And in recent years, the Arabic lexicon has travelled from the region over to the US – the home of hip-hop – causing a cross-pollination of Americanisms and Arabisms: and we love it.
Earlier this week, when Drake dropped his new track ‘Only You Freestyle’ with UK drill artist Headie One, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and well, every single social media platform used by millennials and Gen Z went into full freakout mode. Yes, one of the world’s biggest artists chose to write an entire section of his track in Arabic.
But prior to this, several rappers and artists have snuck in Arabic words into their songs. To start with, Drake’s obsession with Arabic became clear in his 2015 ‘Sweeterman Remix’, when he said “this is a blessing mashallah wallahi”, and once again in his 2018 hit ‘Diplomatic Immunity’, where he dropped the line “Inshallah, I hope the message keeps getting’ clearer”.
Both A$AP Ferg and Nicki Minaj had lines in their 2017 hit track ‘Plain Jane REMIX’ that had Ferg say: “Ride with the mob, Alhamdulillah” and Nicki say “Ride with Minaj, Mm-Mahsallah, Check in with me, Then do your job”. Ferg was quick to state that although he personally doesn’t identify as Muslim, his grandfather was in fact Muslim, but he simply used the lyrics as another way of saying “all praises go to God”.
Even Jay-Z gave a nod to Arabic in his 2017 track ‘Blue’s Freestyle’ when he said “Bismillah, all the gods ‘round me”, and once again in ‘Family Feud’, where he said “I told my wife, the spiritual shit really work, Alhamdulillah”.
Naturally the rap world has long-been closely aligned to Islam—especially in NYC—so common phrases can often be found covertly snuck in to tracks, but for young Arab Muslims (who have grown up in a world that grows ever-hostile towards Islam) these small acknowledgements can offer a slither of welcome representation, in-turn causing a Twitter eruption.