This article addresses the meaning of political music by drawing on the relationships between Jewish and Arab rappers in Israel. However, this article aims to go beyond the concerns of resistance and hegemony that are central to the power-relations paradigm typical of studies of both Israeli society and rap. Instead, it emphasizes how cross references made by rappers transgress social and political oppositions. Based on data gathered from various venues and interviews with performers in the local scene, the author seeks to explain why political music, even in its most scathing guise, should never be taken for a mere ‘musical politics’.
Anat Halachmi’s acclaimed 2003 documentary, Channels of Rage, begins with a furious argument between two prominent Israeli hip hop groups: DAM, a Palestinian-Israeli crew from Lyd comprised of Tamer Nafar, Suheil Nafar, and Mahmoud Jrere; and TACT, a collection of Jewish-Israeli rappers led by Subliminal (Kobi Shimoni) and Shadow (Yoav Eliasi). Meeting in a dark alley in Tel Aviv, the groups nearly come to blows over recent comments made by the two leaders, Tamer Nafar and Shimoni. Once collaborative and nurturing, the relationship between the two young rappers quickly dissolved as each began to embody contrasting political ideologies within the ongoing al-Aqsa intifada. Coming to terms with the violence on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jenin, both artists retreated from their once supportive relationship, based in a mutual love of hip hop, into the rigid, uncompromising nationalisms of Israel and Palestine.