The Queen of Arab HipHop
Rap is important. In the life of Malikah, it’s highly important. Only one thing might be equally important: shoes. For the right pair of sneakers, Malikah will have a dozen people bused across Manila with her. Some shuffle their feet, others ask for the time every two minutes, and everybody sweats because it’s hot in Manila in May and the air-conditioned shop is already overcrowded. The minibus driver has long since given up honking his horn. „I agree to love shoes - what woman doesn´t,“ says the Lebanese rapper. And isn´t she right? Malikah has always understood her art of rap in part as a way of giving Lebanese women a voice. In the track “Ya Imra’a” she demands women’s freedom, education and equality. Malikah, who was born in Marseilles in 1986, grew up in Beirut and studied in the US, represents a modern image of women. Her success has also become a symbol of an evolved female self-confidence, which even in relatively westernized Lebanon still isn’t at all to be taken for granted.
Everybody eventually gets back on the bus, which then struggles through the crazy traffic. Aboard are rappers from all over the world, from Colombia and Germany, Lebanon, Kenya and the Philippines, plus a few people from the Goethe-Institut and Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt, which have organized the workshop “Translating HipHop.” While outside the traffic seethes, the passengers inside entertain each other with stories from home. Nazizi from Nairobi tells of twice being robbed at gunpoint. Chefket from Berlin wants to know from the others what the punishment is for possession of soft drugs in their countries. Malikah talks about Arab culture and traditions and that her home country Lebanon is a perfect mix of East and West.
A certain flamboyance is to be expected. At home, after all, Malikah is a star. A rap star. Which is relative, because in Lebanon hip-hop is far from the pop music phenomenon that it is in the Western world and is rather an underground art form. Malikah, whose given name is Lynn Fattouh, adopted for herself the Arabic word for queen. She has laid claim to the title “Queen of Arab Hip-Hop.” In her Lebanese homeland, the title is warranted. The best-known rapper in her country, she moderates freestyle battles and hosts hip-hop shows on TV, and in the United Arab Emirates appeared on the bill with Snoop Dogg. Some of the tracks that she raps over were produced by DJ MUGGS, the DJ of the prominent American band Cypress Hill, and her debut album, “The Coronation,” produced by the famous FREDWRECK, is set to be released soon.
Apart from her performances in the wider Arab region , i.e. in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Tunisia, Kuwait and Oman, as well as in other parts of the world, the rapper works in Dubai for an advertising agency. She had to take vacation time to travel to Manila to participate in the workshop, and she’ll have to take vacation to come to the “Translating HipHop” festival and congress in Berlin.
The workshop is important to her also because she gets to meet other women who rap. Not all that common in hip-hop generally, female rappers are downright rare in Arab countries. At breakfast in the hotel on the rundown beach promenade in Manila, Malikah and her Kenyan colleague Nazizi talk about how well the international language of rap works – especially among women rappers. “We felt a connection right away,” says Nazizi, who is an even bigger star at home in Nairobi than Malikah is in her hometown of Beirut. She adds, “I mean, immediately.”
They’re the only women taking part in the workshop in Manila, but at previous stations they’ve met Pyranja from Germany and Diana Avella from Colombia. All four shared one common experience from the outset. In their respective home countries, each of them is the sole female performer in an otherwise all-male rap scene. This gave them added motivation to stay in contact with one another. They even aim to form an all-women rap group, with plans for an album now taking shape. And a name is already there: Lyrical Roses.
Yet even the world language of hip-hop sometimes runs up against its limits. For years, Malikah has in her raps propagated not only a female, but also an Arab self-awareness, and has railed at the ruling powers and against the apathy of the youth. She prefigured, if you will, what has manifested itself in recent months on the streets of North Africa and the Middle East. But as a Lebanese woman, Malikah also holds a firm view on the Israeli state, which has brought her country a number of wars.She holds a strong opinion about the violation of human rights, which she feels was brought about by Israel.Her critical stance toward Israel wasn’t brought up at this large, intercontinental meeting of rhyme-smiths. Otherwise, however, the rappers from around the world engaged in a lively exchange on all manner of subjects including, when necessary, shoes.
Lynn aka MC Lix aka Malikah, born in 1986 in Marseilles, France, has Lebanese and Algerian parents. She grew up in Beirut during the civil war. At 16 she began making music. She signed her first recording contract in 2003 after entering and winning a hip-hop competition. Malikah raps in Arabic and English.
B.E.I.R.U. & T. Various
Juice CD Volume 110 (CD, Comp)
DJ Outlaw (2) - The Middle East´s Invasion (When Arab´s Unite) (CDr, Mixed). Outlaw Productions
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
(10 November 11 - 12 November 11)