Banned rappers play underground in Tehran

Rap is banned in Iran. But for the past five years, young rappers have risked using the internet to share their music, which is becoming increasingly popular. Iranian expats tell us why Iran's youth is so taken with the style. Read more and watch the video clips...


Rap is banned in Iran, but for the past five years, young rappers have risked using the internet to share their music, which is becoming increasingly popular. Iranian expats tell us why Iran's youth is so taken with the style.

Thinking "Rap is God" out loud could land you in jail in Iran, where the motto is considered blasphemous. That, along with the prohibition of rap, is why the rap scene, increasingly popular over the past few years, has to stay underground. The young musicians, who write about the despair of violence and unemployment, survive on secret concerts and clandestine studio recordings, which are then sold on CD in the back rooms of music shops.

Felakat, "Nazgol"

Felakat has become an icon for Iranian girls since this song, which celebrates love and fidelity.


Yas,"Darkam Kon"

In this song, Yas tells the story of a young Iranian, left to support his family after his father dies, who fails a job interview.  


Reveal and Hich Kas, "Trippe Ma"

An expat in London, Reveal went to meet Hich Kas in Tehran. They recorded this clip together.

There are several specialist sites where you can download Iranian rap. For example:

Pars Hip Hop, Khorshid Rap and Persian Music. 

"Iranian rap is more intellectual and social than political"

Nassir Mashkouri founded Zirzamin, an online magazine dedicated to alternative Iranian music. He's currently organising Iranian hip-hop nights in Sweden, which are starting on 7 November.

The situation for rappers in Iran is getting worse. What they're about is not really political. But they talk about youth culture: parties, gangs, drugs - and these are the same things that Ahmadinejad wants to stop from happening. At the same time, the government can't be too harsh with them, because it could create the start of a revolt.

So the rappers keep quiet. They know not to use certain words on the internet. As long as they don't directly criticise the president or religion, they stay relatively free. That's why Iranian rap is more intellectual and social than political.

Some leave the country. But most think that leaving will disadvantage their music. Hich Kas for example, didn't want come to my festival in Sweden because he was worried about having problems getting back in the country. He really doesn't want to leave Tehran, because it would cut his identity, which is what makes his music. Real Persian rap has to stay in Iran.

In the end, I don't think that music can change what will be, but it does show how people themselves are changing. There rappers are spokesmen. They tell what they see, like journalists. And that, is the start of democracy."

"To oppose the regime, we need a new 'anthem'"

Biria was born and raised in Iran. She prefers to remain anonymous.

Persian poetry has been with Iranians for centuries. The only thing that has changed in the recent years is that young people wanted to experiment with something different and voice their unhappiness through a genre of music that is typically used for expressing anger and dissatisfaction with a figure or system.

They were looking for a genre that would set them a part from the older generation.

Artists like Deev and Hichkas in my opinion marked the beginning of Persian political rap addressing social issues. This group of rappers make an effort to write lyrics that are proper Persian, make sense, and are not jeopardizing grammar at the cost of making a sentence rhyme.

I think rap in Iran and many other countries such as Germany has been inspired by the artists in the US. Hedonistic rappers have their favorite artists and I think they idolize them to an extend where  they create a duplicate of them in Persian. For example A2's voice sounds identical to Eminem. Idealistic rappers don't do that, they can't do that because that would be completely defeating to their purpose. Their music is very Iranian, inspired by their own stories.

They cannot release CDs to the open market because they are not registered so their music sold will not make them any or very little profit. Their music is widely available on the internet and on their own websites.

These rappers usually have concerts in other countries as we've seen in the case of Yas who is performing in the US, Dubai and Europe. Internet has opened up huge opportunities for such artists, I don't think the West would know of such musical changes in Iran if it wasn't for the internet.

Change needs an advocate that can get attention, you can no longer get attention with Iranian classical and folk music and older generation sociopolitical pop singers like Dariush and Googoosh did that. The regime needs to be opposed with a new anthem as tough, this anthem needs to unite and relate to the biggest population of Iranians that are the twenty somethings - then the masses will listen but as I said that change will be slow."

"The Iranian government feels the pressure coming from these young people"

Omid Pour Yousefi lives in Germany. He raps in Tapesh 2012. Their aim is to be able to play in concert in Iran by 2012.

We sing openly about the situation in Iran in our songs. Some of our lyrics talk about human rights violations, drugs, the role of women, the history of the country... The problem with the rappers over there is that they have to be very careful. They can't openly criticise the system like we can. They talk about unemployment and despair but they can't directly attack the regime. The only way to make music is at private parties.

In any case, the Iranian government feels the pressure coming from these young people. Two thirds of the population is under 30, and this generation wants change. A lot of people say that these creative underground movements have done more for change than political movements."

Story of Iran

One of Tapesh 1012's video clips (in German). Beware: graphic images.

Hich Kas, "Ye MOsht SarBaz" (Bunch of Soldiers)

"We're a group of soldiers/ with masters degrees from the biggest university in Iran/ I mean the streets".