Moroccan rapper Yasser La Flèche says that in the Arab world, rap music has a distinctive regional flavour, with content critical of the existing political and social order. In an interview with RNW, La Flèche explains that his stage name comes from the French word for ‘arrow’. La Flèche stresses that he uses rap to shed light on the ills of his society by directly putting the finger on the source of societal problems.
However, using rap to express criticism can be a dangerous venture, especially in light of the experience of rapper Vindictive, who ended up in prison. La Flèche says that he does not express criticism as a politician, but as a rapper, adding that there is space in Morocco to denounce government corruption and faulty conditions. At the same time, the rapper acknowledges that some issues remain in the realm of taboos, like the slightest allusion to the king. La Flèche therefore chooses to criticize the government, but not the monarch.
Most Arab rappers, spread over the Arab world, likewise focus their lyrics on criticism of certain social phenomena or abuses by their respective governments. The space rappers have to address these issues varies from country to country: Egyptian rappers have to deal with different conditions than those in the Palestinian Territories or Algeria. La Flèche estimates that 70 percent of youth in the Arab world listen to rap, a category that goes beyond art and is a lifestyle to many. La Flèche says that his audience is mainly young people between 15 and 34 years old.
No financial returns
Perhaps rap is less famous in Morocco because the country’s music industry is virtually non-existent. Relative to the widespread fame La Flèche enjoys, as attested to by social networking sites and his Youtube channel, the financial returns this generates are hardly worthy of mention. The young singer laments that artists have to spend their own money to produce music, adding that writing songs or performing at concerts does not earn them anything. Music festivals are the only occasion when they get paid, but that only covers part of their costs.
The rapper says that there isn’t a tradition in Morocco of buying original CDs, and “people want to consume without having to pay.” In addition, other media, like radio stations, play young artists’ songs without compensating them financially and disregarding intellectual property rights.
A flexible approach
Concerning his lyrics, and what makes the art of rap something that appeals to the sensitivities of today’s youth, La Flèche says that the traditional Oriental song usually takes up only one subject, be it love, separation, betrayal or deprivation. In rap songs, however, artists deal with a wide array of subjects, freely moving from one theme to the other and taking up whatever comes to mind.
La Flèche does not write the pieces he performs in advance. Rather, he starts by listening to the beat and subsequently improvises the lyrics. Every beat, the artist says, inspires a different idea and a different theme.