SOHH Whatcha Think: Can Hip Hop Save The World: Government Wants To Send Rappers To The Middle East [Click Here & Speak]
Thursday, Nov 10, 2011 1:00AM
Rap music has stretched beyond the neighborhood block party and spread out to the other side of the map. You've got cats from all over the globe cranking out rap tunes in their native tongue, fans from foreign lands learning the words to songs by Eminem, Jay-Z and others. And even if they don't quite know what the lyrics mean, it's the power and passion behind the voice that makes them connect to some of America's biggest artists.
"Peace in the Middle East" is a phrase I remember being around since I was a young scrap, yet it was never more than as slogan in my eyes as most of the news coming from that side of the world involved tribulations of the highest form. So when a colleague put me on to a story that the U.S. government was interested in having Muslim artists fly overseas to help spread diplomacy, it certainly raised an eyebrow or three.
After further reading, I was surprised to learn this wasn't exactly a novel idea:
In 2005, the State Department began sending "hip hop envoys" - rappers, dancers, DJs - to perform and speak in different parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The tours have since covered the broad arc of the Muslim world, with performances taking place in Senegal and Ivory Coast, across North Africa, the Levant and Middle East, and extending to Mongolia, Pakistan and Indonesia. The artists stage performances and hold workshops; those hip hop ambassadors who are Muslims talk to local media about being Muslim in the US. The tours aim not only to exhibit the integration of American Muslims, but also, according to planners, to promote democracy and foster dissent.(Aljazeera.Net)
So, the idea is that, by sending Muslim-American artists overseas to share their music, background and ideas with rap fans in the Middle East, they can kind of pass on a message that, "Hey, they U.S. ain't that bad, you know. Anybody wanna cypher real quick?
Life is never black and white, and with politics, it comes in several shades of gray. Maybe this is a good thing, maybe we don't know the entire story. But what do you think? Should the government use Hip Hop to help usher in a little street diplomacy in the Middle East? Or are they exploiting our culture in ways we do not yet fully know?
While you ponder on that, check out this video by Muslim artist Hasan Salaam:
[Editor's Note: The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of SOHH]