Archive for Hip Hop

The Alan Partridge of Hip Hop

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 5, 2009 by Jack

Alan Partridge

OK, the time has come to say something. Tim Westwood is an embarassment to anyone who supports hip hop and related musics in the UK.

But we already knew that. The man who was literally the role model for Ali G has been derided for a long time. But since BBC digital radio station 1xtra restructured their schedule, he is now on EVERY week day at dinnertime.

Yeah baby! :s

For those that don’t know, 52 year old son of a Church of England Bishop, and former public school boy, Tim Westwood was for many years the only DJ on legal radio playing hip hop in the UK. Where I grew up in rural Scotland his show was the only way to hear new hip hop (no broadband in those days!) I used to listen to his show regularly, but even as an adolescent his persona made me feel deeply uncomfortable.

Put simply, Westwood’s show has always been driven by a really unpleasantly sleazy approach to women. He gets women on the line to perv on them, and celebrates misogynist records at every opportunity.

This picture is just made of wrong

Now there has of course been a long and complex debate about what if any causal relationship you can show between sexist music and sexist behaviour in general. And there have historically been some really reactionary groups that have attempted to suppress hip hop on these grounds when in fact they were motivated by racist or other ulterior motives.

But I’m not interested actually here in the music that Westwood plays-his dinnertime show works off the 1xtra daytime playlist as far as I can see anyway. Im not even writing about his constant harassment of female 1xtra newsreaders.

The reason I’ve been building up to writing something like this for the past couple of weeks is because of the seemingly tireless work Timothy has decided to undertake in favour of violence against women.

Specifically, virtually every day on his show he talks about Chris Brown’s assault on Rihanna. Often he’s been doing this whilst on the line with women who have been selected to be chatted up by him/tell him how hot he is etc.

The first time I heard this he used a formula along the lines of “What he did was unforgivable but we forgive him because we have forgiving hearts.” This was accompanied by him talking at length about Chris Brown’s tracks and other things he’s publicly done to try and get back together with Rihanna.

However, this week it stepped up a gear, with Westwood reeatedly telling women on the line about how he dressed up as Chris Brown for Halloween, and went to a party “with a girl who painted a black eye on”. He really was revelling in this.

And yesterday Jimmy Carr, a comedian well known for his class and racial hatred, with constant talk about “chavs” and “gypsies”, joined him on the show, and revealed his love for Westwood’s radio programmes going back to the 80’s. (Why does this not surprise me?) Despite trying to cover himself afterwards by calling Rihanna’s behaviour positive, Carr’s opening comment on the topic was “I’ve been in one of those cars, there’s not room to do much in the back, maybe a back hand slap.”

Westwood then went on to say that Rihanna was only discussing what happened to her now because she has an album to sell.

What’s the point of repeating all this, why don’t I just switch off? Well for one thing I have already decided after last night to completely boycott his show, I’m listening to BBC Asian Network while I cook now.

But the point is that there are no nuances here. Westwood is not “representing” for real social conditions where he came from or anything like that. His show, which goes out to a mass audience every day, is straight up justifying and excusing violence against women, in other words tacitly encouraging it.

In the headline of this post I called him the Alan Partridge of hip hop, because the way he puts himself across is constantly cringe worthy and frankly embarassing to listen to. But althought the Partridge character was definitely a misogynist, if he were real he never would have had the influence and power that Tim Westwood has within youth culture in the UK. Although many regard him as a joke, it doesn’t change the fact that thousands of young men will have listened to his show this week and heard that it’s basically OK to beat their girlfriends.

Celebrity lifestyle news of corporate pop creations isn’t usually what I’m that interested in discussing here. But Chris Brown’s assault on Rihanna in fact has become an important moment for discussion of issues that rarely get talked about in entertainment culture, and the fact that there is by some figures an orchestrated camaign to get Chris Brown “forgiven” can hardly be an accident. Aspects of male social power have been challenged by the whole affair, and some have reacted by closing the ranks. Tim Westwood seems to be leading the charge in the UK.

Westwood on top form

This man has no place in a job where he has mass influence, or a salary paid by the public. Whatever we can do to get him off air (and maybe Ace and Vis, who did a dinnertime show I really enjoyed, back), let’s do it. Positive suggestions as to how we achieve this welcome!

