Iranian Hip Hop: A Revolutionary Soundtrack

Hip hop: a scapegoat in America, a scapegoat overseas. Back in December 2005, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad implemented the ban of Western music. His council’s official website read “Blocking indecent and Western music from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) is required.” Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has repeatedly cited hip hop’s “obscene language” as the reason for its ban. Mohammad Dashtgoli, the official who evaluates music for the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry contended, “There is nothing wrong with this type of music in itself. But due to the use of obscene words by its singers this music has been categorized as illegal." Dashtogli vowed that illegal studios would be shut down while hip hop artists would be confronted.

Hip hop: a voice in America, a voice overseas. Over the last two weeks outraged Iranians have flooded streets to collectively protest the alleged vote fraud and incumbent Ahmadinejad’s victory. Citizen journalism and the Internet- Youtube videos, Twitter, Facebook, blogs/websites have made Iran’s unfolding turmoil and election aftermath accessible to people around the world. A viral outpouring of amateur stories, images and videos achieved the following:
  • overcame the blocking of media outlets and Iranian state controlled news agency
  • created solidarity
  • offered diverse perspectives that paint a full picture and stimulate debate.
The most powerful image is that of Neda, a young Iranian woman profusely bleeding to death as she musters her last words, “I’m burning, I’m burning!” Neda means “voice” in Farsi, she was fittingly declared the “voice of Iran.” Another rallying voice for Iranian protesters demanding "where their vote is" is hip hop:
Hip Hoppers- the new breed of Iranian musicians- are the ones who are doing a lot of the organizing of protests. Cellphones and text messaging as well as internet in Iran has been cut off in the government’s attempt to curb communication between the youth so the rappers are making songs. Rappers are telling and passing out information telling people where to go and meet and the issues going on. Its becoming the music of the revolution.
Hich-Kas (meaning "Nobody"), Iran's elusive hip hop star, is a pioneer for Iranian social justice. His music is superficially deemed "western" and "decadent" yet its content is vividly Iranian.
'Nobody' raps about God and nationalism along with social commentary. He has even written a rap in defense of Iran's right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Though the Iranian government forbids him from selling albums, performing and traveling beyond Iranian borders Hich-Kas's brosque delivery and heartfelt prose have reached audiences across the globe.


Sat Night Feel Good: RE's Back Again

Pac Div:Champions of Baloncesto & Hip Hop

Hailing from LA, Pacific Division (Pac Div) is set to make throw back hip hop current again. Their sound is reminiscant of Pharcyde, Hieroglyphics and The Native Tongues. Initially, in 2001, Pac Div boasted 10 members. Now it's down to three: brothers Mibbs and Likes and friend Beyoung. The trio has leveraged a strong online presence, mixtapes and videos to create buzz. Their latest video for the bass heavy "The Mayor" shows Pac Div strolling around LA campaigning. Critics of Pac Div are quick to point out that their lyrics lack substance however Pac Div are out to make old school feel good hip hop. Their debut album "Grown Kids Syndrome" drops later this year.



Reflection Eternal Interview: "I Love Hip Hop, it reminds me of my Jeep"

Reflection Eternal interview courtesy of Skidmore College's SkidTV throws a series of thoughtful questions at Kweli and Hi-Tek. Background basketball bounces and sneaker screeches accompany RE's takes on the upcoming album Revolutions Per Minute, hip hop's relationship with theater, potential collaboration with Mos Def and the emergence of new hip hop acts. Listen to the single "Back Again" and check out the duo at Rock the Bells.


Mr. Lif Remixed By CWL

Cassettes Won't Listen (CWL), an Electro Indie one man show out of Brooklyn, chills out Mr. Lif's "The Sun."

CWL came out with a remix mixtape (which you can DL for free via the link above) to promote the instrumental Into The Hillside album. Check out the cartoon video for "Hmmmm." Our hearts go out to the victims of DC's Red Line train crash.

