Revolution inspiring Rappers

RnB/Hip Hop | Wednesday 21st December 2011 | Osh


It’s been a year since the Tunisian revolution sparked off protests in the Arab world. The fighters in Libya and the activists in Egypt were at the heart of the Arab Spring but this article isn’t about them. It’s about the brave musicians, rappers and DJs who gave the revolution its very own soundtrack.

These young rappers faced the real (violent) threat of censorship but stood tall against oppression. Tunisia’s El General pretty much ignited the protest with his song ‘Rais Lebled’ (‘Head of State’). The Tupac-loving 22 year-old, whose real name is Hamada Ben Amor has been writing political raps for two years. He was forced to go underground during President Ben Ali’s autocratic regime. ‘Head of State’ was released in December 2010 and quickly became the anthem of the Tunisian ‘Jasmine’ Revolution.

El General’s sudden popularity landed him in jail in January 2011 as the regime recognised him as a potential threat. But the people’s movement succeeded in ousting Ben Ali and El General was given a hero’s welcome. On ‘Head of State’, he calls out the former President on the miserable condition of the Tunisian nation. The anger in Ben Amor’s voice is apparent when he says “Mr. President your people are dying”.

While they may be from different countries, El General and Libya’s MC Swat have one thing in common. Tupac. That’s right; when asked what would happen if he rapped against Gaddafi before the uprising, Swat said “I’d be shot dead like Tupac.” The 23 year old began writing fiercely critical raps against Gaddafi in February 2011. MC Swat and others like rebel rockers Guys Underground camped out in the opposition’s headquarters in Benghazi, Libya. There they were able to write and perform freely for the first time since Gaddafi’s oppressive rule began 42 years ago.

Egyptian hip hop group, Arabian Knightz, have been around since 2006 but last year’s revolution helped them get the message out there. Their songs ‘Rebel’ and ‘New Day’ were much needed encouragement to the Egyptian people. Arabian Knightz are a proper rap outfit, complete with ‘gangsta’ monikers (E-money, Ho$$, Rush & Sphinx) and cockiness to boot. Their official bio claims they are “lyricists with the sharpest swords in their land.” Despite all that, AK write powerful songs that make you think and the same time, dance. Catchy political tunes. What more do you want?

The Arab Spring may have cooled down with the winter but these artists have just started. Under Ben Ali, revolutionary rappers were not allowed to sell CDs or play concerts. El General and others like him are free to live the dream. In the past year he’s toured the Middle East and France and he’s working on an album. Arabian Knightz are recording a new album called ‘United States of Arabia’. Members of AK are involved with a new label, Arab League Records, which brings together hip hop artists from across the Arabian peninsula.

These rappers have shown the world that something positive can come out of complicated, oppressive and even violent situations. Rebel rappers not only have a message but they write catchy songs. So even if your Arabic’s a little rusty, doff your hats to these courageous rhyme-masters.
Pictured: Arabian Knightz