SOHH recently caught up with Hasan Salaam to get his opinion on the U.S. Government’s strategy of sending Muslim-American rappers to the Middle East in hopes of spreading diplomacy.
According to the Muslim emcee, nothing is ever as simple as it seems, particularly when dealing with politics.
“In my opinion, America shouldn’t be promoting how other people should live. That’s their business. Let’s say China sends their delegates over here to try and teach people about Communism. People would be in an uproar, you know what I’m sayin’? America has people in the Middle East that are there to make sure U.S. interests are met … I mean all the people that we’ve seen overthrown over the past few years had been American puppets for the past 30 or 40 years anyway.”(SOHH)
Salaam went on to point out that an artist looking to take part in a government-backed musical mission ought to weigh the odds before pledging their commitment.
“I don’t think it’s America’s place to do that. If those countries actually want artists to come over there, then that’s a whole different thing. I mean, I would love to perform in Cairo … but doing something like that through the government has its good, and it has its bad. For hip-hop its good to travel to those places as long as they’re not trying to tell those arists what to say and do.”(SOHH)
According to reports, the United States has previously 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)
Salaam believes hip-hop has always maintained a lane for artists to speak on beliefs without hurting their image.
“It’s funny because I was actually listening to [Shyne’s 2004 album] Godfather Buried Alive the other day,” Hasan told SOHH. “I think we’ve always had certain reflections and messages in the music that had some religious tones to it. I think whatever makes somebody a better person in this world that we’re living in that has so much bullsh*t, that helps you cut through that, I think whether it’s Islam or Judaism or Buddhism or Christianity, whatever the case is, it should be reflected in somebody’s music. I feel that for me, the music is honest. It’s who I am. If I didn’t speak about the Bible or the Qur’an, or any other book I’ve read, or any other situation I’ve been in, it wouldn’t be real.” (SOHH)
Check out a track featuring Hasan Salaam below: