PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST:
As an artist, I’ve gone through many twisty uncharted roads. Some maneuvers were well calculated, while others were determined through trial & error. Mistakes were definitely made along the way but never the less, I have always managed to grow & learn from each & every experience. My intentions have always been pure with respect to the musicality of our Hip Hop culture. My motivation has ALWAYS been my people & my community! Hence, there are no regrets…
Being involved in social activism has been a part of my music from day one. As part of a family who suffered the wrath of nearly a decade long war (Iran/Iraq War), getting socially active at a very young age was inevitable for me. I joined rallies, protests, marches, & demonstrations during the late 80’s & early 90’s in solidarity of Afghanistan, Palestine, Iran, & Bosnia. Slogans like “Zionism is Racism! Down w/ both of them!” projecting from a megaphone during a demonstration in front of the United Nations in 1988, will forever resonate in my memory.
In later years, I helped organize & promote several fund raising/charity shows. In times when Middle East issues weren’t popular enough to really address in Hip Hop (pre 9/11), I was one of the few artists who made it a point to include it in my musical message. See it wasn’t as “cool” or “hip” back then. Many people didn’t quite get it… But we stuck to our guns (no pun intended) & kept it going to the best of our ability (BIG shout to Suheir Hammad).
To continue the plight, in the early 2000’s, I decided to embark on a project called “Peace In The Middle East”. Initially, I was planning on releasing a 12 inch vinyl single & donating all the proceeds to an organization benefiting underprivileged Palestinian youth. Unfortunately, I never could afford to put the project together.
A couple years passed & I teamed up w/ a friend of mine named Waleed Coyote (A radio personality & all around Hip Hop entrepreneur from North Carolina). We decided to revamp the “Peace In The Middle East” project. We planned on putting a whole album out & this time recording collaborations w/ Jewish, Muslim, Arab,& Israeli artists around the world. The mission of the album was to hear different points of view from all sides w/ respect for each other, bring understanding through music, create dialog, educate the masses, uncover masked media, & donate ALL proceeds of album sales to underprivileged Palestinian youth. We then brought in MC Serch to help us on the collaborations. In it’s initial stage, we got great feedback from all parties & optimistically moved forward.
Shortly after our idea for the new Peace In The Middle East project was launched, we put out the word on Allhiphop.com, calling all artists who were interested to contact us. One MC who’s talent stood out & was adamant about everything we were trying to do was Sneakas (A Jewish Israeli MC who grew up in Manhattan). He was already working on his own debut album & had a buzz in the Jewish community. He contacted Waleed Coyote & being that Sneakas was based in NY, Waleed immediately referred him to me. We were supposed to meet up to work on one song for the album. Several hours later, one song turned into 4 songs. It seemed like creatively things were meshing. The project looked promising & the artists were starting to come together.
A few months went by & Sneakas & I almost instantly recorded a bunch of songs. The pendulum swung from a Peace In The Middle East album to a Mazzi & Sneakas project simply because our progress was organically moving faster & some how it grew it’s own legs. So although Peace In The Middle East was not forgotten, it got side tracked & overshadowed. As the ball was rolling, MC Serch came around & offered his helping hand in the Mazzi & Sneakas project. He aided in song ideas, production, & promotion. During the past year, we’ve recorded an album worth of songs & shot a few videos. Although Sneakas & I did not agree on a number of issues, things seemed to be on the up & up. And for the sake of the project, I remained focused.
Also in the past year, we organized a live show called “The Tug of War Tour”. This was a traveling performance & it included material from myself, Sneakas, Tahani Salah, (Palestinian spoken word artist), & Vanessa Hidary (Jewish spoken word artist). The show seemed to flow well at first & caught good media attention. But later, we all came to the conclusion that it needed to be more thought out & a better strategy needed to be implemented. The show wasn’t mature in it’s organization. The most pivotal relating factor to take place in the last year though, was my 3 trips to the Middle East. I’m a real hands on person so naturally I jumped on the opportunity to get out there! Furthermore, I wanted to piece together a documentary for the Peace In The Middle East project. I sought to capture the raw uncut experiences of the youth & how Hip Hop played a role in their lives. I felt like people needed to know.