Tim Westwood and the joy of pointing.

Westwood is a twat.

‘Hip Hop is what gives us hope for the future’: interview with Jackie Salloum, director of Slingshot Hip Hop

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 31, 2009 by Jack

Several weeks ago I stuck up a review of a truly original and exciting documentary, ‘Slingshot Hip Hop,’ which tells the story of the hip hop scene in Palestine. Against the backdrop of racial discrimination and occupation, Palestinian youth have since around 2000 built a vibrant cultural movement that expresses their frustrations and needs through the medium of rap in Arabic. Watching the film is inspirational, and reminds you of the very real social power hip hop as a movement has all across the world.

Jackie Salloum

This week I was very lucky to catch up with Jackie Salloum, the director of the film, following a screening at the Glasgow Film Theatre introduced by her and Suhell Nafar of DAM. Here’s what Jackie had to say about the film, the scene in Palestine, and what she’s working on next:

FCBF: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background as an artist, filmmaker and activist?

JS: I’m a 1st generation Arab-American, my Mom is Palestinian and my Dad is Syrian. When I was growing up we saw only negative images of Arabs in the media and popular culture. The message put across in the media is important, and when I was younger it had a negative impact on me-I didn’t want to be an Arab.

When I got older I became focussed on challenging stereotypes. I used pop culture references like bubblegum machines to put across a message. In 2002 I heard [DAM’s track] ‘Min Irhabi?’ [Who’s the terrorist?] on the radio and I flipped out, I was so excited. I went on the internet to find out more and discovered the arabrap site.

I made a video for the song, using images we never see in the US, of the intifada. It was very effective, and had a big impact on the people that saw it. People that previously had no interest or support for Palestine were moved, and when I asked them why they said, “Because it’s hip hop, it’s from the heart.”

My Professor suggested I should make a documentary. I thought it would be easy and take about a year! In fact it took 5! It was an amazing experience, and I learned so much I didn’t know about Palestine. My family are from the West Bank, I’d never been to Gaza.

FCBF: What difficulties did you encounter making the film?

JS: A lot of the problems were just more of a nuisance. I was typically held at the airport for 4-7 hours coming into Israel. You get passed from interrogator to interrogator, and you don’t know if you’ll be denied entry, which is something they do all the time to Palestinians from the diaspora. Once you’re in it’s not so bad, but you still have to get through checkpoints, and getting into Gaza is different, and more difficult.

In terms of the film, I wasn’t from a film background. Things were a bit unplanned, I just went in with a love for the subject. I didn’t wait until I got funding, I just went ahead and started. In some ways I think that was an advantage, but it meant I had to fund a lot of the film myself. I had to move back home and work in my parents’ ice cream parlour. That’s why I put Fresh Booza Productions at the end of the film; Booza is Arabic for ice cream, and it’s a tribute to them and their support.

I left cameras with some of the artists, and between us we collected 700 hours of footage, and so a lot of work went into editing.

FCBF: And what were the highlights of the process?

JS: Getting to know the artists; we became very close, like family. Before I met and saw them, visiting Palestine was quite a depressing experience for me. But seeing the hip hop scene in Palestine gives you hope, a small dose of hope for the future.

What was also great was meeting grassroots people who helped with the film, in the US and Canada as well as Palestine. Artists like Patriarch, The Narcicyst, The Philistines and Invincible came to help with the film, but have continued being involved and are a huge support to the artists in Palestine, for example by making beats. The Philistines made ‘Free the P,’ a compilation of hip hop and spoken word artists from around the world in support of Palestine, and all the proceeds helped fund the film.

I was lucky to work with Waleed Zaiter, who did all the graphics and animations in the film, as well as a lot of producing and editing. I was worried that if people didn’t know the background to Palestine, where Gaza and the West Bank were, they would be confused. But I also didn’t want to hit people with too many facts and statistics. The maps and graphics really help get the facts across.

FCBF: What differences are there between the hip hop scene in Palestine and other parts of the world? For example, there seems to be a lot more support from the older generation, and the position of women, both as artists and audience, seems to be much better than other places?

JS: The cross generational support is so nice to see, it’s one of my favourite things about the scene. They get into the lyrics, which lift their spirits. Because the lyrics talk about the occupation and the problems facing Palestinians, older people support it.

