News: US Drops Hip-Hop Envoys, Not Bombs, To Kill Overseas Tension

Tuesday, Nov 8, 2011 1:20PM

Written by Biz Jones

The U.S. State Department is looking for non-traditional ways to combat foreign policy tensions overseas, reaching into hip-hop as a source for solution.

According to reports, the United States has used rap envoys to help spread positive messages and ultimately spark the idea of diplomacy in foreign land.

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." 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. (Al Jazeera)

Despite its perceived positive impact, critics have also debated over hip-hop's purpose when utilized as a peace tactic.

US diplomacy's embrace of hip hop as a foreign policy tool has sparked a heated debate, among artists and aficionados worldwide, over the purpose of hip hop: whether hip hop is "protest music" or "party music"; whether it is the "soundtrack to the struggle" or to American unipolarity; and what it means now that states - not just corporations - have entered the hip hop game. Hip hop activists have long been concerned about how to protect their music from corporate power, but now that the music is being used in diplomacy and counterterrorism, the conversation is shifting. (Al Jazeera)

Muslim rapper Lupe Fiasco, who performed at the 2011 BET Hip-Hop Awards with a Palestine flag wrapped around his microphone, recently discussed supporting the current Occupy Wall Street protests.

While on tour, Fiasco has visited nearly a dozen of the occupy protests in various cities, and he says he does what he can to support the movements. "Whether it's a tweet or mentioning it at a show, anything I can do to help keep the conversation going, I'll do because I don't think it's this let's-overthrow-the-government type of thing," says Fiasco, 29, who brought water and sandwiches to the protesters at Occupy Los Angeles. "I think it's a conversation. Every one of them I've been to, it is people talking, and I think it's a dialogue that needs to continue." (Detroit News)

Fellow Muslim rapper Freeway addressed ex-Bad Boy Records rapper Loon's conversion to Islam last year.

"Last year, the middle of the year, I got a chance to visit Saudi Arabia for a second time," he explained in an interview. "Brother Jakk Frost was with me, brother Loon, now known as Ahmir, and it just was a beautiful experience. At the time [Loon] was seven months into the religion, he was a fresh Muslim. And from that time to now, he progressed so much, he's moving forward so quickly and I'm proud of him. The country is beautiful, the people was beautiful, the mannerism of the people. It's just real enlightening and if any of y'all get a chance to go over there you should definitely do it." (XXL Mag)

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