My 1st trip, I traveled w/ Hip Hop Kom which was a Danish sponsored tour & competition. We toured throughout Jerusalem & the West Bank doing shows, conducting workshops, & judging a televised Rap competition. We were all over the refugee camps, building w/ children on a daily basis. I saw how underprivileged they really were. I saw how checkpoints were actually ways of dividing & caging Palestinians like cattle. I saw how racism was a normal everyday thing. We also traveled to Elat & Haifa. I interviewed Palestinian MC’s through out the trip. Towards the end of my stay, I took it upon myself to visit Tel Aviv a couple times & interview Israeli artists. I gathered a better understanding of what was really going on in the Holy Land.
My 2nd trip quickly followed. This time I joined Viva Palestina & traveled w/ a humanitarian group, bringing medical supplies from Cairo to Gaza. I was also scheduled to perform. Unfortunately, Gaza was one of the most depressing places I have seen in my life! I couldn’t believe that Palestinians were living in such horrible conditions & that the Israeli government was imposing such disgusting sanctions. I mean I’ve heard, read, & seen a lot about it for years but to see it up close, was a vivid reality that changed me forever! Palestinians in Gaza were blasted back to the stone age! No one in this day & time should be victim to that type of oppression & live under those circumstances!
My 3rd trip was the straw that broke the camel’s back (No pun intended). I was on tour w/ Existence Is Resistance. I visited Jerusalem, the West Bank, Haifa, Bethlehem, Hebron, & Tel Aviv. This trip was different where as I got even more in depth w/ the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. I spoke w/ people from Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus, Sderot, Tel Aviv, Ashqelon, Haifa, & Jerusalem. We also worked closely w/ the youth in workshops & performed all over. But there was a deeper concentration on communities this time around. For the most part, we stayed in youth centers at refugee camps. At times we found ourselves in the middle of conflict. From being tear gassed & threatened at nonviolent protests to being surrounded by Israeli soldiers, jeeps, & planes at our own residence in order for violating settlers to continue ILLEGAL occupying activity… It was a huge cluster fuck! Plus, the things I learned from cases in Sderot, Ashqelon, & Haifa were extremely pale in comparison to what the settlers are doing in the West Bank. Not to mention the siege & death grip the Israeli government has imposed on Palestinians… See all of this is common knowledge BUT when you see it w/ your own eyes, it’s undeniable beyond a shadow of a doubt! Apartheid is alive & well in Palestine/Israel!
Many things were revealed to me during this past year. I have witnessed & learned much. As a result, in no way, shape, or form can I support any pro Israeli government AKA Zionist organization! This also includes artist/s who lean/s toward/s any Zionist view… There’s no 2 ways about it! There’s an unbalanced scale in Palestine/Israel that must be evened out & “Normalization” is not the answer! I also came to the conclusion that I must continue to take care of my own backyard & unify my people. This is the most important thing! Unity is a must! It is a priority! Progression cannot be maximized without this… And spreading love (not hate) among my own people is the first key to opening the doors of freedom! This does not mean I am condoning any Arab government… Corruption runs deep w/ them aswell. I am strictly community based for the benefit of my people… I want to work closely w/ Arab & Muslim artists & further focus on the Peace In The Middle East documentary/project. The truth must be shown! We as artists can reflect the struggle through our music… We must strengthen & empower the oppressed. At least I feel & have always felt that it IS my responsibility to do so… This doesn’t mean I will not work w/ any Israeli artists down the line. It just means that now is not the time. I wish Sneakas the best of luck in his endeavors… He is creative & driven… There is no beef or animosity between us. I just gotta deal w/ home team right now… I want for the future of our youth to look brighter. Love, peace, & blessings to Jews, Christians, Muslims, & all other faiths of the world… “Love is love”…