The groups get invited to so many different kinds of events. One event we see in the film is at an Eastern Orthodox Easter celebration!

My other favourite thing is the women’s involvement, and the way they are treated. Artists in Palestine don’t try to imitate what they hear coming from elsewhere, before they heard Tupac they weren’t into hip hop. There’s a completely different attitude towards women.

FCBF: It’s particularly interesting to see considering the main stereotype we are told in the west is that Arab societies are really oppressive to women.

JS: Right. I mean, there is oppression of women everywhere, but it takes different forms.

FCBF: Does the support for women’s involvement cause any problems within Palestinian society? We saw in the film how one female artist is threatened out of performing because relatives don’t think it’s appropriate.

JS: There’s absolutely no organised opposition to women’s involvement. Where there are problems it’s really internal to one particular family or local region. But other artists have very supportive families. Where there is opposition to hip hop, it’s on the grounds that it’s seen as something that’s ‘American’ and foreign.

FCBF: Something that’s really interesting in the film is seeing people use the internet and digital technologies to overcome the checkpoints and barriers of the occupation. What difference has the internet made for hip hop in Palestine, and how limited is it?

JS: It’s made a huge difference. It’s what made me aware of the scene, and when I went to shops asking for this music they kept giving me rai, which wasn’t what I was looking for! The only place you could find it was on the internet.

In Palestine, as you see in the film, people are separated by the occupation. People that may live only a short distance from each other are never able to meet because of the boundaries of the occupation. But they are able to connect online. It’s what made the scene possible. It’s not really smooth, but it is doable, and that’s what matters.

FCBF: Obviously the situation in Palestine forces artists to be political. But how far has hip hop crossed over from being a cultural movement to a political one? How much time do artists devote to politics vs. their music, or do they not see a distinction between the two?

JS: To be in Palestine, everything is political. What separates the good from the crap is talent, and the popular artists in Palestine are really, really good. The scene there is so huge, and is so saturated with political content that talent really makes the difference.

The music appeals to hip hop heads, as well as activists as a voice of the oppressed. It’s more attractive to many than classical Arab music because it’s in a form that people all over the world can recognise.

The film holds a special appeal in the Arab world, it’s won best film awards in film festivals in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. In some ways that’s a more difficult audience because they already know the narrative of the Palestinian, it’s not new to them. They like it because they’re not allowed to go to Palestine, and so it’s the first time they see different aspects of daily life there, it’s the first time they see Palestinians happy. They love to see Palestinians smiling and happy instead of just images of suffering, and it lets them learn about daily life in Palestine.

FCBF: Is there an influence from traditional Palestinian music and poetry on Palestinian hip hop?

JS: Definitely. The lyrics reference poets like Mahmoud Darwish. And the artists are always aware of incorporating Arab musical influences, and use Arab instruments live on stage.

FCBF: From early on in the film I was impressed with the quality of the beats. What kind of beatmaking facilities do people have access to? Who’s doing the production?

JS: It’s different in different places. In Gaza for example there’s no access to beatmaking facilities, and the beats are downloaded off the internet. This made it difficult for us to find beats to put in the film, because many of those used by the artists were originally very well known ones. But after 6 years making music, DAM started making beats, and a lot of the ones used in the film are theirs. DAM produce for a lot of others as well, but now other groups like WEH and Arapeyat are producing beats for themselves as well.

FCBF: Is there a strong hip hop scene in all it’s different aspects? We saw a bit of graffiti, but what about DJs, breakers etc.?

JS: Graffiti is a really strong part of Arab culture, but it’s not necessarily hip hop graffiti, it’s political. People have been using graffiti in Palestine for a long time to express their political frustrations, and the artists are not necessarily hip hop.

There’s an increasing amount of breakers, especially in Gaza. As for DJing, in the occupied territories it’s mostly using CDs as people just don’t have access to records and record playing. In Israel itself there is access to that kind of stuff because it’s popular with Israelis as well, but the key issue is whether you can afford it.

FCBF: So you’re still in touch with people from the film, what’s been happening since it was made?

