Is Hip Hop Helping the Public Image of Muslims?

With the current polarization of opinions in mainstream America about the Muslim American community, I see various discussions on Islam, Muslims and our culture.  But what’s most surprising is when listening to hip hop stations particularly these days I hear a lot of references to my people and in turn my beliefs.  Now, given public opinion isn’t so favorable about Islam (roughly about 38% say they have an unfavorable opinion about Islam), I think this is pretty risky and bold for the hip hop community to continue their support for Muslims.

Continue, I say?  Yes, time and time again we see Islamic concepts woven into hip hop songs.  For example, Lauryn Hill’s internationally acclaimed song, Doo Wop (That Thing) had, “Sirat Al Mustaqim” or the straight path, meaning leading a life based on Islamic principles.  Or Jill Scott’s reference to “Surah 31:18” in A Long Walk.  The examples are endless, and lately, we’re seeing more and more of it in mainstream culture.

Just last year Busta Rhymes’, a Muslim artist, released a single, Arab Money.  It had Akon, another Muslim hip hop artist, singing a version of “Bismillah Ar-Rahman ir Raheem,” a phrase that all Muslims recite while beginning everything with, “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Compassionate.” Even Lil’ Wayne got in on Muslim fever, with his hit song, A Millie, where he praises the “Almighty Allah.” A year ago, here and there sporadically, we heard references.

But now, especially, just in the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing more than a few shout outs to Muslims or Islam.  Kanye West promised to drop a new single every Friday from early Fall to Christmas, where a few of his latest songs mention our people and our issues.  In the remixed version of, Power featuring Jay-Z, and Swizz Beats (another practicing Muslim) Kanye raps, “Now everything I’m rhyming on cause a Ramadan, Been a don, praying for the families lost in the storm, bring our troops back from Iraq, keep our troops out of Iran, So the next couple of bars, I’ma drop them in Islam, They say ‘As-Salamu Alaykum’ say ‘Wa alaikum assalam’ That’s no Oscar Mayer bacon, you should run and tell your moms…” That’s right, in one single swipe, he mentioned Ramadan, not eating bacon and Islam to a mainstream audience…have Muslims arrived on the stage of American pop culture?  He goes on to say, in another single, I’m so Appalled, “Praises due to the Most High, Allah…” That’s right Kanye…you preach on!  And just so you know, I support you.  Beyonce did deserve Best Video at last year’s MTV Music Awards!

Speaking of which, at MTV’s Music Awards this past month, aired a public service announcement of sorts called, “Islam is Not the Enemy.” Thank you MTV, we needed that.  With all the hate, I rather take the time out to appreciate the love.

We can’t forget a rising female star of hip-hop, Nicki Minaj, she also gets a piece of some Muslim Culture action in her recent single, Roger That she professes, “As-Salamu Alaykum, No Oink for me.” Thank you, yet another message of peace and no pork.  YES!  In her previous single, featuring world renown producer, Sean Garrett, Massive Attack, she mentions Muslim countries, “Tom tom like in Lebanon, Hotter than in Pakistan.” Nicki clearly, knows her geography regarding Muslim countries.

So what does this all mean?  Kanye’s rapping about Ramadan, Nicki’s claiming no “oink” for her, and MTV’s patting us on the back, saying ‘we’re not the enemy.’ It got me thinking, is this a coincidence?  Or amongst all this hate, are Muslims actually getting subtle shout outs of love?

Any kind of positive acknowledgement is definitely a good thing, especially for the Muslim community these days.  Regardless of what one may think of these artists, or of their music, the point is, hip hop has always been acknowledged Muslims, and still doing exactly what they have been its inception, shouting out Muslims and Islam!  It’s not a new concept, but yes, helps to mainstream our culture and beliefs a bit more.  I mean Kanye rapping about Ramadan is big.  You say, not really?  I could write a rap about Ramadan, and maybe my mom would listen, but Kanye has millions of fans worldwide.  And for him to think Ramadan is cool enough to rap about, people will listen…and eventually look into it, or think, “Hey, its not so different, and it is cool.” This, my friends, is what worldwide acceptance smells like.  Favorable public opinion means favorable public policies…outlandish, it maybe, but it may have set the wheels in motion.

Thank you hip hop for always having our back.




  1. A little hip hop isn’t going to save the image.
    The fact that Islam is the least tolerable of other beliefs, aka the on-going shit show known as the Middle East; the image will never been in popular favor. Just a simple walk with my dogs prompted a fully clad Islamic woman to start panicking and ran away from me and my dogs in FEAR of possibly coming within 5 feet if us on the sidewalk. Yeah, yeah, i get it. Muhammed loved cats and dogs, especially black ones are filthy souless creatures who cast out evil with every sniff and bark. Now how tolerant will it be if I had the same reaction on a PLANE or SUBWAY when the same woman comes near me because a lot of people find the dress to be offendive and oppresive to women. It would be unacceptable. Ask for tolerance in America but continue the archaic ideologies of that Quran? Continue fighting for US passports with only the pupils of the eyes showing. Demand for prayer space in public areas but alienate others because of your fear, er, beliefs. Sounds a lot like double dipping.

    • Joan your remarks are without merit. You should engage Muslims that you meet to see the reasons for what you perceive is an adverse reaction. The Quran has more proven scientific facts than other scriptures(The Bible, Quran,and science by Maurice Bacalle), and If we believe that the Creator can create he also communicates, and we believe that the Quran is the last communication to mankind. I dont mind people disagreeing with my beliefs, but I have a problem with mis-characterizations, and dishonesty. The Prophet Muhammad was also listed as the most influential man in history By a non-Muslim Michael Hart(http://amaana.org/ismailim.html)

  2. I actually second the opinion that Hip Hop has help cast a more positive view of Islam and Muslims. As a Muslim who grew up in America in the 80s and 90s I can remember the subtle shout-outs even in Ol’ School Hip Hop. If one were to reference the music of artists like Eric B. & Rakim, Poor Righteous teachers, Brand Nubian, The Fugees, just to name those that come to mind at this moment. At any rate, In those days it made many of my friends curious and more understanding of Islam and Muslims. As a matter-of-fact, in those days I have seen a resurgence of this in the post 911 era, just as the writer mentioned. Like the writer, I am not sure what this means or to what impact this will have on public opinion in a post 911 USA, but it seems to be something positive.

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