From New York to Jeddah: Rap battles highlight Saudi Arabia’s hip-hop scene
They are young people in Jeddah performing dance moves inspired by the rhythms of rap. The dance of the Bronx stars in New York, the birthplace of rap and hip-hop appears to have moved to the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah. These rhythms and dances are part of a local video clip, usually filmed in popular alleys with individual but professional efforts; then the video goes on YouTube and receives thousands of views.
The majority of these video clips depict battles that are waged between Rappers. These battles are known as “Rap battles” or in the local dialect in Saudi Arabia as “al-Diss”. They were first gained attention as audio clips but have evolved today to take the form of video clips. This has provoked resentment among some local rappers who believe that it will hinder the creativity and development of local rap scene.
“Diss” is one of rap’s musical performances and it is intended to criticize and reprimand the other rapper while bragging and boasting about one’s self. Some of the rappers told Al Arabiya that “diss” is an extension of reprimand and praise in pre-Islamic poetry. Its songs are characterized by strong and fast rhythms to highlight the battle between the two groups or individuals. It uses short and consecutive sentences similar to punches and bullets.
Anwar Idris, an art adviser, said that the reasons for the spread of this phenomenon is that rappers aspire to fame through this style, because “diss” clips fascinate a lot of young teenagers in Saudi Arabia.
He added that this kind of songs harms the art of rap and promotes the wrong stereotype. The efforts made in these clips is huge, he said, whether in terms of lyrics, rhythms, singing or recording the video and “it is not fair to have all these efforts deployed just to criticize and reprimand other rappers”.
Idris called on Saudi Rappers |not to waste their time on “Diss”-ing and continue to spread rap songs that discuss societal and youth issues and send positive messages”, noting that rap has a noble message. He noted that it is an aggressive window that could lead to another negative horizon. Idris added that this type of songs can only be circulated on social networking sites because tradition media channels in television and radio refuse to air them.
In recent years, the rap community has expanded in Saudi Arabia, and anyone passing by entertainment plazas can see small crowds of young people dancing to the rhythms of rap music. Many rap groups have been producing songs about damages caused by drugs and harming of community values as they believe that rap is the language of street life and it is the closest to the new generation.