Interview with underground marxist hip-hop rebel MackaRonny Iceberg

MackaRonny Iceberg is a Norwegian Marxist hip-hop project. The topics of the rhymes basically range from political issues to more personal emotional and/or sexual issues. MackaRonny Iceberg is of course independent, anything else would be a disgrace, and all the music is free.

Why or how did you choose your bandname?

Well as you've probably guessed it's a slight alteration of the name on my birth sertificate. The Mack is not an unknown alter ego in the rap-community, but I picked it especially 'cus it melts so well in with the Ronny - I'm the MackaRonny with the cheese...

The Iceberg part comes quite naturally, as I've grown up in one of the coldest parts of Norway, and also I am tremendosly cool, ya know...

Do you play live? Where? Do you like it? Any special moments?

I like live performances, but rarely have the time. This hip-hop thing will never be anything more than a hobby for me, and my work in science (particle physics) and politics take a lot of time. It's creating the music I really love, getting an outlet for my creative forces, and when it comes to priorities, that is where mine will have to go.

When it comes to live performances however, I particularely remember a very spontaneous thing I did once at this student party, where I really hit it off with the DJ and we made magic, ah those student days... I guess I should also mention the notorious performance I made at the Steinstock festival. I know some recordings of a couple of the tracks are available online.

How, do you think, does the internet (or mp3) change the music industry?

Hopefully it will break down the commercial industry and everything will change for the better, the same will happen with the film industry and others. Now that information can be spread very cheep and fast, it's nothing but robbery trying to charge the same prices, when you have to do literally no work whatsoever to spread your product. Whenever the modes of production change, society will change also, and I think this will be to the better, but I promise you the capitalists will put up one hell of a fight, and they have allready started. Just look at the monopolization and how microsoft is trying to control digital media with their wma-format and their windows media player, the Time Warner/AOL merger also creates frightening possibilities. Stay away from it everybody: use the ogg-format, and try to stay as open source as possible. When it comes to watching movies videolan is a great alternative which can play almost anything (including dvds -region free), and also BSplayer is better than WMP, but I am digressing...

Would you still sign a record contract with a major label?

I am very split in my wiew on this question, it would allow me to spread my word to a larger audience, however I would also be in danger of being corrupted. On the condition that I would still be able to control my music completely, I would have to answer a definitive maybe.

Ahh - who am I kidding, if I got a good deal, I'd probably take it, on the conditions mentioned above.

What is your History?

Started up in 96, damn there was a lot of good rap out in those days. If you ask me, the golden age of rap was in 90-96, which was also of course the glory days, and rise of the West Cost.

From there I have developed at an uneven rate. I produce myself, but I am also blessed with the collaboration of several other producers, norwegian and international. I would have to mention Dr Lundek of course - an old and dear friend, but also RT1 over in Cincinnati, who has also hooked me up with a friend of his, Restricct'd and we have made a few great tracs together.

Also I would have to mention the Red Star Budapest crew, a marxist music collective down in Hungary. They have made a lot of remixes of my "My Adidhas"-track, and I have also made another track with Jbrozt - "the message" and the collaboration continues.

I put out an underground album in 2003 -"Gængsterr" which is sold on various underground shops in Norway like Ivar Matlaus at Svartlamoen in Trondheim, and Blitz in Oslo. Red Star also sells it in Budapest. All non-profit naturally. I also had an online version over at mp3.com, but now they've shut down (just as well, the capitalist pigs), so we'll see what I'll do about that.

What are your musical influences, what do you listen to?

Karl Marx, Che Guevara and Lenin of course (laughing), topicswise anyway. When it comes to rap-music I like I would have to say Rakim when it comes to flow. 2pac and early Ice Cube for their mix of social engagement and a real funky musical image. Apart from this I would have to mention PE, naturally, and Dead Prez also. Basically anybody who can combine great music, with a genuine message.

In Norway there has also bin a lot of exiting things happening lately. Gatas Palament had a great brakethrough last year, an a lot of other artists who have been in the game a long time, with some real hardcore revolutionary shit are also braking through. The Alarmclock Connection crew featuring revolutionary rap-veterans like Jester and Don Martin is really exiting.

"I would have to say Rakim when it comes to flow. 2pac and early Ice Cube for their mix of social engagement and a real funky musical image. Apart from this I would have to mention PE, naturally, and Dead Prez also."

Comrade, your interview from 2003 is very, very depressing. How can you mention Lenin and 2pac and Ice Cube in the same sentence? Is this a joke? You don't mention a single Marxist hip hop group (Zearle, any Cuban group, Immortal Technique, The Coup). I even see my picture listed on your page (http://music.download.com/iceberg/3600-8538_32-100398409.html) as a "suggested artist." I have worked alongside of you for over ten years and I am embarrassed for supporting you. You seem to consciously "forget" your comrades. You mention artists who are not radical or socialist. You give props to Black Nationalism and leave out EVERY REVOLUTIONARY UNDERGROUND GROUP THAT EXISTS and a couple good mainstream groups. How can you call yourself underground with corporate-capitalist hip hop as your peers and inspiration? I have long supported you and your music and today is a sad day for socialist solidarity.
Zearle

I am truly sorry that you feel that way. I probably should have mentioned a lot of underground artists, but the fact is that I today use approx 0.5% of the time i use on politics on music, and I really do not know the underground hip-hop scene that well. Also in the interwiew I wanted to tell the truth about what artists have inspired ME, when I came into hip-hop and on from there, and these artists were commercial artists who in addition had a message (or who simply had rhyming skills). Very few (if any)underground artists made it over to Norway in those days. Today I unfortunately have little time to follow the hip-hop scene at all. I also feel that your total rejection of commercial artists is politically wrong. If you have got a chance to spread a revolutionary message using capitalisms own weapons, go ahead I say. I of course agree with you that these artists also have problematic sides to them (altough the sides you feel are most problematic may not neccesarily be the same I find problematic, I do not like Ice Cubes affiliation with the Nation of Islam f.ex. in one period). I really have very little experience with how black nationalism works in the US today (being norwegian) and as such know little about the progressive and/or reactionary possibilities that lie in such an ideology (I am sure there is a potential for a little of both).

