Ibrahim Ghunaim, or MC Gaza as he likes to be called, raps to a different beat in an Islamist-ruled Palestinian enclave rocked by internal conflict and three wars with Israel over the past decade.
The 25-year-old, who grew up listening to American rapper Eminem, began rapping when he was 13 and hopes for an international career one day.
“I believe I was born to become a rapper,” Ghunaim said.
It took years to change the public perception of hip hop in the conservative Gaza Strip, which the Hamas movement seized in 2007 from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.
Rappers in Gaza did not have an easy start, and their first performance in 2005 — to celebrate Israel’s withdrawal of troops and settlers — did not go down well.
At the show, a pioneer rap band had to flee the stage after a crowd was angered by what it viewed as offensive hand gestures by the performers.
Ghunaim’s songs focus on Gaza’s high unemployment, women’s rights, young Palestinians jailed by Israel for alleged security offences and the absence of peace. This year alone, he’s written 25 songs.
“He sings mostly nationalist songs, about social issues and about our life,” Ghunaim’s mother, Adeeba, 64, said as he helped her prepare lunch.
But while social and political tensions and violence provide ample material for his lyrics, Gaza itself is far from fertile ground for nourishing hip hop careers.
Many local hip hop performers have either migrated or stopped performing because they cannot find sponsorship, Ghunaim said, adding that he was also looking to leave, though not before he makes his mark at home.
He is working on a new album that he says will be his final one in Gaza.
“I am making it the best of all of my works. I am using 10 kinds of music merged together, and that is the first time in the rap art here and abroad,” he said. “I want to become famous before I quit Gaza.”
Nidal al Mughrabi