Singing the Experiences of a Community
An interview with Muslim hip hop group Native Deen
BY: Stephen Russ
Native Deen is an inspiring trio of American born Muslims who were brought together by the same passions – hip hop, Islam, and positivity. The group speaks a message that is as important to their Muslim community as it is to people of other religions. It is a message of keeping the faith, loving one another, and standing together in the midst of trials. The music is unique and creative, using only vocals and percussion in accordance with Islamic practice. It strikes a balance between rap, R&B, and tradition that is rarely heard but worth experiencing. Through that their creativity has garnered an international fanbase and become one of the hottest groups in the Muslim community.
With their album The Remedy launching this past July, I had the privilege of talking with Joshua Salaam and Abdul-Malik Ahmad from the group. While third member Naeem Muhammad was unavailable, it was clear that this trio speaks as one very creative whole.
How did Native Deen get started?
Joshua - Our artistry began with an organization called MYNA (Muslim Youth of North America). They had youth camps, and we were some of the entertainers that were coming up in those camps. We met each other, and they ended up putting a product out called MYNA raps. That started in 1992, and grew in popularity over 8 years. In the year 2000 [the three of us] were all living in the same region, and when MYMA raps 5 came out we were the only individual artists who put anything on it. So, since we now had proximity to each other and we were the only three artists on the album, we started to feel like a group. We started performing together and a couple of years later we gave ourselves the name Native Deen.
What does the name mean?
Abdul-Malik - It has a couple of meanings. Deen means “religion or faith,” so when we say Native Deen we feel like this faith of ours is something that is native to us. The name also evokes the meaning that we are also native to this country. We grew up here, we were born here, we’re indigenous Muslim Americans.