Arab Spring: Let Freedom Rap

Williams Covington | 7/12/2012, 3:45 p.m.

It is believed that the encompassing and mobilizing natures of rap and the culture of Hip Hop in the Arab Spring are most apparent in a collaborative work by Omar "Offendum" Chakaki (Syrian-American), The Narcicyst (Iraqi-Canadian), Sami Matar (Palestinian-American), Ayah (Palestinian-Canadian), Amir Sulaiman (African-American), and MC Freeway (African-American). These artists from various cultural backgrounds banded together to make one song centered on the date of January 25, when the Egyptian protests, the demands for the removal of Hosni Mubarak, and the celebrations of shared humanity were at their loudest. The song itself is merely called "#Jan25."

Many of the younger generation living outside of the Middle East and North Africa do not necessarily speak Arabic fluently, but they created a smooth flow between the English and Arabic lyrics while simultaneously preserving the song's meaning. In addition, Omar Offendum used the ideas of unity and action to his advantage in the song lyrics, particularly this line:

Behind the influential role of Hip Hop and rap in the Arab Spring is the power of language and communication. For example, the Egyptian protest prominently featured flags and banners with the following message: "The people want to bring down the regime."

For years, the Egyptian people engaged in little, if any, significant political activity on their own, nor were they strong enough to create a collective moral self, at least, until the rise of Hip Hop and rap as social mediums for the dissenters.

Language also holds a unifying component between the protesters who speak only either English and Arabic. Even in this age of information, the differences between the two cultures in their language make it much more difficult for them to communicate ideas between each other. The musicians responsible for bilingual songs like "#Jan25" kept their audience in mind during the production phase. As a result, they garnered many more fans from around the globe in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Essentially, their musical works were also social commentaries on their views on the Middle East as it is today.

Although Hip Hop can be traced back to the early 1970s, 1980 is the year most people recognize as the emergence of the phenomenon, or the start of the Ronald Reagan administration, led by a president many African American rappers felt did not care about people of color.

Oddly, many have referred to Reagan as the first Hip Hop president. Reagan's legacy in Hip Hop music is unquestioned because the policies implemented in his two-term presidency, and the effects they had on minority communities, were said to have created an atmosphere in the inner cities that birthed some of the most controversial music in American history.

During the Reagan presidency, social programs and policies that were created to aid the urban poor were severely cut, leaving underprivileged minorities without much-needed federal assistance. The economic program that Reagan introduced, known as Reaganomics, drastically increased the divide between the rich and the poor and wreaked havoc on Black and Hispanic communities. This is what many sociologists and political scientists feel took place in the Middle East under the rule of harsh dictators causing the Arab Spring.