A bazaar in Libya’s rebel capital of Benghazi might not appear to be the most obvious place to find a would-be Jay-Z.
But 18-year-old Boge and many others like him are pushing the boundaries of freedom of expression across the Middle East. The rappers have even been credited with helping to spark the so-called Arab Spring uprisings that deposed three long-serving dictators and rocked several other regimes.
Boge, who says he learned English from rap, is following in the footsteps of his hip-hop heroes KRS-One, Nas and Ice Cube.
“Our families are dying but yeah we’re still tough, Gadhafi is trying to assassinate us,” he rhymes during an impromptu performance amid vendors selling flags, shirts and hats in revolutionary colors at a market in the eastern Libyan city where the revolt against Moammar Gadhafi began.
Boge recalls how rap was treated as a criminal offense under Gadhafi’s rule. Two of his friends were arrested by the once-feared secret police — who were quick to stamp out any signs of political dissent.
“They used to put us in prison just for rapping,” says Boge, who grew up on a diet of Western TV and American hip hop. “I rap to prove something to myself — and the world.”
This phenomenon is not just confined to Libya. Rap music has inspired freedom fighters and pro-democracy protesters from Tunisia to Bahrain.
When 20-year-old Tunisian rapper Hamada Ben Amor — known as “El General” — attacked President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a song he posted online late last year it captured the imagination of a population hooked on Facebook and fed-up with injustice.
Entitled “Rais Lebled,” the song chastised Tunisia’s leader for not listening to his people who were “living like dogs” and forced to drink from a “cup of suffering.” El General was subsequently arrested but his anthem helped to ignite the spark which eventually ended with thousands of people taking to the streets in January. Ben Ali later fled the country.
Back in Libya, Boge admits that he hopes rap will give him the opportunity to travel. Following the fall of Tripoli, he will have new songs to sing about a free Libya.
Story By Karl Bostic – NBC News. Full story at World Blog from NBC News: