Reveal, from the hip-hop outfit Poisonous Poets, was the winner of the 2000 UK Freestyle Championships. He will be performing at the Beats Beat Sanctions fundraiser in aid of Campaign Iran next week.
How long has hip-hop been around in Iran and how widespread is it?
It’s a really new thing. Iranians became aware of hip-hop through Satellite TV and the internet and it has become one of the most popular music styles since then. The first Iranian rappers started appearing on the internet around six years ago, but have gained extraordinary popularity since then. I recorded a track with Hichkas, the godfather of Persian rap, in 2003. He was not known then, but in the space of a year the track had become so popular he couldn’t walk down the street without being mobbed.
What are the issues being rapped about?
There are essentially two kinds of hip-hop in Iran. Party hip-hop which is similar to American hip-hop – about clubs and women and street hip-hop which focuses on social issues. The rappers on the street scene focus on social issues inside Iran as well rapping against western interference in Iran – something that they have in common with other rappers in the Middle East. They see their music as being against the commercial hip-hop scene coming out the US.
Tell me about the street hip-hop scene
It started off in Tehran and is still mainly based there, but pockets of rappers are emerging all over Iran.
There are severe restrictions on musicians in Iran and it is very hard for even a traditional musician to gain permission to put on public performances. Rap artists are even more restricted and are never given such permission, because officials see their music as Western and decadent.
Because of this, the hip-hop scene is underground, there’s no structure to it or support system – essentially it’s a bunch of young kids making music for the love of it. They get their music out via the internet and don’t make money out of it. In some ways this makes the music very pure.
What is the future of hip-hop in Iran?
It all depends on what happens in Iran generally. I’d like to see a situation where the music is allowed to flourish in the way the Arabic and Turkish hip-hop scene has. Hichkas, who has the biggest selling Persian language album on Itunes, had to go through a third party to be able to sign the contract and was ripped off.
We are now setting up a record label in Europe, which will enable Iranian rappers to sell their music easily and we will be showing the latest video from a female rapper, Salome, at the Beats Beat Sanctions gig next Thursday.
Reveal, Lowkey, Persia and Poetic Pilgrimage will be performing at the Beats Beat Sanctions at LSE on Thursday 25 February in aid of Campaign Iran.Tickets are £5 in advance and £7 on the door. For more details and to book go to » www.beatsbeatsanctions.co.uk