International Hip-Hop (Part 2) - The Middle East
Last week I talked about a few different types of hip-hop that can be found in European countries. This week, we're heading to the east to check out what they have to offer.
Disclaimer: This is not meant to be an endorsement of either the pro-Israeli cause, the pro-Palestinian cause. I'm not pro-Indian or pro-Pakistani. It's extremely difficult to talk about this particular region of the world without getting into politics, and I'm not going to voice my personal opinion one way or the other. I'm focusing strictly on the music, because despite the shitty things that happen on this planet, music is the one universal constant. That being said, let's continue the tour!
HaDag Nachash (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIbjpev6U5s) is a 7-piece hip-hop group from Israel that combines funk, soul, ska, western pop and hip-hop to create a menagerie of music that can't really be defined. Think of Reel Big Fish playing on the same stage as The Roots, but with Hebrew vocals. Strange concept, and even stranger to see them perform, but in the end it works quite well. It's groovy and if you speak Hebrew or feel like taking the time to translate it into English, you will notice that they like to play with words and phrases quite a bit, twisting common phrases into puns and spoonerisms. Their music does promote a somewhat left-wing ideology, but it's rather tame considering where they come from. This is the type of music that you can put on at a party or a club and people will immediately start dancing to it. I have only been able to find their newest album, entitled " Be'ezrat Ha'Jam", but they have released 4 albums since 1999 and have a rather large following in their homeland and throughout the rest of the world.
Subliminal (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVYanQ5r6rw) is a rapper/producer from Israel who makes more "western-sounding" hip-hop. His messages are more right-wing than that of HaDag Nachash, and is widely credited as being one of the creators of "Zionist hip-hop." He has opened for 50 Cent when he performed in Israel, and along with the Tel-Aviv City Team (TACT), he consistently releases #1 hits. He has a rugged voice and demeanor, and his music is probably the closest you will find to mainstream American hip-hop. Pro-bling, but anti-drug. Some of his songs sound decidedly militant, but he also raps about tolerance with songs like "Peace in the Middle East." If you enjoy some of the harder hip-hop that America produces (Jedi Mind Tricks, Wu-Tang Clan or Killah Priest), you'll probably enjoy Subliminal.
Born in Tel-Aviv, Israel, Miri Ben-Ari (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tlGwKi3ISk) is known as "The Hip-Hop Violinist" and was discovered (at least to the western world) by Wyclef Jean of the Fugees. She has worked with a number of American acts, including Jadakiss, Kanye West, Twista, Anthony Hamilton and Alecia Keys. Her music is absolutely mesmerizing and not only can she mix classical violin with hip-hop, but she can freestyle with it as well. She uses a multitude of effects pedals to tweak the sound of her violin and blend it seamlessly with almost any beat that is laid down. Top it all off with an immensely sexy swing of her hips, and you've got music that is not only pleasing to the ears, but pleasing to the eyes as well. She recently released a solo album aptly titled The Hip-Hop Violinist. If you can track the album down, do yourself a favor and listen to "The Star-Spangled Banner" with Doug E. Fresh. It will blow your mind.
DAM (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SShRR7sInsc) is considered to be the first Palestinian rap group and took the Arab world by storm with their single " "Meen Irhabi?" or "Who's the Terrorist?" Over 1 million people have downloaded the song from DAM's website, and it has been featured on Democracy Now, which has lead to them making 4 European tours (but don't expect them to appear in the United States anytime soon). They have released a single album entitled "Dedication", and one of the group's founding members, Tamer Nafar, has collaborated with Subliminal before their fallout during the second Palestinian Intifada. Their music consists of deep beats and rapping in both Hebrew and Arabic. It's great stuff with a strong message, and it shows the deep rift between not just the Israeli and Palestinian people, but the rap scene as well.
Panjabi MC (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ab9wUcxoFQ) is probably my favorite artist out of the group. A British-Asian punjabi, he mixes the extremely danceable bhangra with jungle and reggae to create fast-paced music infused with slick turntablism. He has had his songs remixed by Jay-Z ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VDMGgEB9c8), Daz Dillinger and Beanie Man and has been included on a number of dance compilations by DJ Cheb-I-Sabbah and has even had his songs featured on the shows Queer as Folk and Heroes. And yes, that bass line you hear IS from Knight Rider. The music kicks ass, plain and simple. Once again, if you can find the album, I highly suggest picking it up. You won't be disappointed.
I'm not aware of any Iraqi or Iranian hip-hop acts at the time, and I haven't been able to find any albums from the Turkish groups that I know of, but this is a pretty good representation of the hip-hop scene in the Middle East. If you know of a group or solo artist worth mentioning, please drop me a line. I love discovering new music from this particular region of the world, mainly due to the ethnic drumming that is prevalent throughout the region. I'll be back next week to check out another continent with everyone.
Seetwist makes music not war.