Hip Hop has always been a political weapon for the voiceless as a means of resistance and sparking social change. Big industry hungry for the lucrative market has altered the message of struggle into a bling bling culture.
From America to Europe to Africa and Asia the movement continues, oftentimes underground, to educate the people. It is my hope that in the same way politically and social conscious American Hip Hop has positively influenced other cultures, that American Hip Hop opens to being influenced by these cultures. The social revolution can’t continue unless we grow and knowledge is key.
Big Hass at Re-Volt Radio in Saudi Arabia is one of those voices breaking the sound barrier.
“The name, “Re-Volt,” is a combination I came up with that fuses together ‘revolution’ and ‘voltage. It’s somehow of a Music Revolution, Music Liberation.’ You can ‘Re-Volt’ using a mic, your voice, or a poem.”
What inspired you to create Re-Volt Radio?
Launched in September 2009, “Re-Volt ” was created with the goal of introducing artists to the mainstream public. I try to give these artists — which I find either by research, coincidence or recommendation, the exposure they deserve.
“Re-Volt” all came together as a result of numerous reservations in my mind about mainstream music and how it was lacking in either awareness, or cause.
The FM Radio is a complex business due to materialistic factors.
Some artists do not get a chance to be on, thereby not heard by the public. Re-Volt’s goal is an attempt to enlighten and elevate the minds of listeners and give them a varied choice of what is really out there.
The name, “Re-Volt,” is a combination I came up with that fuses together ‘revolution’ and ‘voltage. It’s somehow of a Music Revolution, Music Liberation.’ You can ‘Re-Volt’ using a mic, your voice, or a poem.
Give us a picture of Hip Hop in Saudi Arabia
Hip-Hop in Saudi Arabia is really young as this amazing Arabic Hip Hop movement but the problem in Saudi that could be affecting this movement’s growth is the fact that there are no “Venues’ for artists to showcase their talent. That’s why they use the Internet to promote their work and talent. Hopefully I am working on something now that could shed some light on these local artists in Saudi Arabia.
My message to the Saudi Hip Hop heads is to unite, weather you’re a MC/Producer or a manager, unite and form one Saudi movement because this is what Hip Hop is all about; unity.
Why choose to take a revolutionary path instead of biggin up the popular bling bling culture that has silenced musicians from sharing the real struggle of Black youth in America today?
Re-Volt first started promoting all kinds of music but then I got into the Hip Hop Movement and especially the Arabic scene and I was blown away by the amount of talent that is out there not presented, not credited and not supported. So my focus now is more on the Hip Hop scene. Weather its revolutionary or not I care about showing real artists that are out there with a message (social, political or just for the fun of it)
Revolutionary hip hop NEVER gets air play and for me that’s unfortunate because it does elevate one’s mind. Just take a listen to some of the tracks made by Arab Hip Hop artists such as Lowkey’s “Obama-Nation” or Shadia Mansour’s “El Kofeyye Arabeyye” feat M1 from Dead Prez.
What are your thoughts on the current uprisings sweeping the region and what role does Re-Volt Radio play in bringing the message of social change to the community?
It’s inspiring for sure and the people have spoken. The power is shifting to the people in every aspect and I salute the Egyptian and the Tunisian people for making it happen; BUT that being said, I don’t like over-using the word revolution or uprising.
In my opinion, not every Arab country out there is being ruled wrong. Sure there are lots of corruption and the same is the case for the rest of the world; but we can fight to “reform” stuff. Nevertheless it’s truly inspiring to see these uprisings take place and actually remove systems that were there for over 30 years. That shows you that “we” have the power to change anything as long as we come together and do it for the right causes.
Re-Volt’s role in all this was to really shed light on the music that came out in that period and promote it either on my blog or my live weekly radio show so that people all over the globe get the fact that Hip Hop and Music are a tool to show unity, solidarity and power.
How can and has the power of Hip Hop been used as a form of activism in promoting social awareness and change in the Middle East?
Hip Hop is originally the voice of the voiceless, the voice of oppression and the voice of truth. There are lots of examples out there that show the power of Hip Hop.
One example would be the song “El Kofeyye Arabeyya” by Shadia Mansour featuring M1 (Dead Prez). The song was a reply to an Israeli designer that designed the Kofeyye claiming its Israeli. The track is real fierce and I admire Shadia for addressing that topic when all our Arab Pop Stars sing about is love-dove stuff.
How has Hip Hop’s culture of resistance through rhythmical storytelling influenced Arab culture? In what ways could Arabic Hip Hop be used to educate Western Hip Hop heads?
The core of the Arabic Hip Hop culture is our identity as Arabs and showing the world what we have. I believe its one Hip Hop culture. Yes the language is different but it’s all the same goal and message. It’s amazing to see some of the Arabic Hip Hop artists doing their thing on international stages and be a voice of their people.
Below are a list & a small bio of artists I follow and admire (for your ref)
- The Narcicyst a.k.a Yassin Alsalman: An Iraqi/Canadian MC that lived life the hard way. The Narcicyst takes his inspiration from his grandfather, who was a poet back in Iraq. His complex lyrics address some of the most politically charged issues of our time. He performs in Arabic and English and captures a lot of attention.
- Shadia Mansour: A Palestinian/ British MC. She is the first lady of Arabic Hip Hop and her passion towards her country is just incredible. She has recently released a track called “El Kofeyye Arabeyye,” which is a reply to an Israeli-made Kofeyye (the original Arabian scarf) that has the Star of David and the state of Israel on it. The song did feature one of America’s top MC’s M-1 who is a big activist and a big supporter of the Palestinian cause
- Kareem Dennis a.k.a. Lowkey: A British/Iraqi MC/Activist. His single “Long Live Palestine” was on the No. 1 spot on the “Amazon Hip Hop Download Charts” despite having 50 Cent, the Black Eyed Peas and Eminem as competitors. Dennis is a believer in music liberation and uses rap to communicate conscious Hip Hop across
- DJ Lethal Skillz: A Lebanese based Hip Hop DJ. He is the undisputed heavy weight of Turntablizm. He is a legend of his own and is the first Arab DJ to translate the Turntablizm art form to Arabic, and is pushing it across the Middle East.
- Omar Offendum: A Syrian/American Hip Hop artist that is truly legit. Born in Saudi Arabia and raised in the US – he combines Arabic and English beautifully. Interestingly, he takes the poetry of legendary poet, Nizar Qabbani, and translates into his own lyrical Hip Hop waves.
Of course there are lots more, so I advise your readers to look more into this movement, support it
In your opinion, how do you see this borderless art form bridging culture globally?
When you have six to seven languages on one mixtape, that’s showing unity bridging the world. You got Hip Hop heads from Japan, Africa, US, Europe and the Middle East being united through this art form and its not slowing down.
You can continue to follow and check out Re-Volt’s great work at: www.revoltradio.blogspot.com