Friday, May 26, 2006

Corner Culture: Islamic Hip Hop?

Peace, one and all...
Ma'as salama wa al-salatu wa al-salamu ala rasul illah...
I'm currently listening to some Muslim poetry, set to music. It's by Tyson and is entitled Mecca to Medina. Ma sha Allah, inspiring poetry, all in praise in of Allah and the noble Messenger.
I found this on Muslim Hip Hop.com. At first glance, this might seem a very odd combination. Personally, Islamic lyrics in Hip Hop was one of the primary means of drawing me to Islam (way back in the early '90s). Although, for sure, there's a lot of odd stuff out there, there are some jewels amidst the dust too.
In exploring Islamic hip hop, one also has to take account of the teachings of the 5% Nation of Islam (or the Nation of Gods and Earths as they are called now). Even a cursory understanding of rap vocabulary will illustrate the extent to which 5% teachings have filtered through into popular hip hop consciousness. Terms in rap, such as 'Word is Born', 'Knowledge Knowledge', 'Cipher', 'Peace God' are all drawn from the ideas of the Nation of Gods and Earths.
Now I certainly do not intend to rubbish anyone else's spirituality. It seems to me that everyone has the right to their own beliefs, even if I feel they're wrong. It has to be said, though, that the 5 percenters do not represent mainstream Islam; indeed, they would not generally use the term 'Muslim' in describing themselves.
The Nation of Islam has also been very influential in the development of 'Islamic' hip hop. Again, they have their own particular beliefs, which I do not share, but they have been very important in this area. Public Enemy and Ice Cube are their most famous proteges.
Rap has always been about poetry for me: lyrical expression set to music. So, on that level, Muslim hip hop seems to me a good thing - in that it turns a negative into a positive. On the other hand, these days I really can't stand pop rap, which seems to have nothing else to offer beyond 'I've got money and I've got a large gun, look at all the women I've got'!!! BORING! Indeed, this kind of (c)rap is positively dangerous, as it teaches people that material gain is the true aim of life. Moreover, given the importance of hip hop in popular culture, this kind of rap seems almost criminal.
Wa akhiru da'wana an il hamu lillah rabbil alameen...
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

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