I will still hold on to, howeaver, the fact that the music of 2pac, early Ice Cube, PE and Dead Prez, does have a progressive potential. If you have got other artists you feel I should have mentioned, why the f**k don't you list them in your comment in stead of complaining that I don't list a long line of artists I really don't know that well? As you can see from the next paragraph in the interwiew, I do promote the Norwegian radical MC's I know. Do you know/promote these?

Most of my political time and resources today go into work in the party I am a member of (www.rv.no), work in a much broader front against neoliberalism (www.attac.no/www.attac.org), and work in my union (www.ntl.no), plus I try to write essays, articles etc. for different newspapers. I have however not given up on hip-hop completely, and I hope you do not judge my entire work based on one sentence from an old interwiew. I have downloaded quite a few of your tracks over the years, and I must say you generally keep a high standard. If you feel there is something in particular I should do to support you or any other particular artists, please let me know.

On my end, I don't have anything bad to say about your work (apart from an obviousley sectarian wiew of the black liberation movement). It's good, so keep it up.

*Clenced Fist*
Ice

YOU: I am truly sorry that you feel that way. I probably should have mentioned a lot of underground artists, but the fact is that I today use approx 0.5% of the time i use on politics on music, and I really do not know the underground hip-hop scene that well.
This is your excuse for only mentioning mainstream-commercial hip hop groups? That you do not listen to underground hip-hop? So, you live in a bubble of your own music and the mainstream corporate artists that you mentioned? How can any trust what you say if you do not listen to your peers? American hip-hop just does not compare to the underground political music the rest of the world produces. How can you even call yourself a hip-hop artist listening to old Ice Cube, 2pac, and calling yourself a Marxist gangster?

YOU: Also in the interwiew I wanted to tell the truth about what artists have inspired ME, when I came into hip-hop and on from there, and these artists were commercial artists who in addition had a message (or who simply had rhyming skills). Very few (if any)underground artists made it over to Norway in those days. Today I unfortunately have little time to follow the hip-hop scene at all. I also feel that your total rejection of commercial artists is politically wrong.
I do not totally reject mainstream hip hop, I reject your poor, weak, sell out (sans dead prez) list of “inspiration.” And I call your definition of Marxism politically wrong. You are touting a dangerous position to look towards mainstream artists to change the system. I bet you felt Kanye’s comments to be radical…and support Puff Daddy’s “vote or die” movement…and Eminem’s pathetic “mosh on the White House’s lawn” song to be “the shit.” Have you read any Trisha Rose, Michael Eric Dyson, or any fucking radical writing on the subject? Actually, every Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American hip-hop writer disagrees with this premise you suggest. Audre Lorde has a saying that “only the master’s tools can take apart the master’s house,” but she is suggesting using the Internet, software, computers, and the infrastructure of capitalism to destroy capitalism. Your position is taken by very undereducated hip hop consumers or people who want to be famous. You fit into both.

YOU: If you have got a chance to spread a revolutionary message using capitalisms own weapons, go ahead I say. I of course agree with you that these artists also have problematic sides to them (altough the sides you feel are most problematic may not neccesarily be the same I find problematic, I do not like Ice Cubes affiliation with the Nation of Islam f.ex. in one period).
Westside Connection? Fridays? Children’s movies? Ice Cube is towing the bourgeoisie’s rope and has capitalism’s dick in his mouth. Rakim has long been in the The Nation of Gods and Earths, commonly known as the Five-Percent Nation, the Five-Percent Nation of Islam, or the Five Percenters. Problematic is a sissy way out….
YOU: I really have very little experience with how black nationalism works in the US today (being norwegian) and as such know little about the progressive and/or reactionary possibilities that lie in such an ideology (I am sure there is a potential for a little of both).
It seems you have little knowledge of political hip hop in general. So, why not say that instead of making up a sell out list off the top of your head and tossing dead prez in the mix? M-1 is a socialist and a former leader of the Uhuru House and pan-African socialist party. Do you fucking know anything about the music you appropriate for your own use. Or should I say culturally steal? How can you listen to hip hop and not have studied Black Nationalism? Do you understand the manner in which rich whites can casually take up cultural tools for their own purposes and remain ignorant of the most basic ideas? I surmise you are a rich Norwegian who likes to play rapper on his computer. What does your music mean to poor people? To people of color around the world living in poverty and oppression?
I will still hold on to, howeaver, the fact that the music of 2pac, early Ice Cube, PE and Dead Prez, does have a progressive potential.
I forgive PE somewhat for their liberal stance and specifically Chuck D. BUT FUCK FLAVOR FLAV! His most political song was “911 is a Joke.” Which is probally over your head, because to unbderstand you most actually know something about Black people and law enforcement.
Dead prez does not below in your weak list. How can you mix M-1 and Stic with those other fakes?
If you have got other artists you feel I should have mentioned, why the f**k don't you list them in your comment in stead of complaining that I don't list a long line of artists I really don't know that well? As you can see from the next paragraph in the interwiew, I do promote the Norwegian radical MC's I know. Do you know/promote these?
I did promote YOU even though I felt your gangster nonsense was convoluted and “problematic.” It was not until I saw this weak ass interview that I realized you are an opportunist and don’t know shit about the music you appropriate (and apparently don’t care or want to know anything about except other Norwegian artists). Like I stated, rich white people love to steal some shit and not learn ANYTHING about the shit they steal. Even going as far as to say they invented it themselves!
YOU: Most of my political time and resources today go into work in the party I am a member of (www.rv.no), work in a much broader front against neoliberalism (www.attac.no/www.attac.org), and work in my union (www.ntl.no), plus I try to write essays, articles etc. for different newspapers. I have however not given up on hip-hop completely, and I hope you do not judge my entire work based on one sentence from an old interwiew. I have downloaded quite a few of your tracks over the years, and I must say you generally keep a high standard. If you feel there is something in particular I should do to support you or any other particular artists, please let me know.
Well kudos for your “activism.” But is this an excuse for treating hip-hop, which is a way of life, a vehicle against oppression, a tool of building solidarity all around the world—as your hobby and to cover for your ignorance by throwing out that you are really busy in every other facet of life to learn anymore about the art and political form?
Yes. Mention the hip-hop artists who really paved the way. And do me a favor and do some downloading and listening to the music you appropriate.
Sabac, Blue Scholars, Akil Ammar, Mystic, Quinto Soul, Native Guns, Akir, A-Aikes, Ricanstruction, Zion I, Ise Lyfe, I.R.A.N., Shadia Monsou, Boca Floja, Mr Lif, Red Cloud, Nate Mezmer, Resonate Sun, John Brown….it would take me an hour to list all the real revolutionaries that you “do not listen to” because you are too busy doing politics.
YOU: On my end, I don't have anything bad to say about your work (apart from an obviousley sectarian wiew of the black liberation movement). It's good, so keep it up.
Do not even know where you got that…150 songs made and you pull that as your criticism? You would have had better luck accusing me of being sexist…because I was young once…
YOU: *Clenced Fist*
Ice
Oh…by the way…is it a coincidence that your album “Sex and Revolution” resembles the title of my album “Love and Revolution”??????????????????
What the fuck?

