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Diatribes of a Dying Tribe – review

April 12, 2011

If you read this blog regularly, and if you listen to our podcast (you do, don’t you?), you’ll know we are fans of Arab-Canadian rapper, Yassin Alsalman, aka The Narcicyst.

I posted a short video here last month of an interview with The Narcicyst, where he talks about a book he has just published, The Diatribes of a Dying Tribe.

Diatribes of a Dying Tribe

The Narcicyst‘s website, iraqisthebomb.com, says this:

The Diatribes of a Dying Tribe is about the jumbled reality of North American life. The destructive components of juxtaposing cultures, the birth of immigrant internationality and the resilient art that comes out of struggle and oppression.

It is the story of four young Arab men who joined forces to create their own representative governing meeting. Excentrik, Ragtop, Omar Offendum & The Narcicyst spent two weeks in California and endless hours on a computer crafting the Fear of an Arab Planet; an examination of the heightened anxiety towards Islam, the Oriental gaze towards the Arab face and the ever-growing paranoia of the ‘other’, all over some bangin’ beats to rock to. As a post-analytical view of the making of an album, this book serves as a document on the burgeoning Arab poetry scene, and how the two mother cultures of a migrant society coalesced through a modern hyper-culture called Hip-Hop. From TSA agents to ABC rappers, The Arab Summit were on a mission to be heard… and that is exactly what happened.

The book is short, less than 130 pages long, and includes essays by Omar Offendum, Ragtop and Excentrik as well as Yassin Alsalman himself. There are also brief interviews with Cilvaringz, Malikah, Eslaam Jawaad, as well as members of AK, DAM and Soul Purpose.

The main writers’ styles are different, from the conceptual, dense verbiage of The Narcicyst, to the more accessible styles of Nizar ‘Ragtop’ Wattad, Omar ‘Omar Offendum’ Chakaki and the analytical flow of Tarik ‘Excentrik’ Kazaleh. They talk about the contradictions of being of varied Arab origins, living and being creative in pre- and post-9/11 North America. They describe the processes of developing and adapting self-identity in a changing and often hostile culture. They speak of how hiphop gave them a voice, a way to express anger, pride, faith, self-awareness and resistance. We read about how they met each other and how they started a recording project, The Arab Summit, that released an album in 2007, Fear of an Arab Planet.

The book finishes with excerpts from round-table email discussions with a wide range of hip hop artists, including: Eslam Jawad (Arap/London-Lebanon), Rush (Arabian Knights/Egypt), Mazzi (Soul Purpose/Iran), Lethal Skills (961 Underground/Lebanon) and more. Their experiences of being rappers and producers vary a lot – it’s a very interesting and inspiring read.

Diatribes of a Dying Tribe is fully referenced, literary sources as well as the music mentioned in the text (had me running to dig out old school hip hop albums from NWA and Wu Tang to hear what these guys heard when they answered hip hop’s call).

You should buy it.

Buy the book, download Fear of an Arab Planet (free!), read the blog, watch videos HERE.

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