As long as there have been artists and rap music, Islam has played a role in the symbolism, lyricism, and militancy of the culture. From the greats of the early days, to the Black Power and 5 Percenter movements of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, through to some of today’s musical empires, Muslims have had their say in rap music. For historical reference on rap and religion, see our recent editorial, “Heaven, Hell and Hip-Hop: Has Rap Lost Its Religion?”.
In the past, AllHipHop.com has examined the parallels and intersections between Hip-Hop and Islam. What we found is that there are the obvious signs among rappers – lyrical references to Allah, bushy “sumi” beards and “kufis”, and of course, the ever present, no-pork stance. But for some, the values of the highly disciplined religion run through the very fabric of their art and their lifestyles. For example, MCs like Philadelphia’s Freeway have shared the transformative power that pilgrimages to the holy land of Mecca have had on their music and their creativity.
In late February, AllHipHop.com was cordially invited into the world of the Nation of Islam during its annual Saviours’ Day commemoration. With the country’s largest population of Black Muslims, the powerful group boasts some famous believers among its flock, and many of them belong to the rap and R&B communities. Cormega made his debut years back under the auspices of rapper Nas and The Firm. And, though the Muslim rapper is not a member of the Nation of Islam, he was invited to participate in the Nation’s special weekend – Check out the video of Cormega’s reaction after being front and center for Minister Louis Farrakhan’s nearly five-hour, captivating address at Chicago’s United Center (home of the Chicago Bulls):
With its women covered from head to foot, and the apparent military-like discipline of the men among its ranks, it would be hard to imagine an atmosphere where partying prevails among the Nation of Islam. However, when you mix nearly a thousand young women (and some men) with the ballads of a sexy, crooning Muslim from Washington, D.C., all bets are off. Singer Raheem DeVaughn is a proud member of the Nation of Islam, having attended and participated in several Saviours’ Days and other events over the years. This time around, he contributed his wisdom to the youth at the AllHipHop.com co-hosted town hall meeting, followed the next night by a spirited concert that didn’t hold back any of his typical swoon-inducing moves for the ladies. Watch video of DeVaughn after the panel discussion, along with some footage of his concert:
We also met young, conscious rappers on the come-up, like Avian Nalej, who is a youth minister in training under the Nation of Islam in Chicago. With his thoughtful lyrics and warm, enthusiastic demeanor, Avian exemplified the spirit of Hip-Hop among today’s young Muslims.
There’s more coverage to come from AllHipHop.com’s visit inside the Nation of Islam’s Saviours’ Day. Check back in the coming days for the next “Examining the Nation of Islam Through a Hip-Hop Lens” feature! Visit www.noi.org for more information.