JS: Since the film hip hop in Palestine has just been expanding, there are more and more people performing. DAM are working on their second album. PR [Palestinian Rapperz] are separated by the occupation, but they’re continuing to use the internet to make music. Arapayat are still making music, and Mahmoud Shalabi is playing the kawala, a traditional Arab flute now, and incorporates it on stage with DAM.

FCBF: How can we in other countries help and support Palestinian hip hop and the Palestinian people?

JS: Support the artists, support oppressed people! I think that art and culture are more effective at opening many people’s eyes than purely political activism. So get the artists out to perform, and buy their music. If you’re part of any kind of institution that has funds to bring people over or to send people to Palestine then use them. Even recording one song is so expensive for these artists, and they’re still working and struggling financially. Just bear in mind no major music corporation is going to invest in Palestinian hip hop any time soon, so they depend on grassroots support.

FCBF: What are you working on next? I heard you’d like to make music videos for Arab artists?

JS: Suhell and I just now are writing a children’s film. I’m not going to make the mistake I made with ‘Slingshot’ and tell you all about it before it’s made. I would like to make more videos, and make them available through youtube. A lot of the artists now are making videos, like the Letters video by Suhell [see below]. Abeer is making a documentary as well, she’s making videos as well as music.

I don’t want to do another documentary for a while, I’d like to work on something a bit more structured with a script! I’m sure that will come with it’s own set of problems, but I look forward to finding those out.

A little Hobbit who we all admire

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 21, 2009 by Jack

Fatcatsbiggafish is privileged to present an interview with young (17) up-and-coming Scottish hip hop producer Matt, aka BilL Breaks.

FCBF: Tell us a bit about yourself, and how you got into hip hop and hip hop production?

BB: Hey, well my name is Matt to people who are not privy to my secretive stereo-propagating alter-ego – BilL Breaks. I am a producer/beatmaker from Glasgow, Scotland, leaning towards the ol’ hip-hop but dabble in Drum n’ Bass, Dubstep, and general noise. I got into hip-hop after listening to my brothers ‘generic rap compilation’ CDs and old Tim Westwood tapes, went through the whole 50 pence/guns and money phase, grew up, got introduced to Gangstarr, etc and started working on beats, diggin for breaks and being educated by my mentor, a guy called c0mplex then started finding out more about the local scene and started focusing on that. And here I am today.

FCBF: How much material have you been able to put out? What difference do you think digital technology and the internet has meant to someone like you just getting started in production?

BB: Physically, Fade to Static is the first real thing I have put out, but I have made beats for a lot of people especially in the Scottish scene which have been put out. Technology and the internet made a huge difference for me when I was just starting out in production. Without it I wouldn’t have had access to any of the information I did through forums, blogs, etc. People can lose sight of the whole point of making music though with the wealth of technical information available, being submerged in technicalities and techniques isn’t always good for the music, I can see myself doing that sometimes but do I try to focus on the music.

FCBF: What’s your production approach? I remember reading at one point that you’re really sample based, what about synths etc.? What do you think about the big turn towards electro/dance music type beats there’s been in hip hop in general, and in the UK grime scene in particular?

BB: Typically I’ll chop a sample, layer some drops and see what fits, filter some bassline action or play out a synth effort, it just depends on what’s sounding good to me. I used to be very sample orientated, and I still am generally but I have been incorporating my hardware synths more and more which is a lot of fun, as well as purely synth based tracks. As long as there is vinyl crackle somewhere among the montage of waveforms then I’m happy. I don’t think much of the turn towards electro/dance beats, to be perfectly honest. I get the feeling that a lot of it is made to just make money or follow some gimmick or trend, I don’t go in for that malarky. I don’t know much about the UK grime scene, they do their thing and I do mine, we don’t cross paths much so I don’t have much authority on the matter.

FCBF: What type of equipment have you got available to you? Do you get access to a studio or do you just work from home? What would you like to work with?

BB: I use my Akai s2000 to chop up samples and filter them, record them into the computer, put everything into kontakt and do the bad thing in fl studio. I’ve got turntables, mixer, yada too, Roland SH-09 and Juno 106 synths and piles of weird, crap, funky and awesome records. There’s lots of other little things but there’s no point getting to technical with soundcards, etc. So basically it’s just my bedroom I work from, no studio action for me. I prefer having my bed right next to my set-up anyways. I keep going through phases of wanting an MPC but I’m not sure how well I would get on with that. I did have the MPD16, the midi controller version of the MPC but I managed to spill a glass of milk over it and my first priority was the records sitting underneath it. Hopefully I can buy a new one soon though. I like to think that it’s not what you use, it’s how you use it… but it’s not just as fun without hitting some pads.

