6 male American rappers who are devoted Muslims
Mona Haydar got hate for rapping … but what about these men?
By Rayana Khalaf

When Muslim poet and activist Mona Haydar released her first single and rap music video“Hijabi”, she stirred a social media storm of epic proportions.
The sight of hijab-wearing women dancing and singing sent a Code Red alert to the self-proclaimed halal police, who came out in full force to label the video clip as “haram” based on their own fundamentalist and patriarchal interpretation of Islam.
Now, imagine if it were a devoted Muslim man who made a rap music video tackling Islamophobia … No one would bat an eye. The halal police would probably applaud him and appreciate the much-needed message he is delivering.
Actually, many male rappers who identify as practicing Muslims have been making names for themselves in the American hip-hop music industry. They are often vocal about their faith and incorporate it in their music.
These rappers have played a major role in reshaping mainstream hip-hop by adding more depth to their lyrics and discussing pressing issues, ranging from Islam to politics and social justice.

1.   Rakim Allah

The rapper is hailed as one of the most influential and skilled rappers of all time. He was actually among the first rappers to include references to Islam in their lyrics.
Rakim was born William Griffin, before converting to Islam at the age of sixteen and adopting the name Rakim Allah.
Often ranked among the best lyricists of all time, Rakim is known for his powerful lyrics that are packed with clever word choices and metaphors.
Rakim often mentions his Muslim faith in his songs. For instance, in his song R.A.K.I.M, he says, “Rugged and rough that’s how I do it, Allah who I praise to the fullest.”
“I love what I live and I live Islam, so I applied it to everything I do,” the rapper told Final Call. “I applied it to my rhymes and I felt that I wanted the people to know what I knew. I felt that I was put here for that purpose and I just want to fulfil my legacy as far as being a conscious rapper and putting the word that I felt the streets needed to hear out there.”

2. Lupe Fiasco (Wasalu Muhammad Jaco)

American rapper Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, better known by his stage name Lupe Fiasco, was raised a Muslim and says that Islam “plays a part in my life and everything I do, to a certain extent.”
He also gives credit to the faith for helping him lead a better life. “We have faults. We make mistakes. That’s what religion is for, to help you correct your mistakes,” he said.
Jaco does not shy away from mentioning Islam in his music.
In Muhammad Walks, he starts with the Islamic phrases, “A’udhu billahi min ash-shaytaan ar-rajeem (I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan). Bismillah-i’r Rahman-i’r Raheem (In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate). Allahu Akbar (God is most great).” He also speaks of the pillars of Islam, debunks stereotypes depicting Muslims as violent radicals, and calls for tolerance.

3. A Tribe Called Quest members Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad

A Tribe Called Quest, an American hip-hop group, includes two devout Muslims: Kamaal Ibn John Fareed (known by his stage name, Q-Tip) and Ali Shaheed Muhammad.
Muhammad was born a Muslim, while Fareed converted to Islam in the mid-1990s before changing his name.
“I read the Quran and it appealed to me. At the time I was agnostic and it really breathed spiritually back into me. For me it’s really a cushion, it’s cool, I’m cool with it,” Feared told The Guardian.
The duo have spoken up about their Muslim faith, and Fareed has even talked about them performing the Islamic prayer in the studio.

4. Brother Ali (Ali Douglas Newman)

Ali Douglas Newman, known by his stage name Brother Ali, began rapping at eight years old and converted to Islam at fifteen.
He is considered one of the most outspoken hip-hop artists in the world. Apart from social justice and politics, Islam is a recurrent theme in his music.
“Best believe the Qur’an influenced all of my songs,” he says in his song Good Lord, which begins with “Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem”.
“Islam made me believe that all human beings are created with an intrinsic goodness and desire to connect with greater world,” he told The Islamic Daily.
But, his faith has not stopped him from using expletive language in his work. How does he justify it?
“Everything in Islam is an act of worship — everything good and pure and genuine you do is an act of worship,” he told NPR. “I believe being the best artist I can be translates to being the most honest artist I can be. Were I not to show the crass side of myself, I’d be holding something back from my artistry.”

5. Mos Def (Yasiin Bey)

Commonly known by his stage name Mos Def, Yasiin Bey was first exposed to Islam at the age of thirteen by his Muslim father. Bey took the shahada – the Muslim declaration of faith – when he was nineteen years old.
He decided to adopt Islam as a religion after reading about it and meeting other Muslim rappers, like Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Q-Tip.
Many of his albums and live performances begin with the Islamic prayer “Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem”.
The hip-hop singer, actor and activist has been vocal about several social and political causes, including racism and police brutality.
“You’re not gonna get through life without being worshipful or devoted to something,” he says. “You’re either devoted to your job, or to your desires. So the best way to spend your life is to try to be devoted to prayer, to Allah.”

6. Freeway (Leslie Edward Pridgen)
Leslie Edward Pridgen, also known as Freeway, took the Islamic shahada when he was fourteen years old.
Despite starting his career as a rapper whose songs revolved around drugs and other aspects of ghetto life, Pridgen grew to become a serious hip-hop artist. Islam played a huge role in his transformation.
“The fans can get more out of my music now because I have more of a message,” he told CNN. “I’m more conscious about what I say now because in Islam, we believe that you’re going to be held accountable for everything that comes out your mouth.”
As a practicing Muslim who prays and has performed the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, he has struggled while trying to balance his devotion to Islam with his work in the music industry.
Speaking to The Fader, he revealed that he has even considered giving up his music career, but later decided that he can pursue his passion and still be a good Muslim. “It’s a difference of opinion if music is haram or not”, he said.
Images: Wikipedia

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