Listen to our Interview w/ Clotaire K on Breakdown FM:
For most of us the city of Beirut has an interesting connection to Hip Hop in the sense that it often mentioned in rap songs as a way to describe toughness or indicate how violent prone a particular neighborhood is..¦What’s so crazy is that hardly any of the rappers in the US who raise up the name of Beirut have ever traveled there and have very little knowledge of the people or its Hip Hop scene. Sadly, most don’t even know what country Beirut is in-which is Lebanon for those who don’t know.
Recently I got a chance to visit Lebanon and get the 4-11 on the politics that have come to shape this country and its music scene. First, let me say this, Beirut is an incredibly beautiful city. Before I came there I thought it was gonna be nothing but bombed out buildings and folks running around in fatigues ready to bring the drama. There are definitely those areas. And yes, you do see soldiers in the streets carrying machine guns, but other then that, the place is on fire. It’s not what you think.
At the height of Beirut’s infamous wars less then 5% of the city was impacted. Since those dark days, everything has been pretty much rebuilt. The nightlife is off the hook with clubs getting packed around 3am and closing at 7 the next morning. Everybody is dressed with all the latest styles and are amazingly beautiful especially the women. And as I was told prior to arriving, that once I set foot in Beirut, I would not want to leave. That prediction was right. Beirut is easily the Miami Beach or Los Angles of the Middle East-Nuff said.
We sat down with well known local rapper Clotaire K who gave us the breakdown of Beirut’s burgeoning Hip Hop scene. Clotaire K has made major inroads with a slamming album called ‘Lebanese’ which has a lot politically charged lyrics rapped over boomin’ beats.
He noted that he a long with many other middle east rappers have a love for old school Hip Hop from the US, but Southern France is where he spent most of his days. It is also Hip Hop’s epicenter in that part of the world. Clotaire who spits many of his rhymes in French felt it was vitally important to also include music and references reflecting his native Lebanon. The mixture is music that will not only make your head bob, but also let anyone who thinks Hip Hop begins and ends in New York or in the US, that it’s a new day and time.
Clotaire K explained that most people in Lebanon are influenced by mainstream US culture which is imported via TV and videos. Hence rappers like Eminem have huge following amongst the general public. During our interview Clotaire pointed out the irony of Eminem mentioning Beirut in his raps followed by gun shots, yet for all his tough talk has not set foot in the country. Clotaire K noted that if he showed up he would get lots of love from the people.
Clotaire K also spoke about touring and how he’s focused a lot of his efforts in countries throughout South America, Africa and the Middle East. When I last spoke to Clotaire K he had just embarked on a two week tour throughout Egypt. He noted that it was a shame that more US artists have not blessed these places with their presence and while he understand itâs not always easy to touch down in far off lands, US rap artists have left an impression of being paranoid.
Clotaire also noted that for many, Hip Hop is seen as truthful expression that is easily accessible and has allowed people to make important political statements in an overtly politicized region. With regards to him, he says that he was influenced by Public Enemy and has great love for Bay Area rapper Paris who he feels has never been given his full props.
During our interview Clotaire K gives a full rundown about the very tricky and volatile political situation that involves Syria, Palestine and of course Israel. He notes that since the city has been rebuilt, there has been huge separation between rich and poor and that while Lebanon has evolved to this trendy destination spot for the rich and famous, the stark reality is that 95% of the population is poor. Gentrification out of the downtown area seems to be the order of the day and that these are the types of conditions that lead to conflict as well as anger being reflected in the music.
Below are links to our Breakdown FM intv on YouTube
- Intv w/ Clotaire K pt1
- Intv w/ Clotaire K pt2
- Intv w/ Clotaire K pt3
- Intv w/ Clotaire K pt4
- Intv w/ Clotaire K pt5
Lastly.. when I met Clotaire K I was apart of the Freemuse Music conference on censorship.. in october 2005… Below is a link to the report they issued on their findings from that year..