Sadly, for many artists, there is no choice regarding subject matter.
The shocking events in Palestine have brought this into sharp focus, and a 12-year-old rapper, named Mc Abdul (MCA Rap), has gone viral this week with a passionate freestyle about his situation in Gaza.
I wrote an introductory piece on Abdul last summer, explaining about his Cork connection, through GMC, who wrote this track with him, and the Hut and Kabin studios here.
GMC has been involved with the project from the start, and Abdul was also assisted by his Cork-born English teacher, Liam Ahern. At the time, his videos got attention, with Bella Hadid, DJ Khaled, and other celebrities sharing them, and many international news articles featuring his story.
From a musical perspective, things have been great, and there has been interest in Abdul from international labels, with some original music coming soon.
His latest freestyle, over an Eminem beat, has elevated his profile and it’s the subject matter that makes it extra powerful. Abdul raps about the current situation in the region, and speaks from the heart about his grandparents being evicted and being forced to move away as refugees to Gaza.
It’s no suprise that Palestinians across the world, including many here in Cork and in Ireland, are empathising with the lyrics, which are more poignant coming from a child.
For the rest of us, too, it’s a moving story, on the day when the streets of many Irish cities were filled with people expressing their solidarity with the plight of these oppressed peoples.
It’s sad that an affable youngster, who just wants to play soccer with his friends, has to talk about his displaced ancestors or about bombs raining down on his neighbourhood, but he doesn’t have a choice.
This is his life and the life of his people, and he is simply asking the world to listen up and hear his voice.
His amazing maturity and rap skills have made a huge impact, and it’s no wonder that the video is spreading through the world so quickly right now.
Hip-hop and rap have always prided themselves on keeping it real, and there is nothing more real than this story in 2021.
Hopefully, one day, the musicians and rappers in Gaza will be able to talk about more frivolous things, but, for now, this is life for a region that has gone through periodic violence and turmoil and a permanent state of lockdown for many years.
The world appears to be listening, at last, but concerted international pressure is probably needed to make Israel and others change. For now, music remains a way of expressing solidarity and the special relationship between Palestine and Ireland has been exemplified by Abdul’s story.
He has worked closely with many of the youngsters of his own age in Cork, in the Hut and in the Kabin, and it’s great to see children expressing themselves through music and art.
Hopefully, one day, he will be able to travel here and do some gigs in Ireland, where he already has a huge fanbase.
RTÉ did a big interview with him on the Today Show, live on daytime TV last year, and his charms and natural comfort in front of the microphone equip him for a great career in music.
The music community has been good at raising awareness about injustices around the world, and, sometimes, music seems like one of the only ways to form some sort of resistance.
Billie Holiday, Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Fela Kuti, Curtis Mayfield, The Clash, Public Enemy, Rage Against the Machine, and NWA are just a few of the famous artists who took a stand in their music for what they felt was right.
Music and politics have always gone hand in hand. Hopefully, music will help give Palestine a voice that will bring change, and these horrific scenes won’t last forever.