Islam is Hip-Hop’s official religion. Hip-Hop began in the late 70’s as a form of expression in majority lower income environments. Local artist used this genre of music to escape the conflicts they faced in their neighborhoods and to express their own culture through music and dance. However, Hip-Hop never owned by one religion, Islam is Hip-Hop’s official religion. Whether rappers are Muslim or not, they’re lyrics are influenced by them. Afterall, rap was first developed as a tool to fight racism and to uplift the African-American community. Islam is the only religion in the world that unites all races. Christianity does not. Churches are very divided by race. You have black churches and white churches. In Islam it doesn’t matter whether you are black, white, brown, yellow or green, you can come into any mosque and pray. Rappers like Mos Def, Nas, Lupe Fiasco, Common and Akon have all shown that although they are part of Islam that, Hip-Hop is very much a part of Islam.
Throughout this project my wish is to not illustrate there is a, “Islamic Hip-Hop” genre but that there are Islamic Hip-Hop artist that are as successful as our mainstream artist. Moreover, that even dealing with the struggles and obstacles of being a Islamic Hip-Hop artist, that there are artist who manage to use their voice and their music to help their community and also to live by their passion of Hip-Hop. You will see how alive and how much Islamic Hip-Hop is prospering in our communities in America and around the world, but due to the stigmas and the stereotypes of Muslims, our mainstream audience does not embrace Muslim Hip-Hop artist as much as they do our mainstream artist.
This is a very inspirational documentary that, reveals the very hard and emotional journey for eight Muslim Hip-Hop artists. Furthermore, these artist were interviewed from all over the world, but one valuable thing they all have in common is the unforgiveable love they have for Hip-Hop. An artist of the documentary once said, “A lot of us came to Hip-Hop through some form of Hip-Hop.” This is emphasizing the fact that Hip-Hop is not what the mainstream media portrays it to be as only rapping about sex, guns and violence. Yet, Hip-Hop is founded based on the art of self-expression. Whether that is through a song, spoken-word, or simple poetry. As many artists throughout the documentary repeatedly said, “There is no Islamic Hip-Hop.” What this video helps to convey is that, the Muslim world does embrace Hip-Hop. Even in the streets of Mecca. However, I think what is essential to take away from this video is the concept that, even though these are Hip-Hop artists they still use incorporate Islam into their art. Islam is still their number one focus. As one artist said in the video, “U better know were going to represent Islam to the fullest.”
The film, directed and produced by Jennifer Maytoerna Taylor, is about a Puerto Rican Muslim convert, Hamza Perez, who as a former drug dealer, fights to make a new life for he and his family and his new Muslim community in Pittsburgh, PA. Hamza uses Hip Hop music to express his feelings in a very creative and productive way, he is not only able to stay on the straight path of Islam, but also give back to his community by working as a chaplain in the local prison and also helps to form a new Muslim community in the un-friendly environment of the post 9-11 world. However, this film is centered around, a FBI raid on the new mosque that Hamza and others in the local Muslim community. Eventually, Hamza was no longer allowed to work at the local chaplain, however, after appealing this decision and receiving complaints from inmates, he was allowed to return. Moreover, I highly recommend everyone to watch this documentary, because it shows a part of America, which many people do not normally get to see; that of young American Muslims who are doing positive work in their community and who genuinely care about improving not only their own lives, but the lives of everyone around them for the better through the power of Hip-Hop. This documentary not only touches the basis of Hip-Hop and the struggle of a Muslim artist, but places emphasis on what power “Islamic Hip-Hop” can have on the hope of change in a community. Islam is not what you read or see on CNN, not the stereotypes we see acted out in cartoons and films, and it is not a threat to our existence. Islam is not a threat, because faith is not a threat.
“I don’t like putting my religion out there. I don’t want Muslims kids to follow my lead.” This was one of Lupe Fiasco’s first comments of this video, implying that yes he is Muslim but not the Muslim that other Muslims, should want to be like. In fact, Lupe Fiasco has a new single called, “Muhammad Walks” almost the same as Kanye West’s, “Jesus Walks” single. The difference between the two is that Kanye West’s single has been played on radio stations all across America and even performed at the 47th annual Grammy awards. However, Lupe Fiasco’s song, “Muhammad Walks” will probably never get any recognition outside of Islam and Fiasco fans. “Christian music is more embraced because its endorsed based on Christianity,” were the words of Lupe. He is conveying that because of how critical, and acute America (Nation predominantly Christian based) acts towards Muslims, Islamic music or Islamic Hip-Hop artist may not get the attention they deserve. The question that should be investigated is, How can we negate an artists faith when we speak about Hip-Hop, when the concept of Hip-Hop is self-expression?
I wanted to incorporate Mos Def’s voice and response to our nations views on how America stereotypes and critiques Hip Hop artist today because he himself is a Muslim and a very well-known Hip-Hop legend. Throughout this television show, Mos Def I thought truthfully and logically gives his thoughts on why Muslims are treated the way they are. One thoughtful statement I thought he said in reference to the idea that Muslims are terrorist he replied, “During the revolutionary war, George Washington was a terrorist…One side is endorsed by the state and one is not…Christian terrorism is present in child molestation, Islam is not a threat, faith is not a threat.” I thought this was powerful because he is saying that we cannot just label Muslims as being terrorist because as Americans we have a long history of being terrorist ourselves. We just don’t think we are guilty like, we believe everyone else is.
Yes, “Islamic Hip-Hop” is not a real genre of music but it is a movement, a culture, a faith and most importantly an innovator. My initial intentions for this project was to show a different type of Hip-Hop other than the sex, drugs and violence we are so accustomed to. However, after this project I have grown an appreciation not only for Islam as a whole, but for Islamic Hip-Hop artist for remaining with their passion and showing that Islam is not what is portrayed on the news but is just as powerful as any other genre of music.