In an interesting article in Haaretz, rapper Sagol 59 states that true Hip-Hop has yet to be born in Israel. Sagol argues that sorry state of Israeli Hip-Hop is a consequence of the structural makeup of the society and culture. Key quote:
This young country, which since the day it was founded has been fighting for its very existence, has an urgent and constant need for unity in the ideological ranks and the creation of an all-embracing consensus in thinking, which will help “us” fight the enemies “out there” effectively. And in Israel, the arts, including popular music, are also recruited to represent Israeli society’s ethos while giving unreserved support to the state institutions and shelving away criticism, doubts and questions in the locked emergency storerooms at the edge of consciousness.
In this way, certainly, the American hip-hop fan who has grown up on the sparks in the politics of Public Enemy, Ice Cube’s anti-establishment barbs or the subversion of ensembles like Dead Prez, Lynch Mob or Brand Nubian, would wonder at the fact that in Israel there are rappers whose songs are paid for by government institutions, and who sing in official campaign against drugs and in favor of road safety.
It appears that Israel is one of the only countries in the world where rappers are spokesmen for the government, the state and the army, which of course paves a more convenient way to being heard on the radio, certainly in a country where the radio station with the most listeners is owned by the government and belongs to the army.
Presumably those same wealthy people who own regional radio stations and television channels aren’t really losing sleep over a lack of political hip-hop on the airwaves or via satellite.
Sagol makes a number of good points (despite overstating the case for groupthink in Israeli society); chief among them is that for Israeli Hip-Hop to progress it must give creative space for those who value criticism over catering. I have always found it odd that Israel is one of the only countries – if not the only country – where popular political Hip-Hop is right-of-center. For those who doubt the existence of an unholy alliance between Israeli hip-hop and the political establishment: observe and enjoy 🙂
* Despite what the clip says, this is not Shai 360.