Music industry has one of the most competitive markets that makes it hard for many great artists to gain recognition. The field is mostly dominated by music and artists produced by the few big labels such as Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. Popular music has become formulaic as big and successful acts are followed by a bunch of copycats hoping to catch a ride on the “hype train” of the latest trends. At the same time many talented singers get lost in the sea of similar sounding artists with low variety of music. Some of the most interesting artists get mostly ignored by the public as they don’t get to have the same amounts of promotions as big pop stars.
While the artists compiled in this list may not appeal to everyone, their sound and visuals are hands down unique and fresh. Most of them vary in their popularity and mostly are interconnected by the same genre of music and amazing visuals.
Now, M.I.A also known as Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam is quite different from the other acts presented in this list as she has gained her fair share of popularity and has a very loyal following, yet most of the people heard about her through her song “Bad Girls” and don’t bother to listen to her other songs. She’s an amazing rapper and producer that tackles various social issues in her songs and music videos. The music video presented above was released back in the beginning of 2016 and it is amazing and sad at the same time how the presented issue is once again relevant now.
Dam is a Palestinian hip-hop group that existed since the late 90’s, yet lately they added a female singer/rapper to the group which only enriched their sound. Their songs are mostly directed towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as many other social issues relevant for their predominantly Arab audience. Their song “Who You Are” is directed towards gender inequality and mistreatment of women in the Middle East. The amazing visuals, beautiful lyrics and the catchy music make it hard not to fall in love with the group.
The case of Majed al-Esa is a little bit complicated as he isn’t a singer, but rather a director. He works with the 8ies Studios in order to create new sound for the traditional music as well as to reintroduce already popular acts in a new light. “Hwages” is one of the most controversial works of Majed al-Esa as it features women in niqabs playing basketball, skateboarding and riding bikes while singing rather radical lyrics directed towards men. The music video received both criticism and acclaim as it is presumably a critique directed towards the guardianship system in Saudi Arabia.
I thought that it would be nice to conclude this list with an artist that has more of a simple sound and message. Destiny Nicole Frasqueri is an independent hip-hop artist who writes and produces her own music. Her lyrics and music videos are not complicated and are often focused on women empowerment. While the visuals in her music videos are not as impressive as M.I.A’s or Majed al-Esa’s, they remain aesthetically pleasing and authentic. Some find her to be vulgar and aggressive, yet I think it only adds to her charm.
– Armine Sahakyan