This past Wednesday, The York Federation of Students brought British-Iraqi hip-hop artist and activist Lowkey to perform at York’s student centre. Other opening performances included writer Nasim Asgari and Brampton rapper Noyz.
Lowkey retired from the music scene in 2012 but made a surprise return to public life last summer with the release of the song “Ahmed.” The song touched on the plight of refugees fleeing to Europe. His politically charged music, coupled with his activism in the UK over the years, has drawn public attention.
Lowkey’s music addresses socio-economic, political, and historical issues. Songs such as “Obama Nation,” “Terrorists?” and “Hand on Your Gun” criticizes US-British foreign policy, the war on terror, the weapons industry, and western imperialism. Most prominently with the release of “Long Live Palestine” in 2009, Lowkey has drawn attention to the occupation of Palestine.
What makes Lowkey so special, and why his music resonates with many people around the world is largely due to the messages he tries to convey. Not only has he gained musical and political recognition without financial or record label backing, he has sold out venues and tours around Europe, the U.S., and Australia.
In particular, Lowkey is an important figure for the Muslim youth. After 9/11, young people of color and immigrants in the West can relate to Lowkey’s music. Personally, I have found him as an unapologetic, outspoken, and inspiring figure who expresses himself passionately through his music while giving a voice to the powerless. He does not shy away from being overtly political when it comes to the drawing attention to people who have been disenfranchised, exploited, and socially rejected in this world—exemplified in tracks such as “Ahmed,” and “Ghosts of Grenfell.”
He has gone against the grain in every sense of the phrase when it comes to what is expected in the mainstream culture. He has forged a successful career as a hip-hop artist while pointing out the ethical nature of our consumerist societies. Most importantly, Lowkey has used hip-hop music as a tool to empower and influence others.