AJ (Oakland/Sana’a)

Ohio-born Yemeni-American rapper AJ (born Hagage Masaed) recently compared his performance at the first Hip Hop concert in Yemen, in November, 2009, to the fall of the Berlin Wall. AJ grew up listening to Reggae, Funk and Hip Hop, and became connected to traditional Arabic music during summers he spent in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the second largest Arab community outside the Middle East. He blends these influences in his music and writes rhymes in English and Arabic to “educate, heal ignorance, and stop hatred.” AJ also includes belly dancers and traditional Arabic musicians in his live performances. Last November, he traveled to Sana’a to participate in the country’s first Hip Hop concert, at which he performed 2 songs that drew wild applause, “No Terrorism Please” and “One Yemen United”. The concert drew considerable attention in the international newsmedia (Christian Science Monitor, NPR, Sky News, etc) and quickly made AJ the face of an anti-terrorist, pro-peace Yemeni Hip Hop movement. AJ’s first album, “Worldwide” is available for download here, and he’s currently back in Yemen, working on his second release, which he has said will include collaborations with some of Yemen’s biggest traditional musicians and more songs in Arabic.


The anti-terrorism anthem that put AJ on the map, “No Terrorists, Please”. Not the strongest rhyme scheme I’ve heard but the message is right and the sample on the hook cries out for “my country”.

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