Love this line by the way:
Opportunism=“Ahh - who am I kidding, if I got a good deal, I'd probably take it…”
Please in the future do not admit to being a sell out….

I still support you as a socialist comrade…but your rhetoric is weak like toilet paper.
I am writing my graduate thesis on weak positions like the one you take.
I’ll be sure you get a copy…

Z

I may come with a longer reply to you later Zearle, but just a couple of points I want to make right away:

- Yes music is a political weapon, but that's not the only thing it is. Frankly I think you overestimate its importance, and make a huge debackle out of almost nothing.

- Have you seen "life of Brian"? Your political stance reeks more than just a little of The Peoples Front of Judea (Splitters!), and frankly - if thats the way socialists correspont with oneanother in the US, I'm not surprised its the stronghold of capitalism...

Disappointed greetings
Iceberg

Zearle:
This is your excuse for only mentioning mainstream-commercial hip hop groups? That you do not listen to underground hip-hop? So, you live in a bubble of your own music and the mainstream corporate artists that you mentioned? How can any trust what you say if you do not listen to your peers? American hip-hop just does not compare to the underground political music the rest of the world produces. How can you even call yourself a hip-hop artist listening to old Ice Cube, 2pac, and calling yourself a Marxist gangster?

Ice:
I gently try to explain my lack of knowledge about the American underground Marxist hiphop-scene on the background of basically two main reasons:

1) I am Norwegian. When I grew up, and became interested in rap, artists like Ice Cube, 2pac and PE were the ONLY political hip-hop that was accessible where I grew up in Norway.

2) Later, with the discovery of internet and such, it has of course been possible for med to explore more hiphop, including underground – and this was for example how I came to listen to amongst other your music. However – this was at a stage where my musical tastes were very much “set”, and a period followed where I have used less and less time on music, and more time on other kinds of political work. Therefore I have not followed the underground scene much lately. (I have not followed the mainstream scene much either).

To this you reply in a very angry manner, aggressively attacking positions that I never have taken. F.ex. when you write: “You are touting a dangerous position to look towards mainstream artists to change the system”

And further down “Well kudos for your “activism.” But is this an excuse for treating hip-hop, which is a way of life, a vehicle against oppression, a tool of building solidarity all around the world—as your hobby and to cover for your ignorance by throwing out that you are really busy in every other facet of life to learn anymore about the art and political form?”

No, it is not, an explanation is not an excuse. I spent some time on hip-hop around 2000, but later it has been minimal. Why is this? To me, in my life, hip-hop is NOT all these things. Hip hop is a propaganda tool which I use. -Lately, less frequently. I have no problem accepting that hip-hop can have a completely different meaning for somebody else, but you on your hand seem preoccupied with condemning everybody who do not accept your sectarian pre-pacaged ide of what hiphop is an should be for everybody everywhere.

Does the fact that I listen to an artist, and am inspired by him/her mean that I believe they are the right tool for “changing the system”? Not at all. I believe hiphop in any form will have a rather marginal role in changing the system.

You continue in the same aggressive tone with “I bet you felt Kanye’s comments to be radical…and support Puff Daddy’s “vote or die” movement…and Eminem’s pathetic “mosh on the White House’s lawn” song to be “the shit.””

When the fact is that I never had much liking for any of these artists musically, and politically I never even considered them. I have seen Puffy trying to do some Bono-stuff (which I believe basically is supporting the system, not changing it) and I was recommended Eminems video by an anarchist buddy of mine – and I do believe that it’s better that these artists do these things than being all-consumed by the sex-money-and-drugs-hiphop, but as so far as these guys are going to bring about a revolution – not very likely.

