thanks to the presence of iconic leaders including Malcolm X and the movements including the Nation of Islam. Hip-hop ever since its beginning has identified itself as a nation-the Hip-hop Nation (HHN), which was ‘born in the 1970’s when the nation of Islam was reorganized after the death of Elija Muhammad’ (Decker 1993). A weekly column titled ‘Muhammad Inside Rap’ used to be carried in the NOI newspaper The First Call
Samy Alim links the discourse of hip-hop nation with that of the Quran. Rapper MosDef talks to Samy Alim about the similarity between the Quran and the hip-hop:
‘MosDef: I mean, the Quran is like that. The reason that people are able to be hafiz (one who memorizes the entire Quran through constant repetition and study) is because the entire Quran rhymes. There is a rhyme scheme in all of it and then you start to have a deeper relationship with it on recitation.’ (Samy Alim)
‘For MosDef, Hip-Hop’s ability to function as what he calls a radical form of information transferal is similar to the poetic and pedagogical means by which Allah revealed the Quran to mankind through Prophet Muhammad’ (Alim) and in many of my (Alim’s) interviews, I heard Islamic knowledge being invoked spontaneously in the flow of conversation pointing to the fact that members of HHN are studying and applying Islam in their everyday lives as well as casting Hip-Hop culture and lyrical production in a uniquely Islamic light. (Alim)
The Tradition of Nasheed (Islamic vocal music thematically associated with spiritual/behavioural sermonizing) has evolved in the Hip-Hop tradition as is evident in the birth and growth of the Denmark-based Hip-Hop group ‘Outlandish.’ The spiritual awakening in the Hip-Hop tradition is described as the internal jihad (a struggle to be carried out against one’s ego) as a springboard to launch the struggle against external enemies, whether they are the white racists or Zionists

1. Rop the Mic Right: Language of the Hip-Hop Culture, Samy Alim, Routledge
2. The State of Rap: Time and Place in Hip Hop Nationalism. Jeffrey Louis Decker. Social Text, No. 34. (1993)
3. A Response: Hip Hop Culture Is Indeed Black Culture: By Adissa, the Bishop of Hip-Hop
4. Arab Hip-Hop and Revolution: The Narcicyst on Music, Politics, and the Art of Resistance


Hip-Hop : Select Index of Names, Bands and forms


AfrikaBambaataa is one of the three main originators of break-beat deejaying, and is respectfully known as the “Grandfather” and “Godfather” of Hip Hop Culture as well as The Father of The Electro Funk Sound. Through his co-opting of the street gang the Black Spades into the music and culture-oriented Zulu Nation, he is responsible for spreading rap and hip-hop culture throughout the world. He has consistently made records nationally and internationally, every one to two years, spanning the 1980’s into the next Millennium 2000. (Read more from his website…http://www.zulunation.com/afrika.html)
Discography not to be missed


Dante Terrell Smith (born December 11, 1973 in Brooklyn, New York, United States), now known by the stage name YasiinBey (formerly MosDef), is a Grammy Award-nominated rapper and actor. He now works under the nom de plumYasiinBey, and has performed under the aliases Mighty MosDef, The Freaky Night Watchman, Boogie Man, Black Dante and Pretty Flaco. He began rapping in a group called Urban Thermo Dynamics in 1994, and then formed the duo Black Star with TalibKweli in 1998. As a solo artist he has released the albums Black on Both Sides in 1999, The New Danger in 2004, True Magic in 2006 and The Ecstatic in 2009.
Read Morehttp://www.last.fm/music/Mos+Def
Listen: http://www.last.fm/music/Mos+Def/+albums


Hi-Tek (born Tony Cottrell) is an American hip hop producer from Cincinnati, Ohio. He is best known for his work with TalibKweli on his Reflection Eternal album and on Black Star.
Hi-Tek started his rap career with hip hop group Mood and had a regional hit with “Hustle on the Side”. That song was made for Mood’s album Doom, which featured amongst others Brooklyn MC TalibKweli. Talib and Hi-Tek clicked immediately, and Hi-Tek went on to produce most of TalibKweli and MosDef’s Black Star (1998). In 2000, Tek and Kweli (under the name Reflection Eternal) released Train of Thought (2000) on Rawkus Records, with raps by TalibKweli and beats by Hi-Tek. It enjoyed moderate crossover radio success with the single “The Blast” and eventually earned Gold status in record sales. The pair have yet to release a follow-up album due to creative differences.

