Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ibn Thabit, Libya's Leading Rapper, Announces his Retirement

Hi there, Hot Arabic Music readers. This is Ulysses with a new post on Arabic hip hop for you (shout-out to Hany for letting me publish it on his blog!). I'm also happy to announce that the wonderful has brought me on board and made me a contributing blogger. It's quite an honor see my blog's name next to The Moor Next Door, Kamil Pasha, and Muftah's other superstar contributing bloggers, so I'm very grateful for the opportunity. Here's my post. Enjoy!

Ibn Thabit, Libya's leading rapper, announced his retirement from hip hop this week (video here). Although Ibn Thabit is largely unknown by the Western media, he's almost universally known among the Libyan diaspora and has a big fan base in Libya itself. Ibn Thabit is the person who first got me interested in Arabic hip hop, so it's a tough moment for me and for many other fans of his as well. He doesn't give many details about his motivation or future plans in his video, but he did say this: he never wanted his music to bring him fame or money. His only goal was to help Libya overthrow Gaddafi's regime (he's not kidding - every song of his is political and Libya-focused). Now, he says, he wants to help build a new Libya in a different way. On Twitter, he wrote:
for peeps that know me, this is not gonna be a big surprise. for everyone else, jawdropper...All praise to The Merciful. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
In 2008, Ibn Thabit began posting songs on YouTube that denounced the government of Muammar al-Gaddafi and called for its overthrow. The pseudonym he chose suggests both deep piety and a respect for the wordsmith's craft, for Hassan Ibn Thabit was the favorite poet of the Prophet Muhammad . Attaching his real name to his work would have led to certain arrest and torture, for Gaddafi's Libya was one of the world's most suffocating, oppressive, and arbitrary police states. Gaddafi even banned all foreign language instruction in Libya from 1986 until the mid-1990s. When 2011 began, despite Libya's great oil wealth, unemployment was at 33% and 67% of Libyans were living on less than $2 a day. This was the situation that inspired both Ibn Thabit's music and Libya's revolution. On February 14, 2011, one day before the revolution's first protests began, Ibn Thabit released, "A Call to the Youth of Libya" (click here for the full lyrics). He has so much to say that he doesn't even bother with a chorus - the entire song is verse:


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