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Heritage Month: Arab Americans in Popular Music

posted on: Apr 12, 2016

BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer

The Arab American community knows the famous musicians who have been contributing immensely to American pop culture. Some of America’s most well known musical artists are of Arab descent, including: Shakira, Paula Abdul, Frank Zappa, Herbert Khaury a.k.a. Tiny Tim, Paul Anka, one-hit-wonder Tiffany, and so many more.

In the past decade, though, a new generation of Arab American artists and music producers have emerged and changed the way Americans listen to music. While in the past, Arab Americans were mostly seen in rock and pop music, the successful Arab Americans in music today have found their place in hip-hop.

One of the most recognizable hip-hop stars and producers today is Palestinian American Khaled Mohamed Khaled, known by his stage name DJ Khaled. One of his most biggest hits, “All I do is Win,” was a double-platinum single that featured some of the most famous hip-hop artists in the world from Snoop Dogg to Ludacris. When DJ Khaled isn’t working with artists like Drake, Lil Wayne, or Big Sean, he’s running his merchandise store, “We the Best,” and inspiring millions of Snapchat followers with his many “keys to success.”

Another recognizable hip-hop artist is Moroccan American, Karim Kharbouch, better known as French Montana, who’s most known for his single “Pop That.” French Montana got his start as a battle rapper and has since grown into a collaboration artist who works with impressive artists, such as Nicki Minaj, Puff Daddy, and Wiz Khalifa. While French Montana’s semi-controversial personal life is nothing to aspire to, his years of hard work and determination to be a leading hip-hop artist is what makes him a success in the Arab American community.

In addition to recognizing the artists, the Arab American community can’t forget those who work behind the artists, such as the record producers who deserve much credit, too. Some of America’s legendary singers and rappers owe their fame to Arab American producers like Farid Karam Nassar, known as Fredwreck, who brought America Britney Spears, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Hillary Duff, and Ice Cube. Fredwreck also produced social justice music under the STOP Movement, which was created in 2003 to inform people about the Iraq War.

Other than Fredwreck, there are many other record producers, such as RedOne and Qusai, who moved to the U.S. from other countries for better work opportunities, and have since left major marks on American culture, such as Lady Gaga’s breakthrough hits.

Popular music today continues to be shaped and disseminated by prominent Arab Americans. Although their success differs from artists of the past, like Frank Zappa and Paul Anka, it is still worthy of the community’s pride. The American Billboards would look very different if Arab Americans were not given the opportunities to express themselves musically in a variety of ways.

See all articles about National Arab American Heritage Month here.