What you don’t seem to understand is that I am able to listen to something for _musical_ reasons, and not political, and I am able to see some good in a lot of the music of people like 2pac and early Ice Cube, without agreeing with them on everything. You seem to think the alternative to these artists are a lot of Marxists underground artists I never heard of. Fine – perhaps in the future it will be – perhaps in some milieus in America it is. But for me to promote artists I don’t know exist is quite hard, and I fear the alternative to most people at least around here are the Jay-Z’s and the Master P’s and such who continue the womanizing, capitalism-touting rap whit no message whatsoever.

Condemning the mainstream culture is a very effective way of separating yourself from the people you want to reach, and be written off as some weird sectarian before even having a chance to talk to them. I do not believe that it is bad to pick out the best parts of that culture as a point where you can connect people with alternative thoughts to the bourgeoisie hegemony. This was a starting point for me, and I believe it can be for others.

You continue asking ”have you read any Trisha Rose, Michael Eric Dyson, or any fucking radical writing on the subject?”

No, I guess I have probably read more American Marxist literature, than you have read Norwegian, but this subject is of rather marginal interest to me, as I have stated earlier, and I don’t follow the internal US-hiphop-debate. You don’t seem to understand, or be willing to accept that you and I work in quite different environments where the subjects of controverse are different, and the solutions and strategies also must be different.

You continue “Your position is taken by very undereducated hip hop consumers or people who want to be famous. You fit into both.”

1) I haven’t taken that position. 2) In the American hip-hop scene and debate I am probably undereducated, yes. I however do not believe I have made a bad judgement neglecting that. Time is limited. 3) If I had wanted to be famous making Hip-Hop, don’t you think it would be wise of me to produce more than one track every other year. I have so far produced 1 (one) album, 1 EP (or rather the red star Budapest crew have on the basis of a couple of my tracks) and 1 “lost and found” – scrap-metal album of tracks not found worthy for any other publishing. I am planning an other album, but no one knows when (or if) it will be finished. And this is since 1996…

So over to another subject. Two of your comments seem to demonstrate something about the way you read things, and listen to music which can perhaps explain a few things.

“I did promote YOU even though I felt your gangster nonsense was convoluted and “problematic.””

“Love this line by the way:
Opportunism=“Ahh - who am I kidding, if I got a good deal, I'd probably take it…”
Please in the future do not admit to being a sell out….”

It seems to me, you have a problem understanding the consept of HUMOR, and sub-aspects of it such as irony, satire etc. This is probably no surprise as it is generally accepted in Europe that US-Americans do not understand these things :) I however have experienced that a good portion of self-irony, both on my own personal account, on account of the image that is painted of hiphop her in Norway, and on account of stereotypes of the left, is a very wise approach to fend off banal criticism from political (and personal and musical) opponents.

So let me spell it out: Not everything is to be taken l.i.t.t.e.r.a.r.i.l.y.

To the questions about Ice Cube, Islam etc. “Westside Connection? Fridays? Children’s movies?”

– I have always made clear that it is the early Ice Cube I like to listen to (AmeriKKKas most wanted, Death Sertificat etc.) You keep attacking positions I have never taken.

About Islam, American black Nationalism etc: US black nationalism is not a very big issue outside the US. It might do you good once in a while to get your head out of your USA-sack and look around the world to discover there are other sacks with other peoples heads in them as well (amongst them me with my head in my Scandinavia-sack).

Here the problem is rather that a relatively small minority of immigrants are being attacked by a growing racist and populist right-wing movement, which has gained strength after 9/11, and basically use a scare-image of Islam as the root of all evil to condemn everybody who are not Christian nationalist westerners.

So excuse me for not focusing on some problems you might have with Islam in the US.

To your final question: “Oh…by the way…is it a coincidence that your album “Sex and Revolution” resembles the title of my album “Love and Revolution”??????????????????
What the fuck?”

The album is called “Gængsterr”. “Sex & Revolution” is the sub-title. When I made the title I had not heard of your album, so it has nothing to do with you. Relax – you will not have to be associated with opportunistic weak-ass sellout Norwegian rappers.

There are a lot of other points you make that I should probobly comment. (Speculations about my wealth (I have an average Norwegian wage – rich in a global setting of course, but not in a Norwegian one) and many others. But you are so damn ANGRY, that I have a little problem taking you seriousely. Let me therefore just end off on a positive note.

You mention a lot of artists “Sabac, Blue Scholars, Akil Ammar, Mystic, Quinto Soul, Native Guns, Akir, A-Aikes, Ricanstruction, Zion I, Ise Lyfe, I.R.A.N., Shadia Monsou, Boca Floja, Mr Lif, Red Cloud, Nate Mezmer, Resonate Sun, John Brown”

THANK YOU. That was actually constructive (or, rather I choose to interpret it that way, 'cus I'm a nice guy), and I’ll try to listen to some of them, and for further debate, may I suggest that a little more tempered and constructive tone may give better results not only musically, but also politically. (But what do I know. US culture may differ from the Norwegian, and anger may perhaps work better in the political debate there. I do not however have the experience that it leads to the kind of discussins the Marxist movement need to go forward).

Best wishes
Iceberg

Excuse me for my perceived intolerance and sarcasm. I did take a nasty tone and you have my apologies. Tis not the best for comrades to communicate. So, that said...I will attempt to not be as shitty. I do think your sarcasm towards me is present, alas possibly more veiled then mine....