Jay Z Mashed Up Once Again


Lazy Sunday Nooner: Camp Lo's Passage Through Time







Hip Hop Caucus: Green The Block

Hip hop Caucus's Green the Block Initiative simultanously tackles urban poverty and climate change challenges. HHC carries out grassroots efforts and capitalizes on celebrities to push the three pillars of the initiative:

Click below to listen to Van Jones( Obama’s special adviser for green jobs) elaborate on his vision to redefine Americans perception of green jobs.

When you think about green, you often think about people who have a lot of money and who can afford a certain lifestyle. But really what the green economy represents is a massive opportunity for new work, new wealth and better health for all Americans

Historically, green jobs and green products have been painted as luxuries. It's time for a new lens that spreads the present day benefits and forward looking vision. Jones also founded Green for All, an organization that recognizes the importance of incorporating low income people into the development of America's green economy and is author of The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.


Talib Kweli MGMT Mash Up

Mash Ups make the world go round. They invite people to listen to artists they otherwise may have overlooked or never encountered. This Kweli MGMT "Time to Listen" number courtesy of DJ Topcat is sweet.

President of Hip Hop Caucus Breaks it Down

"Unfortunately, too many times in entertainment there are degrading images to a woman, to people of color – there are degrading images of people who live in poor communities. And you are right, we want to obviously improve the images, but the one thing with the hip-hop community is that people who will come out of these communities will keep saying about what their experiences are. I don’t think it’s fair to ask somebody…there are no drugstores in their neighborhood, the police are beating up the people in their communities, there are strip joints and they take drugs – that is an experience in which a teenage girl or boy are growing up. And you cannot expect them to speak and talk about “So, how the sun is shining, and it’s so wonderful!” No, they are going to say how bad it is sometimes. And that’s changing. That’s what the Hip-Hop Caucus wants to do. We want to change the environment, and if we change the environment which now has an impact on the lyrics, don’t expect that change in the environment and expect the lyrics to be the same as well" - Lennox Yearwood Jr.


Hip Hop Contradiction

"Hip hop becomes a product. And when it becomes a commercial product it gets pressed into the service of the history of images and representations of African Americans. The greatest irony of what’s happening in commercial hip hop is that it now begins to reflect the prime stereotypes about African Americans that drove the justification of slavery, the justification of Jim Crow and the idea that we’re in a post race society."

- Professor Tricia Rose, author of Hip Hop Wars

While I agree with several of Rose's views, I find her above sentiment simply ridiculous, borderline appalling. To claim that degrading lyrics and images found in commercial hip hop (and across pop culture for that matter) form stereotypes that trace back to the justification of slavery is ludicrous. This notion feeds the same ignorance that scapegoats hip hop for society's ills.


HiphoPolitico's own Blesses the Mic: Hey Flomax

Rap parody on the commercials for the prescription drug Flomax. MA feat. Lil Coco- Hey Flomax

MA Feat Lil Coco -...

Chiddy Bang remix of MGMT -- check it out bro

Pump this on a Sunday.

Gotta stay live. It's summer, and life is short, bump this and go.


Sat Night Feel Good: Major Lazer's Dutty Wine Makes you Feel Fine

Major Lazer (Diplo & Switch, the masterminds behind MIA's Paper Planes) brings their conceptual digital reggae and dancehall sound to the HiphoPolitico stage. A press release explains that Major Lazer is
a renegade commando with a lazer arm and a rocket-powered skateboard who fights the spoils of vampires, zombies, pimps, mummies, and other unsavory forces of evil.
Their debut album "Gunz don't kill people, Lazers Do" is loaded with proven dancehall talent such as Mr. Vegas, Santigold and Spankrock and drops 6/16. Submit your own dutty wine dancing video for the Major Lazer Youtube contest for a chance to win a free trip to Jamaica.

BlackStar Shines Again on The Ecstatic

Mos and Kweli pass the mic over a J-Dilla produced track.