FCBF: You’ve got the Fade to Static EP available at the moment, how have things been going with that? Why did you choose the title?

BB: At first I thought I wasn’t selling any but I seem to have ran out of copies now, most are being sold at gigs and there is some available in Mixed Up Records in Glasgow. If all the copies are sold then I’m thinking about getting more copies done too. I suppose people are offered a thousand different CDs or downloads on the internet and nothing of any worth gets seen for what it is. Being under-18 never helps either, a lot of CDs get sold at gigs and nights but… they’re pretty hard to get into without a hassle. The title comes from a strange feeling I get when a record fades out but the static remains constant. Call me strange but here’s something quite moving about that for me and I hoped to achieve that with the CD, I failed but I took it somewhere else which is what the whole creative process is about – Having an idea and seeing where it takes you.

FCBF: Explain to us why you start the record with Leonard Nimoy singing about hobbits?

BB: Well the lyrics give a pretty close description of me, I am only 3 feet tall, I live in a little hobbit hole and I seem to know a lot of people. I don’t suppose you expected to hear it either? That means I won (haha). The cuts on that are pretty bad, listening back.

FCBF: Fade to Static is pretty much new beats to classic (and homegrown Scottish) raps, have you worked with any MCs and is there anyone you’d like to produce for in the future?

BB: I’ve worked with a few Scottish emcees – Nity Gritz (I produced his LP – Love Sick as well as countless other tracks), a few of the guys from The bEINGDoonhamer, Skribbo, Loki, etc… I’ve worked with a few other emcees in and outside of Scotland but I lose track of older projects. As for emcees I would like to work with? Anybody who is on the same wavelength as me . . . that is a tough thing to find when you don’t know your own wavelength. I’m enjoying doing instrumental things just now actually, I can get a bit weird without upsetting any emcees haha.

FCBF: How in touch are you with the rest of the hip hop scene in Scotland? What do you think of the state of Scottish hip hop? What could advance it do you think?

BB: The state of Scottish hip-hop? The state of Scottish hip-hop is something I hear about way to much and see nothing of. I genuinely don’t think I know enough to comment, not being able to go to many gigs means I don’t have a good opportunity to see the scene ‘in action’ so to speak. I’m just glad I don’t emcee though.

FCBF: What’s next from you and what are you working on just now? How far do you aim to take the work you’re doing? Is it just for fun, or is there a long term career plan?

BB: Imminently, Fade to Static: White Noise Gradients – more Scottish remixes, more instrumentals and more generally pretentious beats. After that I have a few projects with people from the Scottish scene then I’m going to get stuck into my instrumental album and I’ve got a lot of ideas and breaks for that. It would be amazing to do music for a career but just now its just for fun/expression/release teenage angst/whatever you want to call making music without a career. The plan is to live without having to work and just make music all day – I am still working on that one but its looking grim.

As BilL/Matt mentioned, copies of Fade to Static are available at Mixed Up Records in Glasgow, or by getting in touch with billbreakz @hotmail.co.uk (minus the space). And at a mere five pounds for remixes of KRS-One and J-Live, as well as more local acts such as The Being, evaDe poD and Holmes, it’s well worth parting with (a little of) your hard earned cash!

Edit-meant to mention that all artwork for the EP is BilL’s work as well. Man’s multitalented!

Short doc on Sengalese hip hop

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 15, 2009 by Jack

Found a great site for streaming free documentaries, so expect a good few posts in coming days where I just embed some videos for you to watch.

This one is about hip hop in Sengal. It’s only 7 minutes long, so it’s not a big commit, but it does touch on some interesting issues, especially the role of Islam and how that changes how rappers present themselves and the content of their rhymes.

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Update on Slingshot Hip Hop

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 2, 2009 by Jack

A quick update to what I wrote below about the film ‘Slingshot Hip Hop,’: if like me you’re based in Glasgow it’s showing at the Glasgow Film Theatre on October 28th.

