Monday, October 1, 2012

L.O.T local Arab rap artists – Hip Hop in Doha a Musical Subculture

Subculture is defined as a smaller group that is distinct from the larger culture in values, beliefs, symbols, and or the activities. In other word it’s a world within a world. I decided for this blog post to interview uprising rap artists here in Doha. They are composed of four rappers, Yousif Amr Khalil and Ammar Abouelghar from Egypt and El Mahi Hajo and Tayeb Hajo from Sudan. Together they call themselves L.O.T.

The questions I asked L.O.T ranged from; when did you start rapping and listening to rap? To what does L.O.T stand for and what exactly are you aspiring to fulfill through your artistry?
These local artists started rapping during their teenage years, starting from the age of 14 to 18 years old.  They first listened to rappers such as, Eminem, 50 Cent, Biggie, Immortal Technique and many more.
Picture taken during a recording session by them.

Rap in the Middle East first started as a form of frustration reliever, in other words the first rappers started rapping about important topics related to politics or their own personal life situation (ex: DAM Palestinian rappers). It was interesting to find out that some of the L.O.T group members first started rapping for the fun of it; they would typically write whatever could sound good and “sick.” Whereas other members started writing rap in order to relief their frustration about the depression in Sudan. Eventually as time passed by, and as their writing and rapping skills improved, today they can write both serious related verses and verses that are simply for entertainment, they even use it as a form of “storytelling.”

Throughout the interview, I thought to myself, these guys want to differentiate themselves from the original Hip Hop artist, so why is it that they rap in English and not in Arabic like the Palestinian rappers?
Rap music and Hip Hop first started in New York in English, so these artists learned about rap and therefore, learned to rap in English. In addition these young artists dream to reach an international audience, since English is the International language, they aim to inspire people to want talk about something real, inspire them to want to write rap verses, and of course to show the world that talent does reside in the Middle East, and especially in this thumb formed oasis that is Qatar. They want to be known as Arab/African Rappers that can rap in English. 

Yousif Khalil and Omar Offendum. Notice the hand gesture.
Youth subcultures are often based around style and music. Indeed, in sociology, style includes not only fashion, but also speech and mannerisms, which itself includes body language and gestures. What I basically adopted for this interview is the Chicago School method of the study of subcultures, which includes observing, talking, and hanging out with L.O.T, which enabled me to observe and discover their social patterns. What I find interesting is that they would usually get together almost every night, play some beats they found on the Internet or composed themselves, and then freestyle their way through it, or showcase to each other the different verses they wrote. The Chicago school believes that subcultures are best understood when observed in the context of their economic conditions. Indeed, these young rappers convene in different locations, which range from the Student Center in Education City, to a private Majlis to even the Pearl.  In the film Slingshot Hip Hop I noticed that the Palestinian artists would write their verses not only in Arabic but also on a notepad that contains all their lyrics. In the case of L.O.T I noticed that they write and save their verses on their Blackberry mobile phones, so that it is always on them incase they need it. This is living proof that subcultures truly adapt to their environment and work with what they have. Another thing I noticed when they rap, is the hand gestures. They are definitely gestures people can associate to Hip Hop artists from around the world.

L.O.T in the studio. Notice their hand gestures here as well. 

I also asked these young rappers if they believed that Hip Hop grew on such an International level that it should be considered as a musical culture instead of just a subculture? They all in fact agreed, and believe that Hip Hop became a “hybrid” a “mix of all genres, since artists can rap on almost any beat” ranging from Rock N’ Roll to Soul Jazz beats. El Mahi even stated that Hip Hop is a “perfect balance of Music.” In “Hip Hop – “Doing” Gender and Race in Subcultures” by Ross Haenfler, he writes that “Hip Hop is a culture, not simply a musical form, and an underground subculture has grown steadily alongside hip hop’s mainstream popularity.” I agree with what he says, in the sense that Hip Hop has indeed evolved to a culture, but contains different subcultures that are scattered all around the world, whether it’s in Palestine with the Arab rappers, or it’s in Doha where L.O.T exists. I came to the conlusion that L.O.T is a world within the world of Hip Hop, its is in fact one of Qatar’s Hip Hop subcultures.

I finally asked the rappers what L.O.T stood for, and they have graciously accepted to send me a short paragraph written by El Mahi.

L.O.T Logo.
“No matter what beliefs you follow, we all originated from the garden of Eden. Whether your roots may flow through the Nile, climbed the heights of the Himalayas, or even wonder yonder upon the hidden valleys. With that being said, now you’ll be able to relate to and understand the meaning of L.O.T, which stands for “leaf of trust” and “loyalty, opportunity, talented”. We are a leaf amongst a whole tree, which symbolizes humanity. Our leaf consists of the people who we trust the most and who share the same drive and passion for multimedia. Keeping a closed circle is the foundation of what we stand for but at the same time we branch out music, videos, etc… To connect to society” El Mahi Hajo (Stage name: Mahi Mahi.)

These young artists are willing to spread their artistry and help out other local Middle Eastern talent blossom. They wish to “break the barriers” through the company they are creating called Blue Lime Productions. “We want to voice our stories, as the Middle East is a hot spot."
Check out their website some of their songs play when you open the window. (Warning: their might be some curse words in their songs, so listen if you don't mind them.)

Tune in for the Launch on November 1st 2012.

Check them out everyone, they really are worth keeping an eye on. They sick yo!

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