Keepin’ it Real: Arabic Rap and the Re-Creation of Hip Hop’s Founding Myth

Igor Johannsen


In the context of the so called Arab Spring, the role and function of "popular culture" generally, and hip hop specifically, have been scrutinized by a row of scholars and journalists. Connecting the respective cultural practices and products with the founding myth of hip hop as it materialized in the USA, Arabic rap is not only able to authenticate its products and performances, but it additionally sustains the relevance of social, political, and economic marginality for these respective cultural practices. This article explores a selection of decisive features of the founding myth of hip hop that are actualized through their representation in the Middle East and North Africa.


Hip Hop; Cultural Heritage; Popular Culture; Arab Spring; Cultural Practice

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Igor Johannsen is a research fellow in the research network "Re-Configurations: History, Remembrance and Transformation Processes in the Middle East and North Africa" at the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies (CNMS) at the University of Marburg, Germany. He received his Magister Artium in Islamic Studies, History and Political Science from the University of Hamburg in 2011, and he is a doctoral candidate at the Department for Arabic Language and Culture at the CNMS. His main fields of interest are hip hop-culture, cultural theory, Arabic history and philosophy, and the political geography of the Middle East and Islam.