Where do you see Palestinian hip-hop in 10 years?
TN: I see it either as one of the biggest things internationally or dead.
MJ: I don’t really agree, because I cannot think about Palestinian hip-hop without looking at the bigger picture, which is Arabic hip-hop. We share the same language. Palestine is my country, but I’m an Arab, and I cannot disconnect from myself. The whole Arabic music movement is changing. There are new things happening in the Middle East. There is a movement in Palestine called Dub-Key which is bringing dabke, a traditional Palestinian dance, together with reggae.
“People hardly hear about Palestinian life, the Palestinian street; if you hear about Palestine, then you hear about the politics…There’s a unique sound, there are unique stories. And I think it needs somebody to document it.”
If we’re talking specifically about Palestine, we cannot ignore the political problem. As long as Palestine is under occupation, the culture and the art will be limited. And it won’t have the right support and the right exposure. Our art, our culture is dependent on our freedom. So what can we do in 10 years, if there is still Occupation? And I believe there will be, seeing how the world is running now. I can see that there is still creative Palestinian music, but it is not that exposed because it is controlled by another power.
Since you are Palestinians whose voices are heard internationally, do you ever feel a responsibility to use your lyrics to teach?
TN: There’s a thin line; I don’t know. And we do have these songs, but in a way you start feeling like, who are you to teach and preach to other people? I just don’t like it anymore, because I don’t like it when other rappers teach me how to enjoy my life or how to do good.
I just wanna tell stories about my life, document my generation. People hardly hear about Palestinian life, the Palestinian street; if you hear about Palestine, then you hear about the politics, and if you hear about the politics, you’re gonna hear about the West Bank and the agreements between Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama or Kerry or whatever. There are 1.5 million Palestinians carrying the Israeli passport and living inside of Israel. They are not part of these deals, they are not part of these negotiations. So I think there’s a unique sound, there are unique stories. And I think it needs somebody to document it.
We had a show with Pharoahe Monch once in London, and I was amazed that he was amazed…because I quoted a few of his lines. And he said it was amazing to him that he wrote that line about something he saw outside of his window, and thousands of miles away, some guy who doesn’t speak English is quoting him.
I’m just trying to show you the unique things. I’m not trying to say that, “The world must hear my pain because they don’t know nothing.” I’m sure people in Jamaica are suffering as well. I think it’s shittier in Sudan or Somalia. A shittier life. But I would never know about what’s happening in Somalia, if I hadn’t gone through K’naan. I would not give a fuck about Sierra Leone without watching the Leonardo DiCaprio film. I think there are ambassadors of art. I want to document my stories, I want to talk about how this guy grew up on Western hip-hop but lives in a society that is so conservative. So I think I live in a unique place. I think DAM has a unique sound, so that’s what I’m gonna deliver, and I’m sure people will enjoy it the same way I’m enjoying other people’s music. And if not, well, something’s wrong with them [Laughs]. Or with the way I deliver it.