The showing will also feature an introduction from Jackie Salloum, the director, and Suhell Nafar of DAM. Sounds really worth making it along, perhaps I’ll see you there.

Below I’ve embedded another short film by Jackie Salloum. It’s an edited together selection of portrayals of Arabs in movies, called ‘Planet of the Arabs.’

Planet of the Arabs is a powerful 9 minute collage of racist stereotyping of Arabs in movies.Out of 1000 films that have Arab & Muslim characters (from the year 1896 to 2000) 12 were positive depictions, 52 were even handed and the rest of the 900 and so were negative. A montage of Hollywood’s relentless dehumanization of Arabs and Muslims.

‘Like a flame in the darkness of a cave,’: Hip Hop in Palestine

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 24, 2009 by Jack

Yesterday I finally got the chance to see a film I’ve been wanting to get my hands on for a long time, the documentary ‘Slingshot Hip Hop.’ The film documents the emergence and growth of a strong and impressive hip hop movement among the Palestinian communities, both living inside Israeli territory and in the occupied territories.

The fact that hip hop has taken root in Palestine is testament to its power as a voice for the oppressed. Few peoples in the world face the same level of violence and domination as the Palestinians, and the fact that in the midst of that Palestinian youth have turned to hip hop to express themselves and attempt to bring positive change to their situation gives me a lot of hope and pride for the future of hip hop, and what it could be capable of.

The movement in Palestine really began with a group called DAM (Da Arabian MCs). They formed in 1999, and, in a story that’s familiar from the beginning of many hip hop scenes all over the world. They originally rapped in English, with lyrics that imitated the mainstream US hip hop they’d heard.

What changed the situation for them was the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000. Ariel Sharon, leader at the time of Isreal’s right wing Likud party and a war criminal and mass murderer, visited the third most holy mosque in Islam, located in Jerusalem, in an act of deliberate provocation. This act crystallised the anger of thousands of Palestinians who had failed to see the improvements in their lives promised by the peace process. A huge uprising began, both in the occupied territories and by Palestinians living with in Israel itself.

The massively disproportionate and violent repression that followed at the hands of the Israeli military politicised and angered a whole generation that were to then turn towards hip hop as a means of resistance.

DAM come from Lyd, a town in Israeli territory, and so are part of the community known as ’48 Palestinians. Originally, pretty much all of the land now occupied by Israel was home to Palestinians. With the declaration of Israeli statehood in 1948, the Palestinians suffered what they call the Nakba, or disaster. Now, inside Israel, Palestinians are a minority who are constantly harassed and racially discriminated against.

DAM and the other rappers from ’48 talk about how they feared that Palestinians living directly under occupation would think them privileged. But in fact you get to see the discrimination they face on a daily basis. At one point Mahmoud Shalabi, another ’48 MC, is stopped in the street by a cop. When the filmmaker asks why, is it simply because he was speaking Arabic?, the cop aggressively replies “Yes!”

Following the outbreak of the intifada, DAM turned away from making pretty vacuous music in English, and towards engaging directly with their social and political situation in their own language, Arabic. Their song ‘Meen Erhabi,’ (“Who’s the terrorist?”) tackles a lot of the issues head on, and became a major source of inspiration to other MCs and artists throughout historic Palestine. Within a month of its release in 2001 over a million copies had been downloaded from the arabrap site. It has become a hit throughout the world, especially in France where there is another oppressed Arab minority, and the lyrics have been chanted on demonstrations. Musically, they fuse hip hop with Arabic percussion rhythms, song and poetry, and they clearly have a great love for Arab literature.

We see DAM doing more than just rapping about their politics as well, leading demonstrations against house demolitions by the Isreali military and going to a children’s camp to talk about Palestinian history and identity. As they tell an interviewer on Israeli TV, they believe they need to be in the streets, and politically active.

Watching it, I thought it was particularly interesting how, yet again, oppressed people around the world look to the US and the struggle of black people to what they themselves are going through. As one of the members of DAM, Tamer Nafar, puts it:

“Hip hop is a weapon, and depending where you come from it will have a different velocity. If you come from Beverley Hills, its like a water gun, ta ta ta. If youre from Compton its like BAM!”

