London: The Message

May 17th, 2009
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I took this photo five years ago on my first and only trip to London. It was at a Hip-hop show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The show was called The Message and it starred Gza from Wu Tang Clan, Dead Prez and a number of British rappers I’d never heard of before. Gza was still doing the same songs I heard him do in the late 90′s when he performed at my college. And Dead Prez hyped the crowd saying the crazy shit they are known to say. (“And you white people can be down, too. Just give back what you took!”)
But what I still remember now was hearing the British MCs rhyming in an indecipherable accent. There was a freestyler on stage lambasting his fellows for trying to sound American when they are “BRITISH!” Coming minutes after hearing Dead Prez reject their nationality in favor of being “An African,” I wondered if anyone else noticed the irony.
I also remember the Palestinian MC whose hook was in Arabic. It was the first time I had seen International Hip-hop live. I’ve been fascinated with the concept of foreign language Hip-hop ever since.
It’s a challenge to me as someone who has always listened to Hip-hop as a form of storytelling to listen to a song and not know the words. But it’s an interesting experience.

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