In a rap scene dominated my men, women’s voices are starting to make waves in Morocco.
Houda Abouz, a 24-year-old who majors in film studies at a university in the northern city of Tetouan, has long been fascinated by hip-hop, and, encouraged by friends, she picked up a mic and began to perform.
In January she appeared in “Hors Serie”, a song in which she performed alongside three big male rap stars in Morocco, Elgrande Toto, Don Bigg and Draganov. The video has been viewed around 16 million times on YouTube – a reflection of the popularity the genre enjoys across the north African kingdom – and its success encouraged Abouz to go it alone.
She followed up in February with her debut single “KickOff”, in which she rails against a society she says does not offer women equal opportunities. “I am a self-made artist and I write my own lyrics, speaking my mind,” she told Reuters in an interview in the capital Rabat. “Rap is my passion and my defence mechanism in a patriarchal society,” added Abouz, who goes by the name “Khtek”, meaning “your sister”.
Her lyrics, delivered in Moroccan Arabic dialect with phrases of French or English thrown in, are sometimes explicit. “Bad ass, I survived war, drugs, craziness and love,” she sings in KickOff. “Many things did not work out because we are ladies in the country of the dick.”
In recent months, the country’s rap scene has became embroiled in politics after a rapper, Gnawi, was sentenced to a year in prison for insulting the police in a video. Abouz is not alone. another Moroccan female hip-hop star, like Manal, had a hit song “Slay” that was viewed 44 million times on YouTube.
Abouz, who describes herself as a feminist and supporter of LGBT rights, said she was influenced by the pro-democracy protests that shook Morocco in 2011 during the “Arab spring”. However, she said her music did not serve a political agenda but gave “a taste of the street and of the deep Morocco”.
Men’s prevalence in the world of rap reflected Morocco’s conservative society, she said, but her work tries to seize back the narrative for women. “I write better than you, though you think I’m just a girl,” she sings in KickOff.