Hip Hop in Morocco

Jennifer Needleman and Joshua Asen’s documentary film I Love Hip Hop in Morocco, which screened this past weekend at the Arab Film Festival in Los Angeles, and at the Casablanca Film Festival in Morocco, is a rare treat: A film that shows the country in all its complexity. The picture follows several hip hop bands (H-Kayne, Fnaire, DJ Key, Bigg, Brown Fingazz, and Fati Show) as they attempt to set up a hip hop festival in three big cities: Meknes, Marrakesh, and Casablanca. They try to get funding and sponsorship, they rent space, they get permits, they print flyers, they rehearse, and as we follow them through this journey we get a rich portrait of these artists. We visit with DJ Key at home and hear about how he abandoned his work in an architecture firm to focus on hip hop. We hear about the choices they make in their lyrics. For example, the members of Fnaire refuse to use the word ‘fuck’ (“We don’t talk like that”) while solo rapper Brown Fingazz defends his use of the epithet ‘nigga’ to refer to himself and his friends in the medina. They share their struggles, particularly with freedom of speech and with logistical support. They talk about their private lives. The only woman rapper in the film is a young high school girl in Fez, whose parents are extremely supportive, but who has to win the crowd when she goes on stage during the festival. If you have a chance to see this film at the festival near you, don’t miss it.

Clip: “Issawa Style” by H-Kayne.