There are numerous Arab American hip hop artists on the music scene today, some may be household names while others are less widely known.
A Syrian American hip hop singer currently living in Washington, DC, with a diverse musical history, Omar Offendum incorporates his heritage into his songs by singing about current events in Syria. He has also written a popular song about the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt that became an Internet sensation. On his personal blog, Omar Offendum describes himself by saying, “I am a human being who believes in dignity, freedom & equality for all – no exceptions … I am an artist who strives to reflect those ideals in lyrical form.” In addition to his music, Omar Offendum also bridges cultures, languages, and artistic performances by translating classic Arabic poetry into English. Watch his music video for “#Syria” to the right; lyrics for the song can be found at this link.
Straight Street (Lyrics)
Read more about Omar Offendum
Uniting People Through Hip Hop: A talented musician and lyricist, Omar Offendum uses his music to deliver a powerful message about what it is like to be an Arab American. He uses traditional poetry to stay connected to his Syrian roots, blending English and Arabic and sophisticated beats. This article discusses Omer Offendum’s background as well as his interest in collaboration with similar artists, such as The Narcicyst and Abu Dhabi and DJ lethal Skillz. When asked to describe his first solo album, SyrianAmericanA, Omar Offendum responds that it is like “a trip to Syria through an American’s eyes and a trip to American through a Syrian’s eyes,” a definition that stands as a good example of his own mindset and emphasizes his own dual identity.
Omar Offendum’s War of Words: Omar Offendum’s single, “#Syria,” isn’t just critical or controversial, it could be considered downright dangerous in some eyes. Omar Offendum has always used his music to express his political opinions, but this track is a more personal form of activism as Offendum reflects on the war in his own homeland, a war that threatens family, friends, and countrymen alike. While he’s not actively fighting in the revolution, Offendum says “he feels he must use his music to help explain what’s happening–both to American and to himself.”
Born Yassin Alsalman, “The Narcycist” or “Narcy” is the stage name this artist adopted for his hip hop MC persona. As an Iraqi-Canadian whose interesting history includes growing up between the Arab World and Canada, the Narcycist has been a highly influential figure on the Arabic hip hop scene. The Narcycist has also written a book, Diatribes of a Dying Tribe, discussing the struggles he faces living with juxtaposing cultures and a hybrid Arab-North American identity. The book is a companion to his 2007 mixtape, The Arab Summit’s Fear of an Arab Planet. This 2007 album (“Fear of an Arab Planet”) is a play on the title of hip hop group Public Enemy‘s classic album, “Fear of a Black Planet.” Visit The Narcycist’s official website for more information: http://www.iraqisthebomb.com/
The Arab Summit’s Fear of an Arab Planet (Video playlist)
Hamdulillah [featuring Shadia Mansour] (Lyrics)
Native Deen specializes in Islamic Hip hop, using percussion only in order to comply with traditional Islamic sensitivities in relation to music. His goal is to counter stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists and emphasizes Islam as religion of peace. “The story of Native Deen is an inspiring one that began with three Muslim youth possessing unique talents and a passion to spread the uplifting message of Islam. Originally solo artists and active participants of their communities searching for creative ways to educate and inspire Muslim youth, today Native Deen has become a fusion of Hip-hop and R&B flavors, thrilling fans with their eclectic and unique combinations of lyrics, rhythms and sounds. The trio made up of Joshua Salaam, Abdul-Malik Ahmad and Naeem Muhammad came together in 2000 and has embarked upon a professional career in the music industry together in order to highlight issues confronting Muslims living in America.” (from muslimhiphop.com)
Visit Native Deen’s official website: http://nativedeen.com/2011/
Not Afraid to Stand Alone (Lyrics)
My Faith, My Voice (Lyrics)
Mercy to Mankind (Lyrics)
In 2006 two up and coming hip hop groups, The N.O.M.A.D.S. and The Philistines joined together to create the music video, “Hala,” directed by JCON. More than just an upbeat song, “Hala” has been described as “hip hop with a purpose.” Both The N.O.M.A.D.S. and The Philistines performed at the “Free the P” rally in New York City in 2006, which benefited the “Slingshot Hip Hop” documentary, a film about Palestinian rappers. The term “hala” refers to an informal greeting or salutation in Arabic. Before rising to fame under his own name, Omar Offendum began his days as a musician as part of The N.O.M.A.D.S. The second half of The N.O.M.A.D.S., Mr Tibbz, has also since gone on to a solo career. Describing themselves as “always on the offensive, open-minded, tactful, tasteful, and talented beyond belief,” the goal of The N.O.M.A.D.S.’s music is to being an Arab and African American perspective to contemporary hip hop culture. Their group’s name stands for the phrase: “Notoriously Offensive Male Arabs Discussing Sh*t.” The Philistines consists of four members: Ragtop (band leader), Cookie Jar (lyricist), DJ Cole Minor (beats & cuts), and B-Dub (emcee). Their real mission is to use their music to represent their home nation of Palestine as they perform their music around the world. Visit http://us.myspace.com/thenomads and http://us.myspace.com/thephilistines to hear more music from these two groups.
Hala: The N.O.M.A.D.S. vs The Philistines
Lesser Known Hip Hop Artists
Though originally from a Christian background, Kareem Ali converted to Islam at the age of 17. “I’ve always felt that if used correctly hip hop cold be a positive tool for uplift. If poetry does what it is suppose to do, stimulate thought, than perhaps people would fall back on the basis of their own religions and return to the principals of faith and the practice of that faith.” (from muslimhiphop.com) Kareem Ali’s unique background brings a unique edge to his music; his often politically charged lyrics describe a damaged world in desperate need of a peaceful intervention.
Miss Undastood began writing lyrics and rapping as an young girl to express herself within the confines of a strict school system. For her, music became a form of escapism. She is proud to be a strong female presence in a music genre often dominated by male musicians and hopes to show other girls the power of hip hop music as an outlet for self expression.
A long time rapper, who started in music at the early age of five years old. Iron Sheikh is from the South Bronx, New York, and recently released his second album, “Anthraxxx: Baghdad New York.” According to the artist, the first part of his name, I.R.O.N., stands for “Intelligence Rules Over Nonsense.” His style is often abrasive, and he embraces this edginess saying, “what you can expect from me is metaphors, punchlines, aggression, originality, reality.“
This Canadian rap group includes three Montreal artists, Shelagh, Nofy, and The Narcicyst, who see a dual purpose for their music. They hope it can serve as a meaningful medium to deliver a message for peace in the Middle East, and they strive for that message to also help educate the world about the country of Iraq and its people. The group has released several albums, including “A Bend in the River” and “Stereotypes Incorporated.”
Tarik Kazaleh is a Palestinian American composer and musician whose life has been a diverse study of musical genres ranging from jazz to guitar to hip hop to Oud and Arabic Maqam. He has toured with Iron Sheikh and participated in the collaborative “Arab Summit” project.
Originally from Palestine, today located in Los Angeles, the hip hop artist known as Ragtop was involved in the making of a documentary called Slingshot Hip-Hop, examining the lives and struggles of Palestinian hip hop musicians. He has also performed with fellow rappers Omar Offendum and The Narcycist as a trio act known as “The Paranoids.”