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The Queer Hip-Hop Movement

The Queer Hip-Hop Movement

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MC Jazz drops her first LP
Egyptian-Canadian queer artist Yasmeen Kamal (aka MC Jazz) was born in Kuwait in 1986, where Kamal’s Egyptian parents had moved to pursue work opportunities. However, the timing could not have been worse: the Gulf War broke out in 1989.  
 
The family fled back to Egypt, and these years of strife and movement have influenced Kamal’s work. The struggles of adaptation, acceptance and survival resurfaced when her family immigrated to Canada in 2000.
 
Xtra’s Parul Pandya chatted with MC Jazz recently in Toronto.
 
Xtra: What are the biggest cultural differences between your homeland and Canada?

MC Jazz: I noticed that youth are pushed to be more independent in Canada at a younger age. However, I also noticed there is a greater emphasis and expressiveness with regards to sexuality. When I came here I felt the pressures of the media and my peers to look and act a certain way in order to be accepted as a “girl,” and even now as a woman. Through my music I hope to spread the message that even though these pressures do exist, you can still stay true to yourself and not adhere to them.

How did you get your start as a poet and MC?
What drove me to start writing was the feeling that everything I felt my entire life was being internalized. We couldn’t really say how we felt or the fact that we lived in constant fear. There was definitely a sense of not being able to speak up when you wanted to. So I found, as most young people do at first, solace in documenting my own experiences in the world I lived in.
 
Describe your musical influences and your personal lyrical style.
As I started to experience music in other languages and styles, I started to realize that my writing did not just have to take the form of poetry. I could speak my words the way I wanted to, in a way that was musical to me, which is why I gravitated to hip hop and spoken word. I draw inspiration from the old days of hip hop, when the lyrics had a message and were born from the day-to-day struggle. I use my lyrics as a vehicle to convey this message and also educate.

Why is this the right time to drop your first LP, The Queer Hip-Hop Movement? What sort of topics does the LP tackle?
I feel like the world is slowly imploding, and I feel like people are tired of being silenced, as am I. Also, I feel like the music industry has gone on for way too long to only have a small percentage of queer artists who are speaking out and relating to the growing queer audience. We are still quite underrepresented. So I feel that opening the topic and possibility of a queer hip-hop movement may lead to a bigger conversation and change in mainstream music.
 
Does being queer, Muslim and a female MC present any particular challenges to your ambition as an artist?
It definitely presents many challenges, as most people see those three descriptions as contradictions of one another. Being a female MC is already difficult enough, in the sense of gaining respect as a good lyricist and rapper, especially in a male-dominated genre. As a queer woman, there are, of course, many stereotypes that are placed upon me, just as it is with being a Muslim woman. It allows me to explore new territory in rap music that has not necessarily been discussed before.
 
Your music has a strong message about inclusivity; can you please explain why this drives you?
The more I experience life the more I see how we treat each other based on social scales and stereotypes, which actually alienates certain groups of people. I am trying to speak out against all the levels of bullying that exist in our world today and convey a different truth.
 
The Deets:
MC Jazz
Cherry Bomb Shell Toe Live
Fri, March 9
Revival
783 College St
 

