Political rap: “I rap about the things I believe I can change”

Af Laura Toft Nielsen

She had this happy, playful little smile, red curly hair and earrings in rasta colours. I met Safaa at a RAPOLITICS workshop in Copenhagen in early September related to the project Tomorrow Today. Her lightness both contrasts and confirms her personality as a Palestinian female rapper who acts politically in her own way.

Highlighting a new era

Safaa started rapping in 2001 (15 years old), inspired by Palestinian rappers like DAM (Da Arabian MCs) and NWR. When she started there where no other female rappers in Palestine.

I wanted to be part of NWR, but my parents wouldn’t allow me to join a group consisting of four guys. I knew Nahua. She is my neighbour today, and together we started the rap group Arapiat”.

Safaa’s first song was a call to young people to get an education, avoid drugs and believe in the future. Since, her lyrics have changed a bit. Her lyrics highlight the hurdles young Arab women face and they reflect the frustration of Arabs confronting inequalities in a Palestinian city occupied by Israel.

Sometimes I feel that I was more free when I was 15. It is not ok being 26, not having children, not being married… Also, now I understand more of what it is to be a Palestinian in Israel, and I’m shocked when I meet ignorance about the conditions of Palestinians in occupied areas… I want to tell young women and men that we are living in a new era and new forms of living and hope is possible.

Rap is political

Growing up in this environment has left Safaa extremely skeptical towards the political leaders and full of respect when the talk felt on the Arab revolts during 2011. “Seeing all those strong people on the TV… You felt that you became stronger too.” She wished that Palestine had experienced a revolution too with the Arab Spring, but she explains about her own activism:

“I don’t need to confront the president, cause he doesn’t listen anyway… I rap about the things I believe I can change, and I write to people’s minds. Everything in life is politics. Rap is politics and rap is revolution. I don’t go to the streets. I think I can change more minds and make people more confident if I tell them how I feel, what I experience. And then they can see that they are experiencing the same. A personal story is the best story.”

She had a lightness in her appearance but still a confident voice. Suddenly she asked: “How old are you?” “Guess!” I answered quickly. I smiled. Always this little game when you meet someone new and you want to know each other in a hurry. “You look so young”, she said. I have heard that one before, and I guess she had too. “28”. “Really!”, she answered and continued: “But I guess you’re not in a hurry getting married and all that here in Denmark…”

After my meeting with Safaa I’m convinced that the winning ways of this little confident woman will bring more hope of change around Palestine. This is not the impressive mass upheaval, but probably it is a just as powerful slowly revolution of the minds. It’s just another way of being political.

About the blogger: Laura Toft Nielsen is a communication voluntary in RAPOLITICS. She has worked on the online communication strategy of RAPOLITICS and has contributed with expert knowledge and teaching material about the Middle East in relation to the project Tomorrow Today.