Freestyle Friday: Belated BlackStar

Excellent freestyle, gets going at the 1:08 mark. Enjoy


BlackStar Flickers from Black Hole

Back in 2003 my friend and I landed tickets to a BlackStar show at SOB's NYC. In terms of venue intimacy SOB's sets the standard. Making our way to the front row was a breeze. I got to give five to surprise guest Dave Chappelle (right before he blew up). Though six years have flown by my memories of the show remain vivid. Recently Mos and Talib have taken fans down memory lane with reunion shows. Rolling Stones posted a review of a late May show: BlackStar's Mos Def, Kweli Dabble Politics at Reunion Show.

I can only hope that the duo sharing the stage again is foreshadowing their follow up album- arguably hip hop's most awaited sequel. On "Definition" (see below) Mos and Kweli self proclaim themselves "the best alliance in hip hop," yet they faded into obscurity. Luckily, for BlackStar their classic debut album remains in heavy rotation among loyal listeners. May the stars align again, putting an end to the overdone hip hop is dead drivel.


Another Mos track a Capella

Mos Def- Auditorium


Mos Def Shines his Light on the World

Mos Def - The Ecstatic comes out tomorrow! The album is already available for purchase via Mos Def's Myspace for only $3.99.

The Ecstatic>>>>> Grande Mocha

In fact you can stream the whole album for free by clicking the album cover to the right. I can't get enough of Casa Bey, watch Mos do a few verses a capella in Osaka.


Hip Hop's Political Prowess: Beyond Mere Rhetoric

HiphoPolitico will dedicate the next few features to a DENSE topic- hip hop's capacity as a political force and vehicle for social change. Hip Hop Caucus's (HHC) nine member office has leveraged star hip hop power to engage America's youth and communicate oft overlooked needs of urban communities. Lennox Yearwood, HHC's executive director explains:

We are giving voice to those who are outside of institutions, folks who are not in college, who didn’t graduate high school; we are able to tap people at the barber shop, on the block and in the beauty salon. We allow their perspective so that voice doesn’t get lost in the discourse.
Leave it up to Politico ( HiphoPolitico's older and wiser brother) to jumpstart our reflection with an article that proves hip hop's political power transcends beyond mere rhetoric. Stay tuned for more on the following:
  • the agenda, work and reach of HHC
  • how hip hop's effectiveness as a mobilizer and messenger complemented Obama's campaign
  • the contradiction between hip hop's progressive agenda and misogynistic and violent images present in commercial hip hop
  • The perplexing reality that most politically conscious hip hop artists are not popular enough to cater to mainstream audiences. As much as I like T.I.'s music I can think of several artists off the top of my head that are more appropriate choices.

How do you define Hip Hop?

When you think of the word hip-hop, does it include an r+b pop star like Beyonce?

Many fans would say no. Its too commercial, too mainstream. Artists like Beyonce also have the biggest sphere of influence, but are they pushing the right values?


202 Beat Drops: Wah-lay's Inevitable Arrival

Tonight: Wale & UCB, Tabi Bonney and co @ 9:30 Club

After rocking a series of road shows Rock the Vote Nights's pilot show, Concert of America's Future Now, brings Wale back home. Washington Post did an excellent write up on DC hip hop's best bet to breakout,
If the buzz surrounding Wale seems as if it's been building forever, that's because it has. Two years ago -- an eternity in the digital music era -- a Post headline dubbed the Bowie-based rapper who is bidding to become the region's first national star "The Great Rap Hope."
Without an official album, Wale's buzz took off
due to a savvy internet presence, an assortment of critically acclaimed free mixtapes and being well received by fellow hip hop artists. This enabled Wale to sign a deal with Interscope, ink a management deal with Jay Z's Roc Nation, hang out with Capitals' Alex Ovechkin and become the face of DC hip hop.

If I'm the breakout, I'm sure there'll be somebody after me that'll be bigger than me. All I can do is take what comes with being the first: the love and the hate, the skepticism and things of that nature. I try to take it all in. But I'm not telling nobody that I'm the best rapper in D.C. Not at all. There's so many talented musicians in D.C. I'm just representing them.
Even with all the hoopla, Wale remains Chillin'.

More to come on Campaign for America's Future....