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Album Beyond Conflict

Album Beyond Conflict

Issue 60 September 2009

Album: Beyond Conflict

Artist: Mohammed Yahya

Review by Ahmed Madi

Hip hop’s original raison d’être, as a vehicle for heightening political and social awareness, has been smothered somewhat recently by the shallowness and materialism of contemporary rap. A resistance is underway however, and a spirited defence of rap’s core values is today taken on by the likes of Mos Def and Lupe Fiasco (both successful Muslim rappers), to counter the doggerel of today’s Soulja Boys and 50 Cents. Mozambiqueborn UK rapper Mohammed Yahya seeks to join this elite league, and if his debut solo album Beyond Conflict is anything to go by, he definitely has the potential to do so in the future.

It is more than refreshing to hear a rap album begin with the words ‘Bismillahirrahmanir- raheem’, and this willingness to draw upon Islamic concepts and ideals remains intact to the very last word of the album; ‘Peace’. The first track, ‘A World Full of Sin’, is punctuated by Malcolm X quotes, a homage to Public Enemy whose influence is evident throughout. Another group to impact Yahya’s style is Dead Prez, of whom rapper M1 is featured on the track ‘Hopeful’, an uplifting and welcome break from the album’s main topics of war and injustice.

Ironically, it is the tracks that attempt to tackle such heavy subjects that come off as a little dull and tired, the result of uninspired rhymes and generic lyrics. Instead, it is those tracks with a more clearly defined theme where Yahya shows the most promise. ‘W.O.M.B’, featuring Jewish emcee Danny Silver, is an ode to mothers, and its soft strumming sounds are appropriately sentimental. ‘Half My Deen’ is one of the album’s strongest tracks, and uses a suitably smooth jazzy riff and tight lyrics to deftly discuss the beauty and sanctity of marriage in Islam. It comes as something of a shame then that the album’s standout track is the only one which does not have a particularly religious or political message. ‘Hammer’, guest-appeared by US rapper Sean Price and Iron Braydz, may not be as lyrically intricate as ‘Half My Deen’ or ‘W.O.M.B’, but its working in of Bob Marley’s reggae classic as an infectious hip hop hook is masterful – a feat Kanye West would be proud of.

All in all, Mohammed Yahya gets more right than wrong in this promising solo debut. Every sloppy lyric or flat beat is outweighed by inspiring messages and innovative sounds. Mohammed Yahya is a talent to watch, and, insha-Allah, will continue to fly the flag for both good hip hop and for Islam for some time yet.

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