Hip-hop was born of resistance. From its origins in the Bronx to police brutality in Compton, to shantytown riots in Haiti, hip-hop has long been the voice of the oppressed. And though mainstream American hip-hop may have largely degenerated to a celebration of expensive liquor and luxury cars, a new generation of Palestinian rappers are wielding words as they were intended: as weapons against violence, oppression and sweeping social injustice. I chatted with Mohammed Al-Farra, of the Gaza-based Palestinian Rapperz, about being on the frontlines of this new cultural resistance.
– Anthony Farfalla
“I’ve been listening to hip-hop since I was a kid in Gaza. Biggie, 2Pac, Mobb Deep, you know, real hip-hop. I could relate to it more than other kinds of music because conditions were the same in Gaza. So I used this music to talk about the life I was living. People looked at us differently when we started, but they eventually supported us because we were rapping about real life, street life.
A lot of people in my country are against hip-hop. Because of the closed borders, people don’t really know about the outside world. When we brought rap music to Gaza, they thought we were trying to be American or change the Palestinian culture. But that wasn’t the point. We were using the same weapon that African-Americans were using to talk about their lives. I’m not saying that a lot of people love our music, but most support it.
My goal is to represent Gaza and to inform people about the lives we live. We rap about what we see in the streets, about borders and curfews and how people can’t get to work. We rap about freedom. I live in the hood, where people get killed or injured or shot – and I’m one of them. But I didn’t get shot because of gangs or drugs; I got shot because I was fighting for my freedom as a Palestinian living under the occupation. The conditions here make us who we are. They have made me the kind of rapper I am.
When it comes to the issue of violent resistance, for me violence is only going to bring more violence. There are people who fight with guns – if someone kills your cousin, people understand why you would want justice – but then there are people who fight with art and culture. Everybody has their own way to resist, and I am one of the people who use words to fight the occupation. People get sick of violence – of people dying and helicopters shooting at them. They want something else, and music is a good option because you can enjoy it. People need joy.
Is there a solution for the conflict in Palestine? More than looking for a solution, the goal is for two people to live in one house. You have to respect each other; you can’t just take something without permission.
I don’t support any group. I support Palestine. Hamas is a product of the occupation. If there were no occupation, there would be no Hamas.
I am a Palestinian. Nothing else. I just want peace.”