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Guest Feature: Omar Offendum
Friends, I am forgoing the usual intro at the beginning of the newsletter today because I’m just too excited about our guest feature this week.
It is an honor to have one of the realest emcees in all of hip hop: Omar Offendum!
Omar Offendum is a Syrian-American rapper / spoken word artist. Known for his unique blend of Hip-Hop & Arabic poetry, he’s been featured on prominent world news outlets, lectured at a number of prestigious academic institutions, collaborated with major museums & cultural organizations, and helped raise millions of dollars for various humanitarian relief groups. Offendum was recently named a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, as well as a member of both the Pillars Fund cohort for Muslim narrative change & the RaceForward Butterfly Lab cohort for immigrant narrative strategy.
Omar Offendum is everything to diaspora Arab kids who love hip hop. He was one of the first rappers I listened to whose lyrics and stories resonated (if you listened to “Syrianamericana” then you know). This man is incredibly talented, dedicated to our people, and reps our culture in an incredibly important way. For me personally, Omar is an artist I truly admire and whose music influenced me on a very deep level. And, I mean, his latest album “Lost in Translation” was just too good. Truly, it’s an honor that he agreed to share some of his go-to music this week:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
I've never been good at picking "favorites" when it comes to music because it's always & forever changing...but just before logging on to answer these questions I watched the trailer to "Succession" season 3 & was reminded of how incredible the main title theme is by Nicholas Britell, so I'm gonna go with that ;)
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
"Call My Name" by Prince, because I think it's just a perfect song in every way & am grateful to have lived during a time that this musical genius blessed us with his gifts. Rest In Purple Paisley Power Prince.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
Sorry for the shameless plug, but I just released a single called "saLAam" to commemorate my departure from the City of Angels after spending 16 formative years there. I honestly never thought I'd leave, but such is the life of us diaspora folk. I wrote a bit more about it in a recent IG post.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
So it's obviously my job to know the words to a lot of songs haha...but one of the very first rap songs I can recall memorizing front to back was Outkast's "Player's Ball". It was the first hit song of this iconic ATL rap duo back in '93 and I remember being so enamored by their style / swagger / Southern drawl & infectious, melodic cadence as a 12-year-old kid (long before I had any idea what they were really talkin’ ‘bout) that I had to memorize it along with the rest of the “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” album.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
"Asbah Andy Elaan Bondokeya" because it's a few of my favorite things: Um Kulthum & Nizar Qabbani & #FreePalestine.
Big shout out to Omar for joining and sharing his song selections! All of Omar’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. And please, check out Omar’s new single “saLAam”, his latest album “Lost In Translation”, and honestly just stream and buy all of his music because it should be part of your library anyway.
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Nada Nada - DYSTINCT featuring Chawki
Mawasem - Warda
Qalboon Kabeer - Mike Massy
Tony - Thoom
Go Go - Leil
3atma - El Waili featuring Samar Tarik
Salamat Ala Nas Amaloly Ekhwat - Ameen Khattab featuring Za3balawy
Large - KA7LA featuring Mansor Unknown
Hala Jdeeda (Dodom) - Balqees featuring Queen G
zayni - Ayoub Africano featuring Adil Assil
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic artists 🎤
Como Si No Importara - Emilia featuring Duki
De Museo - Bad Bunny
Al Lau - Lele Pons
No Regreso - Combo Chimbita
Green - KAINA
Bruca Maniguá - Ibrahim Ferrer
Mal de Amor - La Doña featuring Los Texmaniacs
Don’t Wait Up - Shakira
SÚBELE EL VOLUMEN - Daddy Yankee featuring Myke Towers and Jhay Cortez
SI TE VAS - Tainy featuring Yandel and SAINt JHN
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
They Know (Dey Know) - Shawty Lo
Understand - Omah Lay
Summer Fling - Nina Nesbitt
In Bloom - Protoje featuring Lila Iké
bad blood - Joy Oladokun
Dear Summer - Memphis Bleek featuring JAY-Z
Clash - Dave featuring Stormzy
One of Them Ones - Blxst featuring Bino Rideaux
Demeanor - Pop Smoke featuring Dua Lipa
Take It Home - Mabel
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Across the Rickety Bridge - Farrah Berrou, Bambi’s Soapbox
I keep reading things about leaving but then again, when something is on your mind, you see it everywhere.
On Lebanese ‘apathy’ - Lina Mounzer, L’Orient Today
“To believe we are apathetic is to accept that we are deserving of all this — these fuel lines, these bread lines, these empty pharmacies and stolen bank deposits, this exploded port, and above all these vile and ruthless warlords — as punishment for that apathy.”
