All Hail The Queens: A Look At The Most Influential Women Of Arabic Hip Hop

Standing up for their people, for women and themselves.

1. Meet Malikah. Translation? The Queen.

“It’s hard enough being an independent voice as a female in the Middle East, besides taking on the testosterone-heavy world of hip-hop. Lebanese MC Malikah is one of just a handful of Arab female rappers, but she’s managed to establish herself as one of the most respected artists in the regional underground scene.”

Samir Wahab - The Rolling Stone ME

2. She’s kinda intense

“All eyes turn to Malikah as she hits the stage. Her taut frame, exuding toughness, sways hard back and forth, her fist curled tight around the microphone as she flows in Arabic: I am talking to you woman to woman.”

Borzou Daragahi and Jeffrey Fleishman - Los Angeles Times

3. First breaking onto the music scene in Lebanon at just 16, she was the first woman to reach NRJ Radio’s top 20 billboard chart in the Middle East

Her biggest break came in 2007 when she became one of two finalists on the MTV Arabia show MTV Hip HopNa. Both were anointed “Best MC in Lebanon” and Malikah went on to work with Dogg Pound (Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg’s crew) producer Fareed “FredWreck” Nassar.

4. And while she covers a wide range of topics, there is one that rises above the rest in her music: women empowerment

From her song “Ya Imra’a”: Women! Scream freedom in the name of every woman who cried and argued in the name of humanity/We want to be educated, we want to progress/Shine, excel and dictate our own lives!

5. Hailing from the UK/Palestine: Shadia Mansour, aka The First Lady of Arabic Hip Hop

According to CulturesofResistance.org, Shadia Mansour “is at the forefront of a new generation of artists calling for Palestinians’ right to self-determination.”

6. For this MC, it’s all about politics

“My music sometimes sounds hostile,” she told the BBC in 2010. “It’s my anger coming out and it’s resistance. It’s non-violent resistance.”

7. And, in particular, the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

As Mansour told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer in March, she raps because, in her eyes, “Palestine is still colonized, still occupied.”

8. Collaborating with producer Johnny Juice of Public Enemy, Mansour describes her work as something of a “musical intifada”

“Arabic hip-hop is not just a certain genre of music, it is the finger that points at everything and questions to instigate change. This is a culture of resistance. The only way it can be eradicated is if we refuse to exist.”

Shadia Mansour - “Mic Check: Hip-Hop From North Africa and the Middle East,” Brooklyn Academy of Music

9. And then there’s Soultana, the first female rapper to rise out of Morocco

“To be a female rapper in Morocco means confronting the [country’s] cultural norms.”

Soultana - World Hip Hop Market

10. Growing up on Tupac in her nation’s capital, she captured the stage in 2008 when her all-women’s group took home the prestigious Key Award from the Mawazine Festival

“Soultana is a Queen of rap in Morocco. She is the first woman (in Morocco) to wear the crown. With honest expression and faith in walking a righteous path, her crown was forged from the valued heirlooms of Moroccan culture and adorned with the jewels of modern design. Soultana has given a fresh look and voice to Moroccan hip-hop Culture.”

Lajedi - World Hip Hop Market

11. More than anything, Soultana is known for turning the stage into a battlefield for women’s rights

“I’m one of those women who has tried to exist within the confines of Moroccan hip-hop culture, looking for studios, recording, free-stylin’ and searching for festivals to perform in without being naked or marginalized… and that’s made me strong. It has given me hope being an MC here, and it’s helped me become a leader among the young girls I spend time with as I push them to write, express themselves and challenge taboos.”

Soultana - World Hip Hop Market

12. Like in this song, “Sawt Nssa” (Women’s Voice)

From “Sawt Nssa”:

She’s selling her body ‘cause you are the buyer
And when she’s walking by - you act like a Muslim
She’s prostituting to make life for her ‘lil brothers ‘cause they are orphans
They are living in the projects ‘n you are living in a castle
Please don’t insult them, don’t humiliate them, ‘n don’t forget at Mom’s feet there is paradise

Look at her like your mother, like your sister
Like her, Like Me ‘n like you

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