Singing the Experiences of a Community
An interview with Muslim hip hop group Native Deen
Joshua – Sometimes it is how strong the promotion is. I think the Muslim community is in need of really good promoters who know how to promote an event.
What are each of your musical influences?
Joshua – A lot of Motown, the Jackson Five, the Supremes, and the classics from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Of course I was listening to a lot of hip hop in my youth but I wasn’t that into it. So, the music was, I guess, in my blood, it affected me as I was writing and coming up with melodies. The real influence for me though was Motown.
Abdul-Malik – I guess for me it’s very hard to put my finger on one music. I grew up in a more conservative household where my parents would say “You want to listen to music? Well here’s some classical music!” But all around me there was hip hop and pop music that you hear on regular basis. That’s definitely influential, especially for a young person. As I was growing up, guys like Run DMC were what everybody was listening to. They definitely had an influence on what I was listening to.
Joshua: Naeem (the third member) has his own set of influences, he’s all music. He loves the Beatles, old-school rap, Motown. He’s probably got the most diverse musical background of all of us.
Who are you all enjoying in currently popular music?
Abdul-Malik – One of the people inspiring me is K’naan, the Somali rapper. His lyrics are very deep, it’s not like some of the stuff that is coming out. There are other artists who I feel have positive messages and they go a level deeper than the normal pop artists. Lupe Fiasco is another rapper. For me, I just try to hear what’s out there but I also try to leave creative space for myself to try to develop my own ideas. I don’t listen to too much music because then I start imitating other artists. I find personally that I need the creative space.
Where do you feel like this group fits in to the current stage of rap and hip hop?
Abdul-Malik – Well, I think honestly we are worlds apart from the stuff that’s coming out. I think that rap lately has been derogatory towards women and talking about sexuality, but I’ve noticed that there are trends in music. I’m hoping that we would be maybe pioneers, along with other groups, in bringing rap back to what it used to be. It used to be about cultural change, it used to be a lot more positive. It’s always had that revolutionary, almost angry feel to it, but it was once about social change. I’m hoping that it will return back to that.