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Leveraging Hip Hop in US foreign policy

March 11, 2012 1 comment

From Al Jazeera and the longer article,  “Race, Rap, and Raison d’Etat” by Hisham Aidi.

The US government wants to improve its tarnished image abroad by sending out ‘hip hop envoys’ [GALLO/GETTY]

In April 2010, the US State Department sent a rap group named Chen Lo and The Liberation Family to perform in Damascus, Syria.

Following Chen Lo’s performance, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was asked by CBS News about US diplomacy’s recent embrace of hip hop. “Hip hop is America,” she said, noting that rap and other musical forms could help “rebuild the image” of the United States. “You know it may be a little bit hopeful, because I can’t point to a change in Syrian policy because Chen Lo and the Liberation Family showed up. But I think we have to use every tool at our disposal.”

The State Department began using hiphop as a tool in the mid-2000s, when, in the wake of Abu Ghraib and the resurgence of the Taliban, Karen Hughes, then undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, launched an initiative called Rhythm Road. The programme was modelled on the jazz diplomacy initiative of the Cold War era, except that in the “War on Terror”, hip hop would play the central role of countering “poor perceptions” of the US.

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“Voice of the Streets”: the Arab Hip Hop summit that couldn’t be stopped

March 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Reprinted with permission from author/editor Jackson Allers of World Hip Hop Market.

Cairo’s MC Amin playing to the crowd for the “Voice of the Streets” event (Lens ©Laith Majali/Immortal Entertainment)

CAIRO – Last November, 12 of the re­gion’s best-known Arab rappers were set to per­form together at a public youth center in the swanky central Cairo district of Zamalek. Or­ganizers billed Voice of the Streets as a concert to re­mind people about “the contin­ued struggle for freedom of ex­pression in the wake of the Arab uprisings.” Indeed, it was an Arab hip-hop event without precedent.

Unlikely rap torchbearer, Tunisia’s MC El Général whose song Rayess Labled (Head of State) was a musical anthem for the uprisings, and MC Swat from Libya, who was featured in numerous international stories about the musical scions of the Libyan rebel movement, were both “prize-winning” elements to the stellar line-up.

But the day before the event was scheduled to take place, event organizer Martin Jakobsen, director of the educational NGO Turntables in the Camps and founding member of the legendary Danish DJ collective Den Sorte Skole (The Black School) told WHHM that neither rapper was going to make it.

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Egypt’s Hip Hop Soundtrack (an interview with MC Sphinx of the Arabian Knightz)

March 11, 2012 Leave a comment
MC Sphinx and the other members of the Arabian Kinghtz – E-Money [left] and Rush [center] (photo courtesy of Arabian Knightz)

By Alex Billet (originally published in Electronic Intifada, republished with a blessing from World Hip Hop Market)

The Egyptian revolution is easily one of the most significant uprisings in decades. Millions of workers, students and unemployed took to the streets demanding that the US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak step down; it’s a struggle that continues even now, several months after Mubarak was overthrown.

Like any true revolution, the massive demonstrations and strikes sent a shock wave through the nation’s culture. Left-wing reporters and bloggers gained global attention, revolutionary poems were written and performed often on the fly in Tahrir Square, and countless songs dedicated to the uprising rocketed around the Internet.

Two of these songs, “Rebel,” and “Not Your Prisoner,” came courtesy of the trio Arabian Knightz, widely regarded as the first hip-hop group in Egypt. Both quickly became anthems of the revolution. After being vaulted to a national and international profile, Arabian Knightz are preparing their first international tour, and are releasing their new album Uknighted States of Arabia on 25 January — the one-year anniversary of the protests that sparked the revolution.

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