USC Students for Justice in Palestine

history, analysis, news, and event updates on the struggle for justice in palestine

USC Angelingo: Palestinian Conflict Bounces to a New Beat

Posted by uscsjp on April 22, 2007

“Rap music is the most visible form of African American cultural expression in contemporary society.” 1 Yet, as hip hop’s popularity continues to grow, it ceases to be solely a means of creating African American identity. Scholar Halifu Osumare in his article “Beats Streets in the Global Hood: Connective marginalities of the hip hop globe” argues that hip hop as “an extension of African American popular culture” has become “a global signifier for many forms of marginalizations.” Osumare continues to argue that in this case “‘blackness and its perceived status is implicated as a global signifier for many forms of marginalization.” 2 Osumare’s theory can be exemplified in the film Commitments, in which the main character, Jimmy Rabbitte, maintains that the reason many European minority groups identify with African American music is that they can empathize with the oppression of blacks. “‘The Irish are the blacks of Europe, and the Northsiders are the black of Dublin,” cries Jimmy. “So say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud!”3 The immense growth of Palestinian hip hop over the last seven years is due greatly to this equating “blackness” to “marginalization.” Hip hop has historically provided a voice for the silenced minorities and these roots have allowed for its rhythmic flows to transgress many nations’ borders, providing a global musical outlet for the marginalized. Due to the constant social and political struggle confronting Palestinians and Palestinian Americans, many of their youth have used hip hop as a means of creating an identity and providing a peaceful outlet for their political dissent…

Palestinian youth rapping to a crowd.

For many of these Palestinian hip hop artists, hip hop is not only used as political expression but a form of peaceful dissent. Palestinian youths’ lives are plagued by violent tensions between the two warring nations that manifest themselves in physical aggression. Hip hop has become a “form of creative nonviolent resistance against the military occupation,” where violent resistance and violent repression are the norm. According to documentarian Jacqueline Sacalloum, “hip hop has become an expression of Palestinian identity in the face of Israeli oppression”16, and it provides “a bridge to understanding the Palestinian struggle as well as highlighting the way creative resistance serves not only as a powerful educational tool but also as a source of strength and community” 17. Also, “Music can be a good weapon,” explains Palestinian hip hop artist Tamer. 18

An example of a group who has armed itself with its lyrics is DAM, a trio of rappers, Tamer Nafer, Suhell Nafer, and Mahmud Jiery, who hail from Ramleh. The group’s name means blood in both Arabic and Hebrew and is also associated with the English curse word. DAM blends the influences of 2pac and Mos Def’s American hip hop flavor with the traditional Arabic music greats, George Wasouf and Fairuz.19 DAM “sing about the racism and living as third class citizens, police brutality , and wanting to be united with all Arabs around the world.”20 In songs such as “Who’s the Real Terrorist?,” DAM spit powerful lyrics in Arabic in attempt to raise political awareness of the Palestinian struggle. Documentarian Jacqueline Sacalloum produced a highly politicized music video for DAM’s song “Who’s the Real Terrorist?.” But unlike mainstream music videos, DAM’s short documentary style video did not include scantily clad women or enormous diamond chains. The video was a blend of disturbing footage that showcased acts of violence against Palestinian people and a provocative track that begged the viewer to question who the real terrorists were. (continued)

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