Domestic and foreign officials around the globe have seen an increase of young Islamic extremists turning to Hip-Hop and spoken word to express disdain towards their opposition. Now, the State Department is using a form of “Hip-Hop Diplomacy” to combat the occurrence of so-called “Jihadi Rap,” and to build dialogue between the divided factions.
The Atlantic modified an excerpt from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and Institute for African Studies lecturer Hisham Aidi’s new book, Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture.
Aidi breaks down the rise of former traditional Hip-Hop acts embracing orthodox and other forms of Islam and adopting the harsh stances against outsiders. In the excerpt, a Ghanian-German named Deso Dogg lets go of his rapping past and converted to Islam. For a time, Dogg tried spoken word chants known as “nasheeds “ to further his criticism of U.S. foreign policy.
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For much of 2013, the ex-rapper released a cappella songs against the Assad government, and posted photos online of him splashing around in creeks and playing with a rocket launcher. But last November, a video posted to a German Islamist website appeared to show Deso Dogg unconscious on a stretcher, his shirt caked in blood and his lifeless, bearded face framed by a white cloth (an image strikingly reminiscent of the photograph taken of Malcolm X before his burial in February 1965).
While Aidi examines Deso Dogg possibly dying from injuries suffered in an airstrike, he then explores the State Department’s push to use Hip-Hop as a bridge of communication between young Muslims and Americans This form of diplomacy has roots that began in the mid-2000s, borrowing from an earlier time where U.S. officials used jazz in a similar manner.
Working in conjunction with the University of North Carolina, the “Next Level” program is formulated to showcase the positive side of the American musical genre and culture. Four labs – “Beat Making Lab,” “Dance Lab,” “DJ Lab” and “MC Lab” – will be be taught overseas in six countries. So far, producer Stephen “Apple Juice Kid” Levitin will teach the “Beat Making Lab” for the Next Level program.
The photo used is a video of Abu Talha al-Almani, AKA Deso Dogg, reportedly done in December 2013.