I am well traveled due to my work with several organizations, so your points on my USA tunnel vision are confusing. I have only traveled to "third world" countries. I have not been to Europe, Australia, or Japan. I find myself with more of a Franz Fanon mindset then a Western Marxist pedagogy. I do like Antonio Gramci, who speaks of subverting popular culture to influence change and in many ways challenges classic Marxism's fixation on the economic base. This is why studying hip-hop and ways of spreading ideology are so important. However, it really DOES matter who is producing the radical culture. Can anyone produce radical culture? Gramsci has a theory of the "organic revolutionary" that again can be connected to youth creating hip-hop in Colombia or Senegal. Can we then measure who is more important? I do prefer building ways of attacking a capitalist super-structure and a deep understanding of methods of counter-propaganda and counter-subversion are needed.

I do not even define myself as an "American" as I find nationalism sickening and limited for purposes of building solidarity. I do hold dual-citizenship so I do not have be American if I choose....

I think you have misconstrued my position on Islam. I do want to be clear on my opinion of fringe members of American Muslim groups that practice a distorted and mutated version of Islam. A google search of both the Nation of Islam and the 5% Nation will dredge up sufficient criticisms by Muslims and "left wingers." I am not a orientalist (as theorized by the Late Edward Said), nor am I in the support of the creation of bigamy and racial hatred. Several of the political hip hop groups I constructively suggested are Muslim and/or are Arab, Persian, or Palestinian. The United States has a serious problem around islamophobia and it is a issue that I organize around as well as many other people of color issues (as I am a person of color, part of why I feel I can attack your whiteness and "Norwegian wealth" as well as need to study hip-hop as a revolutionary tool outside your own hobbies).

The authors I suggested you read (you could have googled just one of them to see they are hip-hop writers NOT American Marxists) are the most respected hip-hop theorists in the game right now. Although some might define themselves as radicals, most are academics who work in colleges or are professional writers. You say hat you have "marginal interest" in studying or listening to anything not Norwegian. Why would you take this stance? Why would you not be interested in understanding more in general?

If I wanted to recommend Socialist writers that discuss the use of counter-hegemonic culture I would have mentioned maybe Subcomandante Marcos, Stuart Hall and Tariq Ali....

As far as using hip-hop to be famous...you were the one that said you would take a "good record deal." If you knew about that incredible corruption in hip-hop (see Immortal Technique for a break down on the industry and why a MC should never sign a deal). If you studied hip-hop, you would know that many, many MCs become trapped in record deals (Lauryn Hill has an album made and ready that her label refuses to release because they do not think it "will sell"). This flippant/sarcastic answer speaks volumes to youth listening to your music and reading your interview. This is part of the reason I was mad. You seem laissez-faire throughout the interview, almost shitting on the hip-hop you represent. I would like the opinion of others on this. Am I the only one that read it this way? You were supposed to say :
"FUCK NO....I would never sign a deal. I know how artists are abused, oppressed, and limited by the industry. I have read about how dead prez has been screwed several times by Sony, Colombia and others. Plus, I understand that the hip-hop music industry is dying and I would never support a dying monster. I support free file sharing, and stand against copyright laws. I support Pirate Bay, Mininova, and others who take a stand. I will use the incredible power of the Internet to share my music with all. I understand the file hosting, P2P, and torrents are the new vehicle of revolution and I will spit in the face of a record executive who offered me a deal.

I am more confused to why you would utilize "sex" to sell your album then its similarity to the name of one of my albums.

And this:
"You continue “Your position is taken by very undereducated hip hop consumers or people who want to be famous. You fit into both.” 1) I haven’t taken that position. 2) In the American hip-hop scene and debate I am probably undereducated, yes. I however do not believe I have made a bad judgement neglecting that. Time is limited. 3) If I had wanted to be famous making Hip-Hop, don’t you think it would be wise of me to produce more than one track every other year. I have so far produced 1 (one) album, 1 EP (or rather the red star Budapest crew have on the basis of a couple of my tracks) and 1 “lost and found” – scrap-metal album of tracks not found worthy for any other publishing. I am planning an other album, but no one knows when (or if) it will be finished. And this is since 1996…"

The position I refer to is, that commercial and mainstream hip-hop can be used to ferment/foster/teach/spread revolutionary ideologies. The industry does not want to destroy itself by producing music that undermines capitalism.

So, referring to #1, I thought that was what you were saying. My bad if that is not what you believe. I must have missed something.

#2. You still do not believe you had made a error in being undereducated about the art that you appropriate for your own means. The time excuse is what peasants tell workers when they try to educate them about solidarity. Lest we never say ignorance is because we have no time. Mutha fuckas will get no where with that ideology.

#3 You further disassociate yourself from the world hip-hop community by stating that you make one track every two years. So are you hip-hop or not? What do you represent? Are you what we call a "studio gangster"

Further, I am confused more about your motivation then I was before we began.

It seems you may use hip-hop to vent (yep..now I'm psycho-analyzing you) and be the tough, sex fixated gangster in your imagination. In this case, I am sorry for thinking you care about hip-hop and the youth culture who represent it. If not, then why not learn more about hip-hop, more about the American Recording Industry that had such long arms they threaten the ISP providers of autonomous countries?

Solidarity
Z

I am glad you agree we should hold a better tone amongst ourselves. You are of course right in implying that I was at a couple of instances tempted to reply to you in a similar tone. I apologize for that. It also seems that I was mistaken in believing that you had a very US-centric worldview, as it seems you have expanded your gaze considerably, possibly to a greater extent than I have. Still it seems we have to a large extend expanded our knowledge in different directions, which may explain something of the minor "culture clash" I believe is behind parts of this debate.

I also never meant to imply that you were in any way an orientalist. I merely meant to point out that the problems you have with these groups you mention in the US is not at the forefront of the debate here, and therefore it did not seem natural for me to evaluate such aspects of f.ex. Ice Cube.

