The Moroccan rapper, El Haqed, recently released from prison for the third time, published an opinion piece today (October 6) in Al Jazeera (English) -- it's translated from French and English by Mark Levine.
In 2007, a new kind of rap began to spread, with roots in groups like
H-Kayne who rapped about social but not quite political issues. It was
authentic rap, not imitating anyone. These dangerous ideas led the
system to try to shut us down, put us in a big prison so to speak, a
prison for ideas and freedoms to try to hem in our dangerous ideas...
so we called our rap ar-rab muhabsi - "prison rap" - rap that expresses
reality and sings about freedom, breaking down the borders and chains.
We need to understand the power of prison rap in the context of most
rappers being little more than marionettes, wholesale puppets of power.
You can count the number of truly political rappers on one hand. And
yet, the small number makes our music that much more powerful. The
intellectual and cultural prison only made our music more powerful. The
state still doesn't get that.
I learned at a workshop this past weekend that, in fact, you can in fact count the number of Moroccan political rappers on one hand. In fact, there are three--El Haqed, Hoba Hoba Spirit, and Muslim--who truly support the Moroccan revolutionary movement. The rest, while they deal sometimes with social issues, scrupulously avoid politics.
Thank gods for El Haqed!
P.S. October 7. Hisham Aidi adds (via twitter) that perhaps there is one more 'revolutionary' Moroccan rapper: Sí Simo of Fez City Clan -- but he raps more about poverty than politics.
P.S. October 11. Please check out this article in Jadaliyaa (Oct. 7) by Jessica Rohan, on the Mawazine Festival. She provides a discussion of rappers, including El Haqed and Muslim, and their positioning in relation to pro-regime rap stars like Bigg and Cheikh Sar. And she provides a link to a song by Sí Simo called "Kilimini," a song about social inequality in Morocco. Rohan tells us that kilimini man is a "recently-coined slang term for
wealthy Moroccans." It literally means “he eats from me,” "suggesting the elite gained their
wealth through corruption" and also connotating shallowness.