Lynn Fattouh – better known as Malikah (Arabic for “queen”) — is now one of the most respected representatives of the region’s growing underground hip hop scene. She is known, among other things, for her strong lyrics, honest bluntness, and constant fight to raise voices.
What inspires you to keep up your music career?
Inspiration can come from anything around you. What you do, what you perceive, sounds you hear, and images that pass you by — all these constitute sources of inspiration. I am therefore inspired by what I see or hear on the news, my day-to-day life, or personal issues. What keeps me going is the struggle of my people, and the fight against injustice, racism, war, and hunger. As long as there is struggle, I will continue to do my music.
What keeps me going is the struggle of my people, and the fight against injustice, racism, war, and hunger.
What are your songs about? Do you support any particular cause or struggle?
My songs revolve around my daily life and whatever has an impact on me and my surroundings. I support the Palestinian cause strongly, just like any other cause against the oppression of people and the tyranny of systems. I support the struggle of the people in Iraq, and the revolutions in the Arab world. Moreover, I support the unity of Arabia — the unity of people inside each country and unity among the countries — as well as women’s empowerment and the freedom of speech. Finally, I fight strongly against the stereotype of terrorists which has been bestowed on us by the West.
You have traveled all over the world. Is there any place in particular that you find more inspiring than the others?
Any place where I feel truly welcomed and where people are eager to watch me perform and learn about Arabic hip hop. It is an honor to represent this music, and a responsibility I take very seriously. This means that we always need to stand tall for what we believe in as proud Arabs.
I have been to many places and countries, either introducing Arabic hip hop or giving a sneak peek of the culture itself. Arabic hip hop has been welcomed everywhere with much love and respect for what it is and where it comes from. The most inspiring countries I have performed in are Colombia and Kenya. I met wonderful people there, and had some of the best experiences in my life. What was funny to me was that they did not know what to expect from an Arab female rapper. They had no clue Arabic hip hop even existed.
It is our turn now to show the world what we have got. And trust me, the world is listening.
What are the differences and similarities between the various underground scenes in the Arab world? Which do you find more active and expanding?
Hip hop has grown widely throughout the world, and Arab rappers have emerged with a certain passion and goal to simply “spread the word.” To share our realities with a wider audience. The Arabic hip hop scene is as diversified or fragmented as the Arab world itself; it expresses as much frustration, polarization and diversity as Arabs themselves have endured. The major scene includes Egypt, Palestine, Morocco and of course Lebanon, countries that are rising above suppression. Arabic hip hop is not just entertainment, it is also a possibility for youth to speak up against oppressors and to create a more liberal future. It is our turn now to show the world what we have got. And trust me, the world is listening.
Was it hard to find your place in the hip hop scene as a solo female rapper? Did you receive support from your family, friends and the hip hop scene?
My success did not happen overnight at all. I had to prove myself and I had to work twice as hard in order to earn the respect and appreciation I deserve. In the Arab world, women are underestimated and need to surpass men’s achievements in order to be heard or known of. I consider it an honor having reached to where I am now.
What role do you see female MCs playing today — is the field evolving?
The position of women MCs has evolved over the past few years. Several female rappers have emerged from different Arab countries, incorporating their own lyrics and bringing forth their distinctive talents. Even though women MCs are still somewhat underestimated compared to male rappers, we are out there proving to the world that we are as good as them, and sometimes even better! The role of women is vital to the scene.
We are out there proving to the world that we are as good as them, and sometimes even better!
What are the reasons for you rapping in Arabic? Do you think your message has more impact in that language?
I first started rapping in English, but switched several years ago. Surprisingly, the switch was easy for me. Using Arabic, I found that not only me but also my listeners could relate to my music better. This is our mother language, which the whole Arab world can relate to. I simply realized that Arabic hip hop should be in Arabic. It is about allowing myself and my audience the chance to truly express our opinions and our thoughts. During the July war in 2006, I felt the urge to write a song for the Lebanese people. I decided to use Arabic since that is a language I knew everyone would understand. Arabic is a beautiful, powerful language, with a vast vocabulary. Besides, I have never heard of American rappers rapping in Arabic, so why should I as an Arab rap in English?
What can you say about your new album?
The album contains a conscious message, and includes several collaborations. It is produced mainly by Fred Wreck, but has other Arab and international producers too. This album reaps the harvest of everything I have sown during these past seven years. I represent the Arab world as a whole and want to empower Arab women in particular to stand up and show the world what we are capable of. This album will be my greatest artistic accomplishment so far, and hopefully many more will follow.