“Scratch The Past – This Is Our Soundtrack: Hip Hop In Lebanon” - Ifi Background Paper
Background Paper | May 2010
“Scratch the Past – This is OUR Soundtrack: Hip Hop in Lebanon”Angie Nassar
In Lebanon’s cultural politics of music, hip hop emerges as an instrument for contesting inherited forms of meaning by socializing alternative discourse - with its own ideological terms, creative yearnings and lexicon of ideas - into the public sphere. Perhaps only a small interruption against the repetitive, exacting beats of the social order, but this is not about volume or even flow. It is about testing the limits and pushing the boundaries of what is considered acceptable. Hip hop in Lebanon emerges as a space of possibility, where political bargaining and moral contestation are summoned in defense of the self, and in defense of real and imagined communities. Here, rappers situate themselves in relation to others based on their own laws of cultural capital, not the classifying norms of the dominant social arrangement. And in a country where the inclination to categorize - based on sect, family, religion, political affiliation and social status - is instant and pervasive, this freedom to forge unique identities that defy stereotypes and promote dialogue is significant. Yet - musical genres, as Adorno said, carry the contradictory tendencies of society as a whole (1976: p.69). There are a range of hip hop ‘territories’ in Lebanon, and they often coalesce at the juncture where youth demand a new definition of group solidarity: they disavow the sectarian-communal mechanisms of the political and social system, and they refuse conventional forms of identity branding. But amending what rappers profess with how they interact in the creation of a distinct hip hop community, or in this case, communities, reveals some of these young people remain haphazardly caught up in redefining a system they often loudly reject. Still, we cannot ignore the complex processes of how youth in Lebanon are working out ‘who’ and ‘how’ they want to be in the language of a hybrid, glocal form such as hip hop.