His name is Alpha Dialloand in his 2016 song ‘I am at home’, the French rapper makes it clear who and what he is.
“I am black,” he sings“Proud to be French of Guinean descent.”
Known as Black M, Diallo, 38, is one of many African, Caribbean and Middle Eastern immigrants across Europe who are using hip-hop to promote racial and economic justice.
At that time, rappers told, as they still do today, about their experiences on the margins of American society. Those social messages were connected to black and immigrant youth across Europe who were themselves search for identity in countries that have become more diverse, but where discrimination is still entrenched.
Like a scholar of European studies and identity politicsI know how historically oppressed people throughout history have used culture, language and music to regain a sense of identity.
But in my opinion, modern European rappers, especially Black M, Arianna Puello and Eko Fresh, are taking it a step further by challenging outdated European notions of citizenship and reshaping the public debate about racial and ethnic identity.
As migration from African, Caribbean and Middle Eastern countries to Europe continues to increase and European societies debate identity issues, I believe hip-hop will continue to make an important contribution to ongoing public policy debates, and these three rappers are briefly profiled below in particular. take the lead.
French ideal of a color blind society
In France, Black M is one of the musicians rapping about racism and the oppressive treatment of immigrants in a country long known for its color blind ideal that all people have the same universal rights.
In many of his songs, he uses references to France’s national symbols, including the country’s red-white-blue flag and the Phrygian hata symbol of freedom.
But in “Je suis chez moi,” or “I’m home,” Black M tells of the mixed feelings he has about the country where he was born after his parents emigrated to Paris from Guinea, a West African country.
“France is beautiful,” he sings. “But she looks down on me like the Eiffel Tower.”
In the same song, Black M challenges the racist stereotype of immigrants abusing the Social Security system by singing, “My parents didn’t bring me into the world to get financial aid.”
Black M uses both his lyrics and his fashion to demonstrate his social activism.
In another video, in which he raps about police brutality against immigrants, Black M wears a shirt that says “Justice for Adama: Without justice, you will never have peace”.
A black woman in Spain
Born in the Dominican Republic in 1977, Arianna Puello moved to Spain when she was 8 years old and remembers listening to hip-hop music growing up in Salt, a small town nearly 4,000 miles from the birthplace of rap in the Bronx.
“I listened to rap with my brother who beatboxed and my cousin who had contacts in New York and they gave him the vinyls,” she said in an interview. “But I was not active. It was in Salt where I saw the rap groups that were there, the graffiti, break groups. … The whole hip-hop movement of the moment, the parties, the jams.”
Puello recalls telling herself, “This is my movement and I want to be a part of it.”
She recorded her first song in 1993, and her hit of 2008 “Juana Kalamidad” reached number 6 on the Spanish music chart.
Now 46 years old, Puello is considered one of Spain’s most popular female rappers. Throughout her career, Puello has used her music and music fast delivery to confront the racism she has faced as a black female migrant in Spain.
Her track from 2003for example, “Así es la negra” or “Such is the black woman,” tells the “ignorant racist” that “you’ll have to put up with me, / When I’m born again, I want to be what I am now, / of the same race, sex and condition.”
Puello’s music is successful outside Spain. She has had several tours in Latin America, the Caribbean and all over Europe.
But for Puello and other European rappers, hip-hop is not just about international tours and commercial success.
“Hip-hop is a way of turning pain, the darkness of life, into art,” Puello explained. “Instead of picking up a knife or a gun and going out to shoot, you pick up and write, and your mind turns into philosophy and you turn the reflection of the street into something beautiful.”
Three generations of Turkish immigrants in Germany
Since the early 2000s, Ecrem Bora has been a hip-hop sensation in Germany. Born in Cologne in 1983, Eko Fresh raps about his Turkish-Kurdish heritage and the social stigma his family endured in a country divided over the treatment of immigrants.
In his 2021 issue ‘1994’, he describes his family story that begins with his grandfather’s departure from Turkey to work as a laborer in Germany. The grandfather only knew one word of the German language at the time – “yes” or “yes” – and as a guest worker was not considered a German citizen.
Despite such a lean start, his grandchildren are now German citizens with full voting rights, and Eko Fresh thanks his grandfather for that. “Grandpa kept saying, ‘We came here for you,'” he raps. “Because he came here with nothing, his grandson can now join the conversation.”
“I work hard and can’t even get a loan for a house
You have big cars, I still use the tram
But on Election Day, I will punish you
I will take matters into my own hands and you will all see
I stand for my country because I vote for AfD.”
Despite his ability to vote, his life as an immigrant in Germany is complicated.
Like Black M, Eko Fresh regrets being treated as a second-class citizen in German society.
“We love the heart of Germany like crazy,” he writes in “Gastarbeiter” or “Gastworker”. “But unfortunately it doesn’t hold us back every time.”