Hip Hop Diplomacy and The Boom Generation

Hip hop and diplomacy are just as unlikely a pair as heavy metal and Islam to the Western mind. Nevertheless, hip hop and heavy metal are popular forms of music among youth in the Middle East. As in every society, the younger generation struggles to find alternatives to tradition through travel, study, and rebellion. The next generation in the Middle East faces the pressure of rebuilding a region after years of war. They are playing metal and hip hop to rebel against the surrounding culture of violence and war. Popular music suggests that a lot of Muslim youth are choosing an alternative to political activism, living their daily lives apart from ethnic and religious conflict with politics in the West.

Hip Hop Diplomacy in Morocco

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The documentary I Love Hip Hop in Morocco follows a series of hip-hop concerts organized by Fulbright scholar Josh Asen. Filmaker Jennifer Needleman follows his experience studying the indigenous Moroccan Hip Hop culture. The concerts have also inspired The Hip-Hop Diplomacy Project and there are similar organizations around the world. While hip hop diplomacy as U.S. strategy is only now getting buzz, blogger taamarbuuta for The Moroccan Report says that hip-hop is “nothing new in Morocco.” Looking at the movement from the bottom-up, hip-hop activists clearly stand for democratic values and concert festivals are popular because common values like free speech and equality are shared. Rapper Bigg takes a stand in an interview translated here and explains his message to fans:

I tell them not to be afraid of anything or anyone: “Baraka men al khouf!” [“Enough fear!”] I ask them to be citizens who fulfill their obligations and who dare to demand their rights. Real Moroccans who want to change their country, not those who want to leave at the first possible moment. In singing, I ask young people to interest themselves in what’s happening around them.

Ongoing foreign intervention, international aid, and other experiments in Western economic and political models have some positive effects but carry a high cost. Could concert festivals be the future ground for a stable, secure society?

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One thought on “Hip Hop Diplomacy and The Boom Generation

  1. I’m always trying to express to my friends that don’t understand the importance of hip-hop, that its more than music and beats. It’s a culture, its a lifestyle, and oftentimes its political activism/awareness. This article is proof of that. I’m happy to be part of the hip-hop culture and I hope that hip-hop can create something good in the war torn middle east.