Hip Hop Syrian Style

A group of nine hip hop artists have produced Cross Words, Syria’s first rap album. I had a quick chat with the album’s producer and composer Badeeh Issa and singer Khaled Arnaout to find out more.

 Sham MCs is the first Syrian band to play rap, a kind of music completely alien to the Syrian music scene. Why rap?

 There is a rap community in Syria. It’s just that many Syrian rappers do rap American-style with subjects that are alien to Syrian society. We have been working hard to create rap Syrian-style with a mixture of Eastern and rai music, among others. We also mix Arabic and English into our lyrics that tackle subjects Syrians can sympathise with.

But many of your songs portray a less familiar face of Syria; that of posh girls, BMWs and clubbing. To what extent do you think this represents Syria?

We don’t want to talk about the same subjects everybody else does. Rather, we talk about the small details people tend to forget. We want to get to the core of Syrian society, away from the stereotyped clichés. This includes a lot of criticism. Rap is not the kind of music that relaxes you. Rather, it prods you, teases you and perhaps makes you happy.

You’ve just released your first album and held several concerts. How have people responded?

Within two weeks of the album’s release around 400 copies were sold. We were pretty nervous before the concerts, but the audience’s response has been great. Not only did they like the concert, some of them already knew the lyrics and were singing along with us. Nevertheless, we still have many challenges ahead. People think hip hop is only for the young, but we want to reach a much wider audience. And I believe if people overcome their prejudice they might very well enjoy it.

 To find out more log on to http://www.shammcs.com or phone 0988 291 018

This Q&A was published in Syria Today magazine.