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6Qs with MC Shadia Mansour //

06.01.10
bySeif Al-Din

Shadia Mansour by RidzDesignIf Shadia Mansour weren’t the First Lady of Arabic Hip-Hop, she’d be a human rights lawyer with the superhuman ability to end all the world’s strife with a snap of her fingers — or “a miracle.” While that may seem overly epic, if you’ve heard her rap (or sing…or both), it makes total sense. Every one of her lyrics has meaning and purpose — but not in the preachy, sometimes un-entertaining way that “conscious” music can occasionally embody. Instead Shadia’s style is her own pure, soulful and catchy hybrid of rap and singing — a culmination of her musical influences, which include everyone from Asmahan to Public Enemy to Mahmoud Darwish. As she finishes work on her solo album, Shadia continues to bless many a track with verses and hooks (check her out on The Narcicyst’s “Hamdulillah” below), and we continue to be glad that she’s an MC and not an ESQ.

STATS
Best vacation spot: Palestine
Favorite Arabic singer: Mohamed Abdel Wahab
Studio all day or studio all night: Both

The Narcisyst ft. Shadia Mansour – “Hamdulillah

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1. How did you get into music?
I come from a musical family, so I grew up listening to the legends of the Arabic music world. I was always very political, so I used to go to protests and demonstrations and sing a capellas of Fairouz and Marcel Khalife songs. Then when I was 17, I met Eslam Jawaad and we collaborated on a song called “Beirut” — that was the first Arabic hip-hop track that I did. Then I joined the group he was part of that was called Arap, which consists of Cilvaringz and Salah Edin. I was the only female in the group at the time, and I combined the singing and the rapping together.

2. Do you strictly write conscious songs?
No, I don’t see myself under any category.

I have released conscious, political songs only because I felt like as an Arab at this point in time, there’s a duty, and I had to address certain issues. Because this is my life, it’s my experiences.

Before I got to the age where I was really starting to look at myself as an Arab, I wasn’t really thinking about trying to defend our culture, I was just proud. I was 16 when 9/11 happened — that made me feel more Arab than any time in my life, and after that I felt like I really had to make it known and claim back our culture and our tradition and our civilization.

3. Do you write/perform in English?
I started doing music in English, but I was always intrigued by the Arabic language. I’m the most fluent of my siblings and I was more connected — I spent a lot of time in Palestine when I was young, and I just felt I could express myself better in Arabic. I feel Arabic, I feel Palestinian. It sounds strange, but when I talk, I think in Arabic.

4. Who are your biggest influences in Hip-Hop?
I could always relate to Public Enemy. That’s always been my number one choice of music. Tupac, I could really relate to. Much respect to Biggie ’cause whenever we say Tupac we have to say Biggie, but to be honest I’m not into gangster rap. I would buy it, but I don’t feel I can relate — ’cause I’m not a gangster, I’m not from the street and everything else that comes with it. Tupac really focused on issues that were happening, and I really admired him for that. People like KRS-One — just teachers, educators…Lauryn Hill was one of my biggest influences — biggest biggest influences. In a way, actually, I’m glad she’s not making music right now, only because I feel like I wouldn’t want to know how the industry would try and mold her in terms of sound. I will play that [The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill] forever, and that’s how I like to remember her, that music is just timeless.

I’ve always loved hip-hop. I never called it old school, for me it’s real school. Something that had substance in it.

6. You’re independent — have you ever thought about going major?
I’ve thought about it and I’ve tried, but they wont sign me. They want me to wear the Nancy Agram dress instead of the Palestinian dress. I laugh at that, ’cause I’m too old for that type of propaganda. Even if I was under a label, I’m very particular about my kind of music.



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