Pioneering Palestinian Rappers DAM Drop Second Album

Mahmood Jrere: Lyrically, each artist is changing from year to year. Each artist is changing his mind, and when the mind and thoughts are changed, so the lyrics are changed. And this is happening with DAM. The whole development of DAM is 12 years. I would say that the biggest change and difference between Dedication and Dabke on the Moon is that now we are telling stories. In Dedication, we were describing situations—there is this, there is that. Now we describe the situation but through stories, through stories of people. One example of it is the song on honor killings and women’s rights, and another one is about the Palestinian prisons. We read books on it and personal letters, we read everything and then we told the stories from our point of view, DAM’s point of view. I think this is the major difference in the aspect of lyrics.

XXL: You were fundraising online for the new album. Can you tell us a little about that?
Nafar: It’s not exactly raising funds, it’s presales. First of all, the difference between us and the U.S. and the rest of the world is that here there is no industry, there’s no official market. There’s no Def Jam, there’s no Sony, there’s nothing here. It’s not our country. They have record companies for Israelis. There is no place for Arabs here. We do the album, and people always end up burning it and downloading it. So this time, we put it out the street way. First you pay us, then we deliver the album. So now if it’s getting stolen I don’t mind, because it’s already paid for.

Jrere: This is how to truly live the term “power to the people.” You make your art for your people, not for corporations and labels where you get nothing out of it. So it’s a trade between us and between our friends, where they support our art and we send them an album or a poster or whatever they made a donation for. So I think it’s a fair trade and has been very successful.

XXL: If listeners take away one thing, one lesson, from Dabke, what would you want it to be?
Nafar: I want the American people, the African-American hip-hop culture, to know that it’s reaching people all around the world. And it inspires us, but we don’t copycat it. We add more sounds to it. We add our personality and our instruments, our culture, our environment. It’s exchanging cultures. I never knew English before, and I learned it through Tupac. I learned everything about the African-American struggle by listening to Tupac’s songs, so I hope this will be a gate to our culture as well.

XXL: And how do you believe that struggle relates to your own?
Nafar: We are both minorities, and we’re not trying to say who suffers more. It’s not a competition; every place has its own story. Israel came here, so it’s different—we are the natives here, we would never call ourselves Arab-Israelis. African-Americans in the U.S., they are oppressed and they use hip-hop, and we also are oppressed and use hip-hop. We are using the same weapons.

XXL: Where do you see DAM in five years, 10 years, and beyond?
Nafar: I hope that we will be the first [artists signed to] Def Jam here.

Jrere: I hope we sell more albums. We have more and more lyrics, and we need more and more albums. As musicians, our main focus is to bring a different sound all the time, new ways of telling stories. We want to be able to deliver that and also be entertainment, have a message, and not be boring. The day that we start being boring in our albums, I guess it’s time to stop.