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Hip-Hop Culture in Iraq: Emergence, Art, and Music

Hip-hop emerged in 1970s New York as an outlet for young ethnic minorities. They utilised the mediums of clothing, graffiti, dance, and music to speak out and express themselves. The movement’s crossover into Iraq within the past twenty years is no different. After facing decades of oppression and injustice, young Iraqis have opted to find a voice amidst the violence and corruption that has been afflicting their society through hip-hop culture. Using elements of art, fashion, and predominantly music in the form of rap songs, these visionaries attempt to tell their stories and the daily hardships they face, alongside the hopes they have for a better and more stable future.

The rise of the Iraqi hip-hop movement commenced in the early 2000s and came with other features of American culture as a by-product of the US military’s presence in the country, coupled with the rise of internet usage and Iraqis’ exposure to western music. Iraqi rappers wrote profound and daring lyrics about the frustrations that the younger generations faced, and by posting them on social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, these artists began to attract mainstream attention.

(Photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Historically, Iraqis had been expected to praise the nation’s government and ruling officials, so having to experience such a drastic change in sensibility, in a seemingly short amount of time doesn’t sit well with older generations. The topics that Iraqi rappers discuss in their lyrics clash with traditional nationalist music that glorify the country. The older generation find discussing these issues strange. Even in terms of institutional factors, Iraqi society considers itself quite conservative overall; a society that prefers tradition and culture as opposed to the contemporary. That being said, younger minds believe that the rejection of Iraqi hip-hop and rap comes from misconstrued perceptions arising from vulgar language used in American hip-hop. They strive to correct these misconceptions by way of their own compositions.

Aside from the music, the cultural movement is also depicted through fashion imagery. A lot more youths have begun sporting Western clothing as opposed to the more traditional Iraqi dress. Seeing knockoffs of brands such as Nike and Polo being worn has become more and more commonplace; disregarding the classist implications of wearing Western brands, Iraqi youths have adopted this change in taste as a way to identify themselves as “forward thinkers”. It continues to reflect the ideologies so commonly portrayed in the lyrics to their music.

Dabloom aims to exist at the intersection of this cultural movement and the Iraqi nation’s past. Our designs tell a story about the beauty of Iraq that people so often miss whilst respecting and appreciating Iraq’s history and traditions.

“The revolution is bold and needs art and music that reflect that boldness.”

Follow us on Instagram for more updates and insights into Iraqi culture and talent.

Article written by Arshi Syed, story teller at Dabloom.

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