“And It Don’t Stop…”

I’ve been a hip-hop junkie since the ripe ol’ age of three. I remember turning on the TV (it must have been armed forces television, since my family was living in what was then West Germany because of a teaching gig my father took) and seeing the video for “I Need Love.” LL Cool J instantly became my new boyfriend (he replaced The Karate Kid!) and I was convinced that we were going to live happily ever after, in matching Kangol caps.

 

Since then, I’ve gone through different phases of hip-hop loving. I like the pop-y stuff, the “gangsta,” the socially aware and everything in between. Chuck D is my second favorite person to randomly quote, after Sartre. Given that hip hop is an art form born out of the struggle and tribulations young African Americans felt in the inner-cities, it’s no surprise that many young Arabs and Arab Americans heavily identify with and rely upon it as a means of expression.

 

Arab hip hop is still in its early stages and, admittedly, can sometimes be an embarrassing mockery of the craft. For every great artist like DAM and the Iron Sheik, there are several buffoons trying to appropriate a culture and experience that likely isn’t theirs. Some other worthwhile acts to check out include Patriarch, Belly, MTM and Poetic Justice. I’ll spare you the bad stuff.

 

But the question remains - as Hispanics put their own touch on rap with reggaeton, white boys prove that they can spit and Asians take the title on BET’s freestyle competitions - will Arabs be allowed into the American music industry, especially if they‘re saying something politically charged? If the music business has even a modicum of respect for upholding the principles upon which hip hop was built, we have a shot. Otherwise, like other positive aspects of our culture, it will remain will remain bubbling under and invisible to the outside. Let’s hope someone in power still believes in hip hop and what it's really about.

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About Josephine Zohny

Josephine Zohny was born to an Italian-American mother and an Egyptian-born father in Pittsburgh, PA. She grew up in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and moved to New York City shortly before the September 11th attacks to attend college. She received a B.A. in Music Business, Writing (Creative Non-fiction) and Race and Ethnic Studies from NYU in 2005. She is currently the Director of Entertainment Publicity for WeRoqq Publicity and Promotion, primarily representing hip-hop and r&b artists. Her writings on music, pop culture and critical race theory have appeared on PopMatters.com, EURWeb and in Colorlines and Z!nk, among other outlets and publications. She is intensely interested in the issues of ethnic identity as it pertains to Arabs, both in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in the diaspora. Her personal blog can be found at www.jzohny.com.

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