How Hip Hop became part of Saudi Arabia’s cultural scene

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The Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts in Jeddah has decided to include Hip Hop as part of the various art programs they offer, Dr. Omar al-Jasser, manager of the society, announced last week.

There has been debate over Hip Hop’s culturally acceptability in Saudi Arabia and whether it can become part of the Kingdom’s art landscape. Al-Jasser noted that the art of Hip Hop must be respectful and consistent with the Kingdom’s laws and regulations.


Speaking to Al, Advisor Anwar Idrees said that Hip Hop in Saudi Arabia can be traced back to the 1990s. However, the genre didn’t become very popular at the time.

According to him, things changed following the introduction of modern communication technology, most notably the Internet.

Hip Hop gained greater popularity when artists found means to integrate the art with the country’s local culture. This was achieved by merging Khaleeji music and lyrics with the genre’s conventional beats.

Idrees highlighted that while most Hip Hop artists are amateurs, it acquired professional dimension with the arrival on the scene of talents such as Qusai Kheder.

According to him, Kheder is considered the first Hip Hop artist in Saudi Arabia. In 1994, Kheder released his first album, which talks about places in Jeddah and daily life of the Saudi youth.

Awareness tool

Idress stressed that Hip Hop plays a crucial role as an educational and awareness tool among the youth. He also expressed dismay over some artists using this art form to produce explicit pieces that affects the acceptability of the genre.

He also emphasized that a lot of work goes into Hip Hop, whether it is writing of the lyrics or composing music. According to him, this effort should not be wasted in producing such material and instead should be spent on composing songs that discuss matters related to society and the youth.

In 2008, the first official Hip Hop event was held in Saudi Arabia when organizing committee of the Jeddah Ghair (Jeddah is “different”) Festival introduced it as part of Jeddah’s music events.

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