Eslam Jawaad (London/Lebanon)

Eslam Jawaad’s personal history reads like something out of fiction. As a teenager, he ran with the Beirut mafia and was once approached by Syrian druglords to dispose of a looted Siberian mammoth tusk for $1.5m. When the deal went south, Jawaad left the mafia world behind and relocated to London in 2003, where he traded his interest in crime for an interest in the vibrant local music scene. His first demo tape fell into the hands of a Moroccan-Dutch rapper/producer known as Cilvaringz (an affiliate of the international Wu-Tang Clan), who signed Eslam to his own management company. Eslam began writing more rhymes in English, though it would be his Arabic verses that would earn him a spot on a song with Blur frontman Damon Albarn, Paul Simonon of The Clash, Simon Tong from The Verve & Tony Allen of Fela Kuti’s band. The song went gold in the UK and Eslam was invited to tour 20 countries with the band. Later, Eslam went on tour with Cilvaringz and the Wu-Tang Killa Beez and began working on his debut album, The Mammoth Tusk, which features tracks by Dr. Dre’s producer Focus, Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, Wu-Tang’s RZA, and a collabo with the legendary De La Soul. The album is a bold first offering, with rhymes in classical Arabic, a song about being mistreated by the London police, and, of course, Jawad’s own telling of the infamous mammoth tusk story. It has already become one of the best selling Arab rap albums on Amazon and iTunes, putting Eslam firmly at the top of the Arab Hip Hop pyramid.

The first single from the new album, “Star Spangled Banner”, takes a page out of Eminem’s playbook to symbolize America as little more than a woman’s curvy behind and men drooling after it. Pretty funny stuff and highly telling of outside perspectives. Cartoonish critique w/an R&B beat.

What I love about this video (especially following the one above) is that it features Eslam Jawaad and Shadia Mansour, the leading Arab female MC, sharing a stage in Beirut, at a concert to protest the war in Palestine and raise money for refugees. If that doesn’t capture the essence of Hip Hop in the Middle East, I don’t know what does.

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  1. May 4, 2010 at 4:50 pm

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