Meen Irhabi? (“Who’s the terrorist?”) & hip-hop

Thanks to Zahir‘s link to a Palestinian rap site, I came across the the group Dam ("blood" in Arabic) and their thought-provoking anthem, "Meen Irhabi?" (Who’s the terrorist?).  To watch it, click the link at the bottom of this page (the video helpfully includes English subtitles).

Given its origins as a voice for the downtrodden and marginalized and the fact that young people everywhere are basically forced to see the world through American eyes, it should come as no  surprise that some young Palestinians should be turning to rap as a way of expressing their frustrations. 

One line was particularly poignant: "I’m not against peace–peace is against me."  Indeed. 

I was intially tempted to quip that were he alive today the revolutionary Frantz Fanon would be a rapper, but with contemporary hip-hop’s slavish reliance on cheesy formulas and its utter cooption and dessication by the Man and the Big Business today, I’m not so sure. 

There are always notable exceptions to such generalizations, but I suspect that hip-hop’s days as a vehicle for social change, serious political activism, or even artistic expression are probably over, at least in America.  (In fact, I often find foreign hip-hop–e.g., French rap– far more stimulating, creative and true to the genre’s esthetic, political and philosophical roots.  In its birthplace and ostensible heartland, hip-hop has become a tiresome parody of itself.) 

Perhaps serious hip-hop fans should be busy studying Spanish or Mandarin…

  • Rachel

    I have a Dam track called “Born Here” in my iTunes. It’s pretty good.
    My favorite hiphop track recently has been “Walou,” by Outlandish, a multicultural Danish hiphop group. The album is called “Bread and Barrels of Water.” We found them on the Link channel, on their World Music Videos show, and it’s a gorgeous song.

  • svend

    Thanks for sharing Rachel. I see you’re more up on this than me, which is totally new to me (unless you count French-Arab rap).
    You provide a perfect example to support my non-American-innovation theory. How many of even the most respected contemporary American rap groups are actually contributing something new to the genre or to the discussion in society like Outlandish? There was a time when rap was more than just funky.
    I really need to get my hands on their album sone of these days!

  • cncz

    salam alaikoum
    I do think, though, that it is a matter of time before French rap-hip-hop goes down the same road. While some people manage to keep edgy and maintain commercial success (I’m thinking Diam’s, Kery James here), you also have people like K-Maro who propagate the women, fast cars and money scene that is so played out in American hip hop.

  • musicalchef

    Yes, there was a whole lecture about Dam at this years Society for Ethnomusicology Conference.

  • Abu Sinan

    Good post. Outlandish is a good group. Ana listou Irhabiung.