I am glad you read Antonio Gramsci - I believe the key to understanding modern capitalism is in understanding his thoughts around hegemony. You can see some images from my visit to the Gramsci-museum here: http://omicron.leftist.net/gramsci.pdf (looks dead - i'll get it back up later)

I have also read some Subcomandante Marcos, although he sometimes gets a little bit too colourful and metaphoric for my personal tastes, I believe he has many interesting things to say. The biggest drawback when it comes to Zapatistas and this form of creating pockets of alternate societies within a capitalist world, is that is seems to have a problem of spreading. I am perhaps therefore more in line with Tariq Ali when he sees the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" as the axis of hope...

However this is digressing - but hopefully also showing that we have some common ground.

Let me try to make a few central points in this debate about my stance on different hip-hop-issues.

About record-label deals
You write "As far as using hip-hop to be famous...you were the one that said you would take a "good record deal." "

Again I must reply to that twofold:
1) It was partly a humorous remark. I have never sent a single demo to a single record company (underground or otherwise). The idea therefore seems quite academic. (And I believe this also shows it is not something I am working very hard for :) When the underground RedStar Budapest label has published my albums it was on the background that one of them had heard my music online, and wanted to (and I said go right a head, and sent them a copy of the album in the mail).

2) On the other hand: If I would take a deal it would simply be because I believe that would mean I could spread my lyrics to a greater audience, and at the time of this interview – I probably believed it would, but I have of course not gone in to any form of serious thought about what type conditions etc. as it is as I said an academic question, not a realistic one. I do not believe the prospects of such a deal are completely bad here in Norway though. The communist group “Gatas Parlament” I mention in my interview have published a couple of albums on a major label, but that doesn’t stop them (merely postpone a little) putting there music out online for free at http://www.gatasp.no/last-ned/

I completely agree with you in your support for file sharing. We put out a little post here on this site when TPB went offline for 3 days after the police-raid you probably heard of which was very popular. (In Norwegian, but the links (mostly still) work in all languages http://omicron.leftist.net/?q=node/41 ) I have also written a lengthy article on how file sharing and open source-production is the start of a new socialist economic from within capitalist society (also in Norwegian http://omicron.leftist.net/?q=node/141 ). So I believe that is a central tool, but it you can reach even more people by pushing plastic cds in addition, I believe that’s all good.

When you say “The industry does not want to destroy itself by producing music that undermines capitalism.” I believe you are both right and wrong. No capitalist will undermine his own position, but if a capitalist can make a profit in the short-term by doing something that may undermine the entire capitalist system in a much longer term – I believe he will very often do it – not of his own will, but by the short-term-profit-logic of modern capitalism. But I still believe the _economy_ of file-sharing music will be a much more central tool in destroying capitalism than the lyrical content of the songs downloaded. It’s all about removing parts of the economy form the capitalist logic.

About the Gængsterr and sex-thingy:
“I am more confused to why you would utilize "sex" to sell your album then its similarity to the name of one of my albums.”
- I don’t sell my albums. I put them out for free at http://www.jamendo.com and other sites. RSB work completely non-profit as well (as far as I know anyway).

I can see you are confused by the Gangster-attitude I put out. This also has a twofold answer.
Partly the answer is humour. I am partly simply making fun of that part of hip-hop, and being semi-satirical. If you and many others can not see that aspect (no matter how far I try to pull it in some songs) I am possibly not doing a good enough job.

However there is another aspect of it as well. When I started with hip-hop back in 96, basically it was (west-coast) Gangster-rap that was da shit. And why not then try to take some of that raw street anger, and try to channel some of it in a constructive political way. Make the wild unfocused class-struggle into a focused one so to speak. Now that part of hip hop is more or less dead (at least over here) and naturally, also what is left of my gangster-image has moved to an even lager extent over into the (self-)irony described above.

Finally you write: “It seems you may use hip-hop to vent (yep..now I'm psycho-analyzing you)…”
The only psychotherapeutic thing about my music might be a few of the rather angry and filthy tracks about the final stages of a couple of relationships. A few of these things feel good to get of ones chest, so they have helped. I rarely write tracks like that when I’m in a well-functioning relationship.

So about my position when it comes to hip-hop:
You ask of me “So are you hip-hop or not?”
I must reply: I listen to hip-hop. I sometimes make hip-hop. But am I hip-hop? No. Probably hip-hop makes up about 5-10% of my cultural consumption, and a little more of my production.

It seems that hip hop is much more to you than it is to me. To me it is not that all-encompassing culture, and I was hoping you could accept that.

At times I however do not think it looks like you do:
“You still do not believe you had made a error in being undereducated about the art that you appropriate for your own means. The time excuse is what peasants tell workers when they try to educate them about solidarity. Lest we never say ignorance is because we have no time. Mutha fuckas will get no where with that ideology.”

Well, no I do not. When it comes to culture, I tend to listen to, read and watch whatever I find most interesting at the time, and I do not intend to sit down and school myself extensively on any particular subject more than that. In that case cultural consumption would become an energy drain on me, and not the input it should be, and I would probably end up learning less.

I am currently working on several political projects it does not seem I have the time to finish. That I find very unfortunate, and I am currently evaluating how I can free more time, not how I can bind more up. If you think that is “what peasants tell workers when they try to educate them about solidarity”, well you go on believing that. I still won’t have the time. (However I obviously do have the time for this debate so maybe… well, I’ll give you this – everything is priorities).

I hope this was clarifying in this discussion, and that we may now understand each other positions better.

