Algerian hip hop crew 213 speak out on social injustice

Algerian rappers and DJs have figured large in France's hip-hop history, but the hip-hop scene in Algeria is no less established. And while Algeria's rap scene doesn't have the same international reputation, hip hop crews like 213 (Algeria's international telephone code) are having greater influence worldwide - producing rhymes that often deal with political injustice under the Bouteflika regime. Greg Schick, founder of World Hip Hop Market(dot)com sat down with 213's lyricist Sofyan SS to find out more.
Algerian hip-hop crew 213 ©World Hip Hop Market(dot)com

ALGIERS, April 30, 2009 (WORLD HIP HOP MARKET) - There are several well known Algerian hip hop artists producing music in France, but the domestic scene is one of the better established in Africa. Though it is not as well known internationally, Algeria has a bounty of hip hop artists speaking out against political injustice, terror and war.

Enter hip hop crew 213. Formed in 2000 as Urgence 213, Sofyan SS (aka Sofyan Soldier S) and DJ Moh met while both were in college - Sofyan at the University of Boumerdés and Moh at University d’Algiers - both drawn to hip hop music.

Moh had some equipment and the two soon became friends, recording together and playing shows across Algeria. In the last eight years, they released one album, Planet B’nette, and are on the verge of releasing a second album, Smoove, alongside a Sofyan solo album.

Sofyan took some time to speak about Algerian hip hop and his music.

MENASSAT/OSG: When was the first time you heard hip-hop music?

SOFYAN SS: "In the 90’s, in my teenage years. There were many groups in France like IAM, NTM, Funky Family and MC Solarr."

"But not forgetting 2pac and Rhapsody, Notorious B.I.G., Dr Dre and recently Puff Daddy, etc."

MENASSAT/OSG: What drove you to be an MC?

SSS: "It was my surroundings and social system in my country Algeria. We don’t have total freedom and we can’t say anything we like but the art generally - and rap especially - opened for me a window of expression with logic and a realistic vision for my people."

"I refuse all things against the unit of my country. This is my reason."

OSG: What themes and topics do you have in your music?

SSS: "A lot of our music speaks of all dangerous things like drugs and the killing and unemployment, the flight of intellectuals [out of the country]."

"I sing my love for my country’s revolution of 1954 against France."

OSG: So, is your music revolutionary or patriotic?

SSS: "My music is a mix between revolutionary and patriotic because I invite youth for revolution’s civilizations with love for our country, with the modern rebellion, with the modern idea and not with destruction."

"I want the new generation to impose their existence on society and, across all the areas, I want young people in Algeria to pick up the torch."

MENASSAT/OSG: What is the hip hop scene like now in Algeria? Do they have live performances? Hip hop on the radio? B-boys and graffiti artists?

SSS: "First, they is no official scene, but the level is more than above normal. Sincerely, we have some rappers who are very professional in their music job concerning the melody and mix; especially the flow is very good, very nice.

"The Algerian flow is known in Europe and France between the best in the Arabic world or north Africa like MBS, Double Canon and Intik (this is a leading Algerian pioneer group). In one city, you can find a few graffiti spots on large surfaces.

"On the radio, we have most well known hip hop because there are many hip hop and moderns radio emissions such as channel three, BAHDJA and all local radio channels."

MENASSAT/OSG: What about television in Algeria? Does it show much hip hop, either American or Arab?

SSS: "TV is very far from a good level. I achieved a very high definition video clip, but on the screen of the Algerian TVs it will not be seen in the quality that it should. In addition, it is too oriental."

"It is not open to other cultures. It remains between these responsible ideology and the lack of resources. There are good, beautiful journalists and emissions but this is not what we really want."

"I appreciate them, even as I thank our Algerian TV reporters for nearly an hour showing how I spent my summer and my private life or the life in my city."

MENASSAT/OSG: How did you and DJ Moh meet and form 213?

SSS: "We have same education level because we studied in same college and he had a few materials (computer, micro and CD) . The beginning and very start is in 2000. We participated in a national contest and we won third place."

MENASSAT/OSG: What is the meaning behind the name 213?

SSS: "We say: rap 213 and 213 is the international telephone code of Algeria."


"We can say 2 ways (good and evil) 1 (one god) 3 (be free)."

MENASSAT/OSG: You rhyme in Arabic, French and Kabyle. How do you choose which language you use for what track? Is one language easier to rap in that the others?

SSS: It depends subject and the melody. For example, if I feel this or that song in Arab I will rap these in Arabic. A few times, I will rap in English because I like rapping in all languages.

MENASSAT/OSG:Do you feel hip hop is looked down upon in Algeria?

SSS: Yes, but for most or many reasons because people know that rap or hip hop generally is bad language, especially Bali – Disorder. I think rap is a threat to these people, then they do everything to stop, but not the question because he knew that the hip hop train has started and he is shielded.

MENASSAT/OSG: Both Arab and Muslim hip hop seems to be gaining popularity globally. Do you think hip hop can bring together people across Arab countries?

SSS: Already Muslim people are coming together in their ideas. I know that in the Western world, it is a false vision by Muslims. “Are we Arab or not Arab? What?” I am not Arab but Muslim, so I represent a religion that the name is “Peace” (Islam in Arabic) Hip hop and its people took Islam in its heart and will give a new look for methods of Muslim’s expression. One world, one peace (interior), one god.

Old School G is a writer and promoter of global hip hop culture. Since 1983, he has b-boyed, popped, MCed, DJed, promoted, A&Red, wrote for print and online publications and generally participated in hip hop culture from Nebraska to Chicago to Atlanta (USA). He jumped into global hip hop deep in 2003, and is the founder World Hip Hop Market(dot)com. This story appears courtesy of World Hip Hop Market(dot)com