America’s Hip Hop Foreign Policy

Hip hop is one of those musical genres that can travel across all kinds of cultural and language barriers.  In parts of the Middle East, hip hop has taken on a definite anti-West, anti-US jihadist tone.  So how does the US counteract this? But fighting hip hop with hip hop.

The Atlantic reports on this fascinating use of soft power:

For several years now, American and German officials have struggled with how best to respond to Deso Dogg. The Ghanaian-German artist, whose legal name is Denis Cuspert, gained popularity during the mid-2000s as a pioneer in Germany’s gangsta-rap scene, performing with DMX and recording tracks like “Gangxtaboggy,” “Daz Iz Ein Drive By,” and “Meine Ambition Als Ridah.” In 2010, following a car crash, he embraced Islam and began documenting his Malcolm X-like transformation—from a life of women and bling to the “straight path”—in lyrics and music videos.
Soon enough, he left hip-hop altogether and became a Salafi named Abu Maleek, embracing an ultra-conservative strain of Sunni Islam that frowns upon music and the use of instruments. He began describing his hometown of Berlin as a kuffar metropole (infidel metropolis). Instead of rap, he started composing and performing a cappella nasheeds, or devotional chants.
The hip-hopper-turned-Salafi evangelist or a cappella preacher is not an unusual figure in Muslim youth culture today: Napoleon of Tupac’s Outlawz, Loon of Bad Boy Records, and Sean Cross of Ruff Ryders Entertainment have all recently found God, quit rap, and toured European and Muslim-majority states speaking out against hip-hop culture. Their sermons and poems tend to be apolitical, focusing on atonement and self-improvement.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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