Live long and make Revolution
Ice

Hip Hop as a Political Tool
By Yvonne Bynoe, AlterNet
Posted on June 9, 2004, Printed on February 5, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/18902/

Many people who want to politically and civically engage young people see hip hop culture as the best avenue to accomplish these goals. Although hip hop culture is ubiquitous, particularly in relation to youth, such a road is fraught with landmines, given controversial rap music lyrics that tend to sensationalize violence, crime and sex and rap music videos that depict women as sex toys. However, for social change agents intent on this path, the challenge is to begin to formulate strategies that use hip hop to foster young people's interest in and engagement with issues that impact them and their communities. This new use of hip hop is a sharp departure from the more common but less effective practice of using it to either lure young people to political events or as a vehicle for young people to write and rap about issues, but not to devise ways to resolve them.

Social change agents, rather than getting mired in the entertainment aspects of hip hop, can instead use hip hop within a political or civic framework by getting young people to begin to think critically about themselves, their world and their role as citizens. In thinking about using hip-hop in a new socially and politically progressive way, I urge social change agents to consider the following:

1. Content is Not Neutral: When discussing hip hop, rather than being solely concerned with not alienating youth or simply validating their expressions, social change agents should also challenge young people to assess and analyze hip hop culture and its effects (positive and negative) on them and their communities. Some questions to consider would be: 1) What do the lyrics of a particular song really mean? Many young people listen to the beats of rap songs but not to the lyrics. 2) Who controls hip hop in terms of how rap artists are selected; what rap music is produced; how and to whom it is marketed to; what is the role of commercial radio in making rap music hits and who benefits financially from hip hop? Many young people erroneously believe that it is people like themselves rather than corporate executives who largely direct the course of mainstream hip-hop culture. 3) What personal and community values, principles and ideals does a particular rap song promote? Do the young people agree or disagree with these beliefs and why? Unfortunately, in the absence of alternative influences, many young people are using the messages and images of hardcore rap music and rap music videos to develop both their personal and public identities.

2. Focus On History: Today, many young people coming out of our public schools lack a grounding in history; a sense of what their ancestors went through so that they could have the opportunity to even think about being rap moguls or multimillionaire ball players. The perfunctory Black History Month programs invariably highlight the same three or four heroes, but in schools there is no long-term commitment to telling young people about the many and complicated steps that were necessary to secure their current freedoms and options. Regrettably, many young people have scant knowledge of slavery (some even question that it occurred or was really brutal). Despite all of the talk about the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, many young people have little knowledge about the social and political events that preceded them. This information vacuum makes young people susceptible to a "here and now" mentality that does not support collective political or social action, much less a long-term commitment to either individual or community goals.

3. Leadership Development: There needs to be a more concerted effort to fund and champion programs that tangibly expand young people's leadership capacity. The role of the leader has to be de-mystified and made accessible to a wider group of young adults. This means more programs that help young people to understand how community groups, decision-makers and elected officials operate and function to serve their constituents. Young people must be given the tools and opportunities to develop real initiatives that can affect their immediate communities. Moreover, young adults should be encouraged not only to become activists, but also elected officials on their local school boards and city councils. It is also important to stress that not everyone need be an out-in-front "leader" to be a change agent. Young people need to know that at the community level and at the state and federal levels there is a great need for behind-the-scenes players such as media relations professionals, speechwriters, fundraisers, lobbyists, policy analysts, chiefs of staffs, legislative aides and attorneys.

4. Fight Image With Image: The glitz and vitality of hip-hop is an omnipresent force in the lives of young people, often with no strong countervailing influence. The easy choice for social change agents is to get a rap artist to speak to young people they are attempting to connect with or convey a message to. However, the harder, but more productive route is to find someone young people can identify with who also can introduce them to new ideas about what they can achieve in their lives and neighborhoods. In order to construct a countervailing presence, new role models that approximate the current crop of hip hop celebrities, in age, style and ability to relate to young people has to be cultivated.

Rather than a 50-year-old law partner in a staid blue suit, a 25-year-old law associate in a Sean John outfit is perhaps a more useful success story. This young role model should not feign ghetto credentials if he does not have them, but should be someone comfortable talking about his background and the steps he took to reach his goals. It is also important that role models are conversant in hip-hop culture and its mores so that they can begin the dialogue where the young people are.

5. Thinking Beyond Voter Registration: Over the years there have been numerous voter registration efforts that have boasted thousands of new registrants, yet these activities have not translated into the hip hop generation actually voting in greater numbers. As a result of the hip hop generation's poor voting record, elected officials do not perceive it as a constituency whose concerns matter. Voter registration is an important first step, but there are other steps that are necessary to motivate new voters to actually cast a ballot. In some cases, social change agents can increase voter turnout by reminding new registrants to vote with a telephone call or email a few days before an election or by providing them with rides to and from the polls.

Other young people, however, need to be provided with a reason to vote. Surveys have consistently shown that generally young people do not vote because they have an incomplete knowledge about what creates and solves political and social problems; they do not have a clear idea about what politicians do; and cannot name candidates running for office. However, these same surveys also indicate that initially young people are concerned about their immediate neighborhoods, and then their interests expand to city, state and national issues. What many of these one-shot registration drive, benefit concerts, and hip hop confabs have not been able to do is engage in long-term voter education, helping young people to understand the role of government in remedying political and social issues and how through their own voting and civic activities can help to improve their lives and local communities.

Politically, the goal of the hip hop generation must be to move away from rhetoric and symbolic activism to real and substantive political action. It is imperative that we cultivate new leadership and establish new programs and organizations to address this generation's concerns. Hip hop culture can be one tool in the arsenal, but we can no longer afford to depend on it as the exclusive means to develop a viable hip-hop generation political constituency. Moreover, as we mature politically we will better understand that artistic expression alone will not alter flawed public policies, but it can be used to jar folks who have tuned out.

