As I walk down the darkened staircase into a muggy basement in this lower eastside dive bar, a scruffily bearded supporter smiles and waves a four-foot wide Palestinian flag. The chatter begins as the room fills with anxious people awaiting the show. The young crowd came out to support Free the P, the new CD compilation of “hip-hop and spoken word, dedicated to the youth of Palestine.” The proceeds will go to Slingshot Hip-hop, “a documentary film that focuses on the daily life of Palestinian rappers living in Gaza, the West Bank and inside Israel.” Within moments, our hostess, Arab-American comedienne Maysoon Zayid, takes the ground level, makeshift stage and gets the crowd going with her dry, political humor.
Shortly afterward, La Bruja hops on the mike, entertaining the crowd with her multitalented combination of poetry, song, rap and Reggaeton. This Bronx born artist’s songs are infused with a mix of politics, humor, and raunchy jokes. Appreciative of La Brjua’s performance, DJ Kuttin Kandi grins and spins in the background.
Next is Akil Dassan, a half-black, half-Jewish, freestyling rapper, singer, and guitarist. Sweat rolls down his face while he converses on the heat and the ghetto nature of the basement. Packed into the space, 200 spirited fans groove to his guitar rhythms and words of unity and justice. Dassan finishes his segment by verbally serenading his Filipino love in her native tongue.
Driving twelve hours from Detroit to support her collaborators and peers on Free the P, Invincible takes the stage, representing the woman’s rap movement in Detroit and NYC.
With lyrics promoting the Palestinian cause, Invincible impresses the crowd with her track “No Compromises,” featured on Free the P.
The track “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People,” lays the base for the next rapper, Chosan. He reflects how the basement is like Africa when the lights go down then comments on the pervasive injustice in Sierra Leone, Sudan and Palestine.
Other highlights of the night were Anthony Morales, who opened the evening with spoken word focusing on Puerto Rican and minority pride.
Special guest and phenomenal rapper Immortal Technique stimulated the audience with a one-song performance. “The government laughs at you,” he declares. He breaks down the reality: many drove down to the show in their cars guzzling the gas the government fed them, eating McDonalds and fueling the corporate sponsorship. “Boycott!” he exclaims. The only way to defeat the injustice sustaining Palestinian misery is to boycott the legs they stand on.
Met with an explosion of cheers and roars reminiscent of opening day at Yankee stadium, DAM, the Lidd-based Palestinian rap trio closed the show. They performed several songs, including “Stranger in My Own Country,” a song which articulates the struggles of being Palestinian living in Israel. DAM gave a brief English synopsis of each song before cutting back to rap in Arabic. They made jokes about the occupation and how Arab companies won’t pick up their record because they are Palestinians who happened to be born in Israel. Video recorders documented this group’s charged American debut as cameras flashed and the crowd waved their fists in solidarity.
After playing two songs, Tamer Nafar, DAM’s most vocal member, looked to the supporter waving the Palestinian flag and spoke his mind, “It’s not that I don’t love the flag. I do.” He went on to explain that the flag bore the picture of the Al Aqsa Mosque as its centerpiece. “I love the Al Aqsa Mosque.” he remarked. Yet, Nafar doesn’t want the Palestinian flag to be altered with a symbol of exclusion, like the Israeli flag, which focuses on the Star of David. Nafar noted that “Muslims, Christians and Jews” made up Palestine before Zionist gangs pillaged the state, and emphasised that the injustice and racism which has enveloped the Israeli state cannot suffocate or hinder the Palestinian cause, which seeks justice, unity, and peace for all Palestinians. The audience of Muslim, Christians, and Jews erupted as the beat rolled on in the background.
Remi Kanazi is the primary writer for the political website www.PoeticInjustice.net. He lives in New York City as a Palestinian freelance writer and can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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