Image 1 of 10: “The lion rule is illegitimate.” Syrian-American bad-boy Omar Offendum coopts famous Arab Spring slogans in his rebellious raps. Anti an establishment that has long since lost da respect of da people, he rails against the regime in both English & Arabic. He worries that in all the political palaver we are "losing sight of the human suffering".
Image 1 of 10: Not The Killers, though if looks could kill... Murder Eyez hit a burgeoning pan hip-hop scene in '99 as pioneers on the ME street. AKA the Arab Summit, presumably for their peace-making prowess, this legendary rap posse shoot lyrics of hope in Arabic & English from their Aleppo crib. It’s not always clear whose side these slick operators are on.
Image 1 of 10: Not too cool for school: Swinging between personas as the radical gangsta and the straight-laced journo, Ahmad El Khalaf left his London hood for Syria’s battlefields, witnessing first-hand the human toll of the ugly conflict. In his track “Save Syria” he raves against regime violence and apathy on the part of the international community.
Image 1 of 10: Trio LaTlateh lay heartfelt tracks over funky, distinctive beats, all deeply infused with politics. Breakout tracks were “Boom Boom Bam” (not to be confused with Black Eyed Peas "Pow") and “1.2.3”. In 2012 they were still based in Damascus, shuttling to Beirut to perform.
Image 1 of 10: Sham Mc's: Ain’t nothing but a sham! Sham MCs issued their debut album “Crossword” in 2009. They’ve faced criticism at home for being too “Western” in their music.
Image 1 of 10: Pining for the homeland, Moudy Alarbe is broody with a lashing of guilt for his mother cause Syria and only wishes he could have done more for the fractured land and broken people than just get lyrical from a distance. The beats are a’boom as he whips himself up over his exodus “I left her to die shame on me, shame on me”.
Image 1 of 10: Take that mo-fo! MC Roco’s notorious lyrics “I want to step over Assad’s face” have made him a revolutionary symbol of resistance for fans in the anti-regime camp. The rapper’s tunes combine hip hop and Arabic beats in one fierce crackdown battle rap against the Syrian machine.
Image 1 of 10: This renegade soul is caught somewhere in a fusion of Arabic rap and hip hop and singing from Beirut's shores against his public enemy number one Bashar al Assad. The lion (and we're not talking about Snoop Lion) is going to need his own weapon of mass destruction to fight back against this battle rapper.
Image 1 of 10: Bashing the haters! Eslam Jawaad - born Wissam Khodur - made his debut political grand-slam the year of the rebellion in 2011, releasing “Dudd al Nizam” (“Against the System”), coming down on the anti-Assad rebels. Musically, he’s been largely silent since, though prolific on the Twitter-scape.
Image 1 of 10: Keepin it real: Esmaeel Tammr AKA MC Twistar is a true gangsta from warzone the ghetto . He's a force to reckon with and won't suffer anyone dissing his Syria. The rapper doesn't mince his words when bashing fellow Arab countries or homeboys for claiming to want to help the Syrian people.
The battle on the fractured field of a war-strangled Syria-scape is shifting to a new scene that echews guns and chemical weapons for inflammatory insults and stinging slang. This is not the rheorical rebuttling of the failing diplomats but the dissing and hissing of renegade warriors in their gangsta's paradise: Syria's rapping rebels with a cause.
As violence rages across their homeland, Syrian rappers are finding their voice. Over the last 28 months, as the conflict escalated from a national uprising to a regional proxy war, Syrian hip hop has turned up the heat to reflect the tragedy. Social destruction, abandonment and betrayal by the international community are prominent themes among the latest releases.
Renegade raging members
Brooding Moudy Alarbe laments his inability to stop his country slipping away from him as he watches from a distance. Omar Offendum rages that amidst the diplomatic posturing, the world has lost sight of the human tragedy unfolding in Syria. Even the protesters themselves have come in for a lyrical lampooning from the feisty Eslam Jawaad who has thrown in his lot with the regime. Whoever they’ve got in their sights, these guys are not short of words or message and they’re using rap music as their medium.
Most are launching their lyrical revolts from outside the hood — and the stages range from Beirut to London. The collective has members from around the region — ranging from Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab uprising, to the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon — and vocalises the realities of a new generation carrying the baggage of the past and present.
Armed with more bling than bullets, here are the motley crew of Syrian rapsters in our gangster gallery.