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Studio Emad El-Deen, downtown, was where he chose to meet. It’s been a few hipplng now since, together with other rappers — including Egyptians — Jalloh joined a pilot project of the as yet unregistered Egyptian Refugee Multicultural Council Tadamonthe first phase of which targets young female rap fans from the Sudanese refugee community.
The idea is to counter the gangsta culture that has developed among refugees, with two gangs — the Lost Boys and the Outlaws — not only rapping but literally killing each other, notably outside the American University in Cairo main campus on a recent occasion.
Jalloh concedes that, for these young people as much as for him, Hip Hop is not only a way of life but an identity — a means to self-assertion against all manner of economic and social despair — but he rejects the model of the “tough, undefeated and violent TV rapper”. It is partly ignorance, he says: Research conducted at the Forced Migration and Refugee Studies FMRS Centre at the American University — founding Director Hakon Jacob has been particularly concerned with Sudanese refugees in Egypt — indicates that gangstas are mostly men in the age bracket, with the majority in their early 20s; most are unmarried though “elders” have stable partners with children.
Tribal and religious affiliation play little part in gang constitution, and females — excluded from “official” meetings and decision-making as well as the delinquent acts themselves — play the role of gang trophies. But because they can float among different groups, it is the women who act as informers and double agents.
And it is in the Hip-Hop-isation of identity that gang culture is most visible: Tupac Shakur is the best known role model; and gangstas dress differently from the rest of the community. According to Mohamed Yousri, Tadamon coordinator, “part of the problem is the lack of integration of those young people into Egyptian society. Affiliation with a gang, for them, has replaced the normal sense of communal belonging.
In our rap class there are around nine Sudanese girls but the trainers are volunteers of different nationalities including Egyptians. This is only a start. We intend to extend the classes to include Egyptian trainees as well, for example. An as yet unpublished feasibility study conducted by the centre in June found that the Sudanese refugee community suffers from a whole chain of obstacles with no access to education or work, inadequate housing and healthcare, and other symptoms of marginalisation.
The problems may be endemic among large groups of Egyptians too, but the Sudanese have an even harder time facing them because they have no real sense of community.
Divorced from tribal culture, they are brought up to think they will manage to immigrate to the West — only to end up without a future even here.
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Research team member, Akram Abdu, says Hip Hop is being used as a tool to connect with these people: But all they get hippibg two hours a week; the rest of the time they are back in their world. What these young people need is rehabilitation. Abdu even goes furthur to suggest the establishment of rehabilitation residencies whereby violent members of the community might learn to lead an alternative, healthy life learning science, art and sport.
One street vendor from Darfur blames it less on the lack of rehabilitation- integration than on the Egyptian police choosing to turn a blind eye, however: The Egyptian security know about it, but what do they do to protect people? And yet a handful of young men, including three of those responsible for the AUC incident, have been arrested and convicted.
George Benson Hipping The Hop
Abdu agrees that, “security should be effective and visible in marginalised areas where such incidents are more likely to happen”. Indeed according to Essam, an elderly Egyptian living in Ain Shams, an iron fist is required: Historically speaking, Egyptians and Sudanese are brothers.
We had them here for decades and vice versa, without any problems. We used to respect each other.
But the new generation is different. They do not even hipplng respect to their own people. Why don’t they go back where they came from?
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But others contend that repatriation will only replicate the problem elsewhere. The question is clearly not easily resolved. According to Hakoon’s research, the refugee gangs in Cairo are concentrated in Abassiya and Ain Shams — exclusive territories for the two dominant groups, but the phenomenon can also be seen in Al-Hay Al-Ashir and Maadi.
It is difficult to make accurate estimates of numbers, but the hippinb main gangs — the Lost Boys and the Outlaws — can mobilise up to members each. G, P2K and the Big Twelve.
Current issue Previous issue Site map. Nahed Nassr listens while American black culture infiltrates the Sudanese refugee community. Hipping the hop of Sudan Nahed Nassr listens while American black culture infiltrates the Sudanese refugee community Click to view caption.
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