DAM also take a progressive attitude towards other issues besides just the occupation, as we see from their support for female MCs and singers. Women have been prominent with in the Palestinian hip hop scene from early on, and some have faced sexist attitudes with in their own society as well as from the occupation. This has led to some being threatened from their own families attempting to intimidate them out of performing.

However, what comes across is that, both as performers and a participating audience, women are far more involved in Palestinian hip hop than many other scenes around the world.

Tamer Nafar was really on point again when he says:

“Today the Arabs face the most discrimination. Palestinians even more. Plus the difficulties in our own society. What could be tougher than that? And who gets it worst? A woman. An Arab woman. Doesn’t get tougher than that.”

The women featured in the film are really impressive vocally, and their music definitely shows the influence of more traditional Arab song. One artist in particular, Abeer, really had a story that blew me away. Abeer was sacked from McDonalds for speaking Arabic, and went on to successfully sue them for discrimination. In her home town of Lyd she helped found a youth club to try and give Palestinian youth somewhere to break the monotony and boredom in a town where there’s nothing to do and no support from the state. And as an artist she’s really talented. Since the film was made she’s emigrated to the USA, and is still recording. Here’s a video of her performing in Baltimore:

My personal favourites in the film though came from a place that recently has suffered the worst brunt of the occupation: Gaza.PR (Palestinian Rapperz) are brilliant. They had a really engaging flow even for a non-Arabic speaker, and when you see their lyrics in translation in the film they’re really powerful.

PR are from the Gaza Strip, and at the time of filming had never been allowed to leave by the Israeli authorities. For those that don’t know, Gaza is a strip of land surrounded by the Israeli wall, and filled with Israeli military bases and checkoints. In this gigantic open prison 1.5 million Palestinians are incarcerated and kept under siege. It’s extremely difficult to leave.

The Israeli wall

Mohammed from PR tells of how he decided to become an MC-during the second intifada he narrowly escaed death when he turned just in time, meaning an Israeli bullet hurt his arm rather than penetrating his heart. At the time he was listening to hip hop, and in his own words he “started to think about another way to resist.”

In the film, PR’s greatest dream is to be allowed to enter the other parts of Palestine and meet DAM and other members of the Palestinian scene.

Although they have never been able to meet in person, like so many other places in the world they embrace new technology to break through state barriers, staying in touch with other groups by phone and internet. The fact that in a place so besieged as Gaza digital technology can help break down walls and segregation is obviously very positive.

What ‘Slingshot Hip Hop’ brings home is that in many parts of the world, hip hop is the natural expression for opressed youth. The Palestinians in the film identify with the struggles of the oppressed in the US, and want to use their voices to try and bring about positive change to their situation.

Their successes in doing that are proof of the ongoing social power of hip hop as a movement, something that movements for progressive change in the US and UK have barely scratched the surface of.

RIP DJ Roc Raida

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 23, 2009 by Jack

One of the world’s greatest scratch and trick DJs, Grandmaster Roc Raida, has died aged 37.

The cause of his death is not entirely clear, but it appears he died of complications after surgery for a Krav Maga (a form of mixed martial arts) injury.

Roc Raida won the 1995 DMC World DJ Chamionship, and was a member of the legendary turntablist group the X-Ecutioners. On both solo and group records he worked with such artists as Kool G Rap, Large Professor and MOP. He appeared exclusively as Busta Rhymes’ tour DJ, and founded the Gong DJ battle in the US.

There are so many great videos out there of Roc Raida performing, it’s took me a few days to try and work out which ones I wanted to post. Here he is at the 1995 DMC World DJ championships, which he won:

And here he appears with the other X-Ecutioners at the 1999 DMC finals:

The greatest thing about Roc Raida for me is that he was one of those DJs that makes you want to be one too. His contribution to the fantastic DJ documentary ‘Scratch’ (there’s a torrent here, the site has porny ads down the side, sorry) is amazing, and if you haven’t seen that film, you need it in your life! Here’s a bit from it:

On youtube as well though, there are many little clips where he gives aspiring DJs tips and hints. Have a search for ‘DJ 101’. Here’s one where he shows you how to beatjuggle for example:

Roc Raida was great innovator, artist and educator. His death is a great loss to global hip hop.

Here’s some links to his records (via www.rockthedub.com)

Beats, Cuts, Skits

The Adventures of Roc Raida

Crossfaderz