  
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Comments

Joe makes at least one good point
Joe makes at least one good point: teach kids to sing. Singing and voice lessons develop one's vocal chords as well as one's “voice” in society. Singing helps improve self-esteem and various human faculties. It is physical and emotional expression and can animate ideas in the song. It has been one of the foremost forms of expression throughout history. Why not give kids a gift of voice lessons. Formal voice teachers charge $20 to $80 for half hour, depending on the level. Shows like American Idol which have morphed into Idol of every country have become so popular worldwide because people with innate talent are helped to develop it on the shows. And every kid dreams of becoming an adored star. But they need some kind of training before they are chosen. Voice training is expensive and poorer kids can't afford it. Rap is the next best thing they have, that's why it became so popular; anyone can attempt it. You don't need vocal skills to do it. They should teach Singing in schools for free. Rappers just don't make it on such shows because they don't have a diverse skill set needed to sing a variety of songs. Similarly with Dance competitions; Hiphop dancers are limited in their skill sets of expression. They rarely make it on dance shows, unless they have other dance training as well and the ability to diversify. Schools should teach singing and dancing in their curricula to develop the whole person. Then they can use those “skills” to express whatever they want and in any style. That only makes sense. Joe's terse style should not discourage people from the joys of learning to sing.
Joe needs a job
Hey Joe, I think your deflection of all the relevant points have proved that this is why MC Jazz will continue making her music. After reading you attacking every person who has replied to your annoying comments I would like to say this: your issues go much deeper than hip-hop and rap, and that's ok, but I find it funny how you knock others down for what YOU will NEVER be able to do. You have no idea how many supporters this woman has. Instead of being proud that youth are stepping up and continuing on the legacy of our activism, you are sitting bitter typing away at your little computer, following this comment section so intently, and it's sad. I have an idea, don't listen to rap! Either that or you have a personal vendetta, and you're hiding behind your anonymous online comments, you should make yourself seen and heard if you're THAT passionate about your bigotry. Write for Xtra? Sing a song? Lead a March? Oh wait, no you would rather spew hate anonymously. I was hoping to actually read something constructive by your third comment, but it seems you talk and write the way you probably dance, in circles. So, step aside and let the world changers work.
“It has been brought to my attention...”
@SHAY “It has been brought to my attention...” ??? Uhmmm, are you someone important Shay...or suffer from a disability...that someone had to bring this to YOUR attention? AND “Wikipedia is not a reputable source... if you want facts pick up a damn book!” Wikipedia lists their sources at the bottom of each article. You can verify the sources if you want to go deeper. “if you want facts pick up a damn book!” Sounds like an old anal-retentive schoolmarm with only a BA. HAH!! BTW, I just cleaned out my vast library of books which have been deemed no longer factual. Peer reviewed research papers in journals are considered to be temporarily more relevant than most books. What you call “facts” are being challenged by newer and more diverse theories by the nanosecond. There are no facts; only theories. Don't try to be academically snooty in a column about Hiphop, Shay... If you defend Hiphop so adamantly, then why are you not out hipping and hopping and rapping? Taking a break from marking grade 5 assignments? Make sure you teach those children some new revised material. And TEACH THEM TO SING. Hiphop and Rap are so yesterday. Queer Hiphop is all the more lame.
Joe... Just say you don't like rap
It has been brought to my attention that you Joe think that someone has "forced" your hand, has made you listen to rap. The simple fact here is- if you don't like hip-hop, rap, r&b then don't listen to it. there are no laws saying "you Joe must listen to this type of music." All anyone asks is that you give something a chance, respect the attempt. change is necessary.. just because something started one place... does not mean that it cannot go others. art is meant to inspire, to help people relate; and in a community where so many feel like they are alone thank goodness someone has that kahunas to stand up and make a difference. by the way Wikipedia is not a reputable source... if you want facts pick up a damn book!
pretentious obviously white privileged individuals
It's so easy to just fling around the word “Racist.” If you know anything about Rap and Hiphop you would know that: “Hip hop music in its infancy has been described as an outlet and a 'voice' for the disenfranchised youth of low-economic areas, as the culture reflected the social, economic and political realities of their lives.” (Wikipedia) Why would saying that be racist if it is true? And obviously not all people of colour are poor; look at Obama. But there are areas of poverty where some people of colour do live. And no one was told that: “they have no right to express their own story and emotion.” Everyone certainly has the right. But we don't have to listen to people complaining and whining, even if it is in rhyme or complaining about their ex in song. And people who complain in any art-form are not necessarily artists, merely practitioners of a form. Being on stage may require bravery, but not everyone who dares to go on stage is talented. To be a true artist, takes more than just bustin' a gut on stage, it requires exceptional skill and talent, whatever art-form they are practising. The ones who could sing before RAP will still be able to sing after RAP dies. The ones who copied the RAP style did so because they could not sing. People are singing again. Even Black men are singing again in music videos. Whoever is trying to open doors for young people, should give them free voice/singing lessons --as RAP and Hiphop are on their way out to the bargain basement. Rap has hijacked popular culture long enough. And “Prince” your contention about, “pretentious obviously white privileged individuals” --cliché-- could not be more wrong! But keep telling yourself that in your bathroom mirror to make yourself feel more “adequate.” It seems that you are the racist...
My art is not your art...
For your information people, Adele just won 6 grammys for a whole album of her complaining about her ex. If you want vocal music, don't listen to hip-hop. Nobody forced you to listen. Nobody asked you to pay. So please if you have nothing better to do then be hateful, then don't even bother to comment. If you hate rap that's one thing, but to use the comment section of xtra to be extremely racist, to call people of colour poor, and to tell someone they have no right to express their own story and emotion through art is appalling. I hate that you pretentious obviously white privileged individuals think that you can decide what is art, and who has a right to make it. You actually embarrass me as a Canadian, as a Torontonian, and a Queer. In a community so rich with art and culture, I had expected so much more from our community. How dare you have the nerve to say that a person should not express their experiences and emotion through art. This artist is reaching out to a community that lacks representation and a voice. She is trying to open the door for young queers and people of colour to express themselves. While she tries to open these doors, you with all your ignorance slam them back in their faces. It's interesting as queers we always talk about how we have been oppressed, how we are hated, but then we judge one another in the same hateful way. Shame on you, what have you done today to make the world better for queers, to give us a voice? When was the last time you had the guts to stand on stage and pour out your heart and soul? Oh right, you didn't. You were to busy writing anonymous hateful posts on xtra.
So.....
according to zinka, MCJAZZ raps about real shit in HER life. I'm happy for her, but that sounds like hip-hop (art therapy) therapy to me. Art isn't about HER life or the life of the individual artist. Anyone can do that shit.
HipHop is not ART
Att Kelly: “those who really appreciate Art should be supportive of all genres” --Those who really appreciate Art would not consider HipHop Art. There are some talented people who have taken various styles/genres of music to the level of Art --even a few in HipHop. But not every attempt at music or singing or dancing or painting arrives at the level of ART. Not everyone who attempts any artform becomes an ARTIST; most stay at the level of “practitioner.” So, The average Rapper is in the crapper. They merely copy the aggressive terse monotone complaining style without subtlety, or artistry, or skill or clever original ideas or wordplay nor rhythmic musicality. They don't invent anything new. Their expression is merely repetitive monotone aggressive terse noise that gives people headaches. If all they do is complain, then they should pay me to listen to it. It is the ones who can't actually sing who are still doing HipHop, The ones who can actually sing have moved on and are singing, not talking. I suppose everyone needs some form of expression --whatever is available to them socially or genetically. They are lucky that at least the 6 people above will listen to them.
Hey Joe!
Att Joe: those who really appreciate Art should be supportive of all genres, all artists,no matter their race or sexual orientation. This young artist is bold, brave and unique. What have you contributed to make this world a better place? Clearly not your racist, homophobic, narrow-minded "oppinion" of something you clearly have no understanding of. I truly hope you learn that being such a negative mean spirited person, is only hurting yourself. Amazing brave people like Jazz Kamal will never be brought down by cowardly haters like you. They will continue to inspire and make positive change. Hooray for that!
JOE...
you need to get laid.
while your getting laid i suggest u listen to some real hiphop. like MC JAZZ.

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