Wire contributor Courtney Yusuf selects his favourite tracks from the current Palestinian hiphop scene
|DAM “Meen Erhabi?”||0:03:02|
|DAM “Emta Njawzak Yamma”||0:04:29|
|Al Nather “Abu Bakr”||0:02:22|
|Muqata’a “Marj Ibn Amer”||0:04:12|
|Ramallah Underground “970”||0:03:04|
|Makimakkuk & Al Nather “Suhbae”||0:04:18|
|Shadia Mansour “El Kofeyye Arabeyye” (featuring M-1 of Dead Prez)||0:04:22|
|Straight Outta Palestine “Feek Tekhtfi”||0:04:14|
|Maqdesi “Parasite (‘Aleh)”||0:03:21|
|Shab Jdeed & Al Nather “Shufni”||0:03:58|
|El Far31 & El Rass “Heaven Heaven (Janna Janna)”||0:04:21|
Twenty years ago, the hiphop trio DAM kickstarted the homegrown scene from the Palestinian ghetto of Lyd in Israel. Today, the centre of gravity has shifted to Ramallah, the de facto capital and site of the roaring live party captured in Boiler Room’s recent documentary Palestine Underground. The broad church of Palestinian hiphop is a sound as diverse as the lives and landscapes of its people, from hard hitting bars to jumped-up party tracks, sugary synths to twitching loops, split between the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, the region, and beyond.
The song that started it all. Capturing a generation in the wake of 9/11, this straight talking track offers a punchy retort to Islamophobia.
“Emta Njawzak Yamma”
From Ben Haana Wa Maana
This first single from new album Ben Haana Wa Maana tears apart the pressure to marry with a tabla beat. Carried on a parade of flutes and sirens, this is one for the dance floor.
A production wizard lying behind a great range of beats coming out of Ramallah, this stand-out track from Al Nather is made for bouncing. With sweeping strings, a trap beat, and an enchanting melody, just wait for the reload with that trademark Al-Nather “ugh”.
“Marj Ibn Amer”
A building whirlwind of strings, tick-tocking, and faded samples, you can hear echoes of Berlin in this hypnotising track from the ‘Godfather' of the Ramallah scene.
Formed of rappers and producers Boikutt (now Muqata'a), Stormtrap (now Asifeh), and Aswatt, this group laid the foundations for today’s thriving Ramallah scene.
Makimakkuk & Al Nather
With a voice that can jump from folk to funky, Ramallah based vocalist, singer, and DJ Makimakkuk is one to watch. Vocals skate over a sweet synthesiser beat in this first track from new EP Ghara'.
“El Keffiyeh Arabeyye” (feat. M-1 of Dead Prez)
(Shadia Mansour Music Group)
With strength in every syllable and a rousing refrain, Shadia Mansour from the UK diaspora flows over a big MTV Bass beat on the power of the Keffiyeh (the chequered black and white scarf that has come to symbolise Palestinian solidarity).
Straight Outta Palestine
Inspired by the feeling of being alone in a crowd, this straight-talking track from up-and-coming Ramallah four piece Straight Outta Palestine is driven by guitar licks and the crash of a drum kit. Their new album, D. C: District C, is set to be released in July.
From Khat Thaleth: Arab Rap In The Wake Of The Revolutions
Maqdesi’s gravelly tones build a tension over samples, scratches, and wooden drums – all carried on the mesmerising strum of an Oud. This track was released by Cairo based label Mostakell on Khat Thaleth: a compilation of sharp political critique and social commentary by hip hop artists from around the Arab world. Khat Thaleth or ‘Third Track’ refers to an alternative to the polarised political landscape, as well as the Ottoman-era Hijaz railway that once connected much of the region.
Shab Jdeed & Al Nather
From JDEED VOLUME TWO
Best enjoyed at 4am, listen out for the hook ‘Shufni’ (‘See me’) as Shab Jdeed swings with swag over a tight bouncing trap beat. Don’t miss the his set from Ramallah’s 2018 Boiler Room broadcast.
El Far31 & El Rass
“Heaven Heaven (Janna Janna)”
From Idarat Al Tawahosh
Dark distorted voices, dreamy chants, and industrial smacks create a powerful soundscape for the vocal punches of Amman-based El Far31 and Lebanese Al Rass.
Read Yusuf's full Global Ear report on Ramallah in The Wire 421. Subscribers can access the article via the digital archive.