Read More : http://www.last.fm/music/Hi-Tek

JT BiggaFigga

JT the BiggaFigga born Joseph Tom is a hip hop producer/rapper from San Francisco, California’s Fillmore neighborhood. JT the BiggaFigga is one of the most notable independent figures in the bay area hip hop scene. He started his own record label Get Low Recordz in 1992 at the age of 18. He became the subject of considerable underground buzz thanks to the success of his self-released 1993 LP Playaz n’ the Game; a major-label bidding war ensued, and he ultimately signed with Priority to issue 1995’s Dwellin’ in the Labb.
Read More http://www.last.fm/music/JT+The+Bigga+Figga
Listen : http://www.last.fm/music/JT+The+Bigga+Figga/+albums

Tamer Hosny

Tamer Hosny (Arabic: تامرحسني‎; born August 16, 1977) is an Egyptian singer-songwriter and actor, referred to as the King of Generation. He is currently one of the top-selling artists releasing albums in Egypt and the Arab World. He was initially featured on Free Mix mixtapes from FreeMusic, an Egyptian music production company. Hosny’s father was The Egyptian (SherifWaelHosny) and his mother is Syrian, but she has spent her life in Egypt.
Read More http://www.last.fm/music/Tamer+Hosny
Listen: http://www.last.fm/music/Tamer+Hosny/+albums

Public Enemy

1) Public Enemy, also known as P.E., is a seminal Golden Age era Hip-Hop group known for their densely layered production and politically charged lyrics demonstrating their interest in the concerns of the African American community.
PE formed in Long Island, New York, in 1982 around a WBAU radio show as Spectrum City. Read more…

Omar Offendum

OMAR OFFENDUM is a Syrian-American MC/Beatmaker – born in Saudi Arabia, raised in Washington DC, and living in Los Angeles. He started his musical career off as 1/2 of The N.O.M.A.D.S., co-produced the critically-acclaimed “FREE-THE-P” Mixtape, participated in “The Arab Summit” project, co-authored the “Brooklyn Beats 2 Beirut Streets” performance-lecture, & was featured on several major news outlets (BBC/ Yahoo/ ABC News/ Aljazeera/ Reuters).
Listen: http://www.myspace.com/offendum

The Dam

DAM (Arabic: دام) is the first and leading Palestinian Rap Group. It is composed of Tamer Nafar, 27, his younger brother Suhell, 23, and Mahmoud Jreri, 24. The group has been performing together since the late 90s. Tamer, who had been performing Rap since 1998 with his brother, was first contacted by Mahmoud Jreri.All three members of the group were born and grew up in the slums of Lod, a mixed town of Arabs and Jews, 20 km from Jerusalem.
DAM’s music is a unique fusion of East and West, combining Arabic percussion rhythms, Middle Eastern melodies and urban Hip Hop. The lyrics of DAM are influenced by the continuing Israeli – Palestinian conflict as well as by the Palestinian struggle for freedom and equality. DAM also draw their influence from such controversial issues as terrorism, drugs and women’s rights.
Musically they take their inspiration from both Hip Hop artists (Nas, 2Pac, MosDef, IAM, NTM, SaianSupa Crew, MBS etc.) and Arabic music (Marcel Khalifa,KazemSaher,GeorgeWassouf, Majda al Romi etc.) The songs, lyrics and music, are written and arranged by all members of the group and musically produced by them and other known producers.
Listen: http://www.last.fm/music/DAM/+albums

Goodie Mobb

Goodie Mob, based in Atlanta, Georgia, is widely considered one of the founding hip hop acts of the (commerically viable) Dirty South movement. Members Cee-Lo (Thomas Callaway), Khujo Goodie (Willie Knighton, Jr.), T-Mo Goodie (Robert Barnett), and Big Gipp (Cameron Gipp) make up the group, which has been functioning since 1995. “GOODIE MOb”, as it’s written on their album covers, means the “GOOD DIE Mostly Over bullshit”. Cee-Lo notes in a song off the Soul Food album that, ” you take out one ‘O’ it stands for ‘GOD Is Every Man Of blackness.’ “

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