Beirut: A day in the life of a 'ghost city' - Kareem Chehayeb and Rita Kabalan, Middle East Eye
Lebanon's multiple crises have left its citizens traumatised and struggling to survive, with the young suffering the most.
The Cedars: Lebanon's football team is doing more than lifting spirits - John Duerden, The New Arab
The Lebanese national team's advancement in the World Cup qualifiers is much-needed news for the nation, the economy, and Lebanese football.
No longer just a battle against illness: Cancer treatment is now a fight that takes on an economic crisis - Emily Lewis, L’Orient Today
“We have shortages of many drugs in Lebanon, and people are relying on connections with doctors or friends or relatives outside the country.”
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
As Algeria’s revolutionaries fade away, the iconic Milk Bar bomber looks back without regret - Siobhán O’Grady, The Washington Post
Zohra Drif, 86, set off a bomb in the Milk Bar in Algiers in 1956 and acted as a militant for Algeria’s National Liberation Front in the struggle for independence from France.
Death Toll Rises to 92 in Fire That Gutted Iraq Hospital Coronavirus Ward - Jane Arraf, The New York Times
The blaze, caused by an electrical short in a ventilator, was the second such fire in three months in a country where corruption and mismanagement have left basic government services barely functioning.
Aid offers hope as Tunisia struggles to cope with COVID-19 surge - Tarek Amara, Reuters
After successfully containing the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Tunisia is struggling to cope with a resurgence of the virus, with intensive care wards full and doctors overburdened by a rapid rise in cases and deaths.
Wafa Mustafa: the woman fighting to find her father – and all of Syria’s disappeared - Annie Kelly, The Guardian
Ali Mustafa dreamed of seeing his beloved Syria freed from Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Then in 2013 he vanished, and his daughter has been searching for him ever since.
‘So They Know We Existed’: Palestinians Film War in Gaza - Yousur Al-Hlou, Neil Collier, and Soliman Hijjy, The New York Times
“Trapped in deadly fighting between Israel and Hamas, Palestinians in Gaza used their phones to capture the toll of the 11-day war in May.”
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
No Boundaries On The Island: The Music Of Puerto Rico - Felix Contreras and Anamaria Sayre, NPR
On this episode, NPR talks to Rauw Alejandro, Sebastián Otero and AJ Davila, and how everything from church music to Elvis to punk has contributed to the island's musical diversity.
‘John always wanted to tell our story’: Los Angeles, ‘Boyz N The Hood’ and the enduring legacy of John Singleton - Jason Jones, The Athletic
It’s been 30 years since Singleton’s film hit theaters nationwide to critical and fan acclaim. Singleton was representing the West Coast and shared a necessary narrative at a time when negativity about life for Black men in Los Angeles was the norm in mainstream media.
Natik Awayez and His Songbook Of Melancholy - Martin Longley, The Brooklyn Rail
“These are the two main components that exist very naturally in my musical identity. The difference that you are hearing or feeling in the music comes from neither influences being pure.”
The shoot stops for no one: The labor behind the camera in Egyptian film and TV - Bahira Amin, Mada Masr
“Every piece of media created in Egypt has a similar beehive-like world behind the camera, with negotiations, conflicts and dramas that never make their way on screen.”
‘Patria y Vida’: The Dissident Rappers Helping Drive Cuba’s Protests - Santiago Pérez and José de Córdoba, The Wall Street Journal
An artistic movement to challenge the government drew attention in a nation that keeps tight control on dissent.
📚 Other Reads 📚
For Melody Ehsani, a Love for Basketball Feeds Her Creative Output - Kirsten Chen, Hypebeast
The pioneering streetwear designer — and diehard Lakers fan — is fueled by her passion for the game.
Cape Cod’s Waters Are Getting Very, Very Sharky - Sarah Sax and Undark, The Atlantic
Researchers are toying with a new option to prevent great-white-shark attacks: predicting when they might strike.
'It's O.K. Not to Be O.K.' - Naomi Osaka, TIME
“Believe it or not, I am naturally introverted and do not court the spotlight. I always try to push myself to speak up for what I believe to be right, but that often comes at a cost of great anxiety.”
I’m a Muslim woman covering the diversity of Brooklyn. Sometimes all people see is my hijab. - Zainab Iqbal, Poynter
The drive to report the truth of one’s community prevails despite hateful and ignorant comments.
Black players don’t need to win to deserve dignity - Zito Madu, The Washington Post
“The feeling of dread before Saka took his penalty betrayed a truth about the relationship between the Black English players and members of their country.”