Is hip hop music one of the driving forces behind the Arab Spring? It sure isn't hindering the highly-charged political atmosphere in the Middle East and North Africa, where many Libyan rebels listen to Tupac exclusively before going to battle Gaddafi's boys. Most likely these young men absorbed hip hop in the city of Benghazi, where the genre has found a strong local fan base.
Likewise for Egypt, where hip hop has found perhaps another unlikely home. The backbone of most lyrics -- even embedded within the blinged-out, high roller lifestyle -- often articulates large-scale experiences of socio-political and socio-economic inequality. Though originating from the United States, globalization has allowed hip hop to be adopted despite boundaries once thought to be iron blocks of communication.
A real hip hop song today won't likely be comprised of lyrics that the dictators of the Middle East want to hear. Though it took about 30 years for such music to enter the strictly censored Arab world, according to Egyptian rapper/poet Mohamed El Deeb, artists of the genre have found ways to circumvent such social mores.
Deeb confirms: "There was a high chance that you'd be locked up for speaking the truth. I had to censor a lot of my lyrics. I could never say the word 'government' or 'president'…I would use metaphors instead of direct name references."
It's amazing how music from impoverished America has infiltrated and given meaning to individuals in completely foreign lands and contexts. My guess is that the scale of hip hop's worldwide growth actually trumps many other types of music genres -- the representation of class/racial marginalization is something that people in all parts of the world understand.