By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent
â€œTheyâ€™re really listening. So, if youâ€™re saying something, you have to really say something.â€ ~ A.J. Masaed
The Islamic Republic of Yemen has recently been thrust into the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Last week, two parcel bombs were found on cargo planes destined for the United States and their point of origin was none other than Yemen. It has long been purported in the global media arena that Al-Qaeda is alive and well in Yemen. This latest incident of terrorism has once again put Muslims and Islamic countries under the scrutiny of non-Muslim governments around the world.
However, there are scores of Muslims who have devoted their lives to bringing all the goodness that Islam has to offer into the limelight, thus lessening the effect of the terroristâ€™s â€œreign of terrorâ€ which often causes hardship for Muslims around the world that choose to live peacefully in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Quran. One such Muslim is a Yemeni-American rapper named A.J. Masaed.
Born and bred in the heart of Ohio, Masaed grew up listening to rap and hip-hop music. After moving back to Yemen, he decided to bring the genre of rap music to the Yemeni populous. Unfortunately his efforts fell on deaf and extremely critical ears, in a recent interview A.J. revealed, â€œWhen I first came here, it was kind of awkward. Cause I see they have Tupac in these stores and they have all these people doing gangsta rap and cursing and theyâ€™re selling it. But here I am and I come and all of a sudden they want to censor what I have to say.â€
After failing to entice his fellow Yemenis with American-styled rap, Masaed decided instead to intrigue people by incorporating traditional instruments such as the Oud and Mismar into his rap deliverance. And before he knew it, his brand of rap that combines both East and West was a hit. However, the secret to his success has more to do with his lyrics than anything else. In Yemen, music aficionados pay more attention to what the song is saying rather than moving to the beat.
For Masaed, his message is clear. His raps discuss important social issues facing Yemen today such as poverty and the threat of terrorism. Masaed reaches out to Yemeni youth, in particular, who are at a risk of being recruited by Al-Qaeda or other terrorist organizations that prey on the poor. According to Masaed, â€œA lot of the bad things that go on, they use people that are young, insecure, uneducated, and theyâ€™ll fill their heads with a lot of nonsense, and then some poor kid is out there blowing himself up. Why? Because he doesnâ€™t have anywhere to turn — no one else to turn to.â€ Masaed hopes that his raps will encourage Yemeni kids to see all the possibilities the world has to offer.