A foreigner on your own soil
Farrah Merali explores the politics of Palestinian hip-hop @ Maisonnueve. In Jesus’ hometown there’s an underground hip hop studio. It’s tiny, just the renovated basement of a house, with black eggshell foam glued to the ceiling as makeshift soundproofing. The only hint of the studio’s existence is the colourful graffiti collage on the front door. A pit bull with a pink snout—the studio’s unofficial mascot—is chained up on the veranda, standing guard over the city of Nazareth.
Inside, Adi Krayem is sunk low in his chair, his face illuminated by the glow of two side-by-side computer monitors. As a teenager, Krayem practised rhyming in front of the mirror and devoured Notorious B.I.G lyrics online. He was just sixteen when his group, We7, performed for the first time at a classmate’s birthday party. Now, with one hand on the keyboard and the other holding a freshly-lit Camel, Krayem is mixing We7’s new track. Like much of the group’s music, it’s dark and tragic, a mix of nineties rhythms and Arabic instrumentation. He runs a hand up and down his black baseball cap and bobs his head from side to side, cautiously, testing out the beat. “I think this is it,” he says, pointing at the screen. “Just like that.”
Turning his head, Krayem yells for Anan Qssem, his tall, bulky bandmate, to come back inside. Soon, a small crowd develops as the band’s entourage hovers around the computer. Their eyes fix on the screen, following the moving sound waves. Then, just like Krayem, they start to bob their heads in an unspoken sign of approval.