Yvonne Bynoe is the author of 'Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership and Hip Hop Culture' and is president of Urban Think Tank Institute. On Friday, June 16, 2004, she will be participating in the Women's Track of the hip hop Political Convention in Newark, NJ.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Arab-American rappers find new voice in political hip-hop music
Saturday, March 25, 2006
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Arab-American rappers find new voice in political hip-hop music
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Far away from the their parents' homeland in the Middle East, Arab-American rappers are trying to find their own voice in the US -- expressing the frustrations of the Muslim world at a time when anti-Islamic feelings are on the rise following the Sept. 11 attacks

NEW YORK - The Associated Press

They rap about checkpoints, military oppression and refugee camps. Their songs express longing for Jerusalem and anger at the hardships of life in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

But they grew up in Tennessee or Virginia, live in Los Angeles and perform in New York City.

Far away from the their parents' homeland in the Middle East, Arab-American rappers are trying to find their own voice in the United States -- expressing the frustrations of the Muslim world at a time when anti-Islamic feelings are on the rise following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Their neophyte movement is spurred on by the success that rap and hip-hop have in voicing the grievances and reflecting the lives of other minorities in the United States.

Two of the Arab-American rappers, Omar Offendum and Ragtop of Los Angeles, are on the forefront of this small but growing trend in hip-hop music.

"Hip-hop has always been trying to voice resistance in the face of oppression," said Omar Offendum, the performance alias of 24-year-old Omar Chakaki. "And if you're growing up Arab, politics are very important because they affect every level of your life in many different ways."

"There's definitely a feeling of solidarity with other minorities, like African-Americans, and not just when it comes to the music," added Ragtop, 25, whose real name is Nizar Wattad. "Palestinians in Israel and the territories are also second-class citizens."

Their political lyrics resonate with young Arab-Americans. During a concert last week, more than 300 fans of mainly Middle Eastern background squeezed into the Coda Club in midtown Manhattan. The gig was organized by the Network of Arab-American Professionals of New York and the bands themselves.

Clapping and singing, the crowd enthusiastically applauded the hip-hop performances of Wattad and Chakaki.

The two artists rapped in English and Arabic, combining electronic samples of popular and classical Arabic music from their parents' generation with fast hip-hop drum beats.

"I place my palms to the east where my people seek peace, and freedom from police control, checkpoints and patrols," Wattad and Chakaki rhymed in the song "Free the P" which stands for "Free the Palestinians." "Domination from another nation; we used to be brothers like Cain; now they got us living under occupation."

Wattad, who is of Palestinian origin and heads The Philistines, and Chakaki, the Syrian-American lead singer of The NOMADS, are currently on tour and have already played in Detroit, Dearborn, Michigan, and Oberlin, Ohio. The two rappers were performing in Vancouver on Friday.

They are promoting their co-produced album which like their duet is also called "Free the P," a compilation of spoken word and hip-hop that features 24 different artists from the U.S., Canada and the Middle East.

Rejecting violence despite anger:

While many of their songs focus on the plight of Palestinians, Wattad and Chakaki also rap about their own experiences as Arabs, and Arab-Americans, in a post-Sept. 11 world where suspicion of Muslims runs high.

"After 9/11, I got stripped-searched on 17 flights in a row," said Wattad, offering an example of what he perceives as growing discrimination against Arabs in the United States.

Despite their anger about incidents like this, the two rappers reject violence as a solution for conflicts.

"We don't believe in violence on either side of the conflict," said Wattad, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "If we can help to clear up the hate, we'd even play together with an Israeli band."

While Arab immigrants in Europe and Palestinian youths in Israel and the occupied territories have been expressing their political frustrations and anger through hip-hop for many years, the Arab-American version of rap is a relatively new phenomenon.

In North America, there are only a few other Arab-American rappers like the Iron Sheik from Oakland, California, or the Iraqi-Canadian band Euphrates.

Wattad and Chakaki have independently been producing rap songs for more than three years and both recorded a CD. But it is only in recent months that their music has gotten much media attention and that they have established a fan community.

They hope that eventually their fans will include people beyond the Arab-American community. At last week's concert at the Coda Club, they managed to recruit some new fans, though mostly still of Arab descent.

"They are very political but that is part of who we are," said Mayida Zaal, a 27-year old design student of Palestinian background who had just bought the "Free the P" CD for her cousins.

"This music is like the original hip-hop from the Bronx before it was commercialized," said Zaal. "I think their music has a future."

Well, if I'm supposed to comment these articles I have to say both are interesting. The first one by Bynoe is of course the most analytical one, but to me that is very much focused in on a US-american reality. I do not feel that hip hop culture has the impact on most kids lives around here the way she portrails it. On the other hand some of the things she writes about may apply on a more general basis as well. But when she writes f.ex. "initially young people are concerned about their immediate neighborhoods" that is the exact opposite of what I have experienced here. My experience is that young people on an average are much more internationally oriented and idealistically enclined than older people.

Older people who have a job and perhaps a family tend to be much more focused on their everyday struggles at work and at home, and much less so on solidarity with the palestinian people, struggle against imperialist agression etc. When it comes to reaching out to and recruiting these people, I find it much more fruitful to do so by engaging in local union work f.ex. and then try to build something from there - to put that local struggle in a wider context.

When it comes to kids, however it is much easier to start talking about international politics right away - and I find you can basically be much more radical in your rethoric. But one thing you can not be is stiff and sour - you have got to have humor - and that is something I can't see Bynoe writing much about. Perhaps it's not so in a US-context? - What do I know.

About the palestinian refugees rapping in the second article - I can recognize that. For a lot of refugees in Europe also, hip hop has become a way to create an identity - and there I believe many of the same challenges arise that you see in the US - how to avoid the politically blind sex-money-and-drugs hip hop, and try to channel those young people in a constructive direction. There I believe hip hop can play a role, but for most kids just that - a role - not be the entire solution.

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