Alright here’s the thing: I am a hip hop head. Love the genre, love the culture: so my credentials are very much in order. Much like being a metalhead in Beirut, being a hip hop head in Beirut is also difficult for a very similar reason: lack of visiting artists. There’s always some vapid pop star or overhyped techno DJ stopping by now and again, but a genuine heavy metal show with a world-renowned band, or in the case I’m making, a genuine hip hop show with a world-renowned non-crappy MC are far and few between.

In the past couple of years we’ve seen some huge hip hop shows every now and then. Snoop Dogg was pretty damn good. But then we've had some stuff like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Wiz Khalifa and Tyga … goddamn Tyga. But in reality: lots of great, even legendary, rappers come here all the time; it’s just that the hip hop community doesn’t have the privilege to know about these shows or attend them. You see, big nightclubs have this habit of booking international rappers, some great some not, without the nationwide promotion that other visiting artists might get, because whether or not the rapper is there that night, the place is gonna be packed anyway, so their presence is just a bonus.

This means that a big chunk of the audience at these shows are most likely not really hip hop fans who may actually be into that particular artist, maybe even familiar with their discography, but instead just some of Beirut’s affluent elite who will tell their friends the next day: “Man, mberi7 kenit wel3ane! Bta3erfo la hayda el rapper, shou esmo, haydek el aswad, 3refto? Eh shifto bi $500, shi exclusive ya3ne, w ija ma3o el DJ taba3o, haydek, uh… shou bi3arrefne, mish mohem, bas kenna VIP section.”

Think I’m exaggerating? Here are just five hip hop artists who played Beirut semi-incognito, with the hip hop community uninvited.

1. De La Soul



This old school Long Island, New York rap trio rose to prominence after the release of their debut album 3 Feet High and Rising in 1989, which is regarded as an all-time hip hop classic for its eclectic sampling (courtesy of producer Prince Paul) and quirky lyrics. They then went on to release several successful albums shifting styles and lyrical content. Their popularity saw a peak in 2005 when they were featured in the Gorillaz single Feel Good Inc. and later on the Gorillaz 2010 single Superfast Jellyfish.

This one has a bit more background than the others: In the summer of 2010, Gorillaz played the Byblos International Festival, bringing along several guests, including De La Soul. However they only briefly appeared onstage alongside Gorillaz. Later that year, De La Soul would return to Lebanon, this time to Beirut, playing on New Year’s Eve at a now nonexistent pop-up club down in Beirut Souks called Lush. The advertising was scarce, the entrance fee was steep, and the opening act happened to be Mashrou’ Leila. No photographic or digital evidence exists of this performance online… that’s how exclusive it was.


2. Eve



Female rappers, you’ve gotta love’em! You see kids, before Nicki Minaj, Eve was one of the more popular female hip hop artists around at the time. Eve found international success in 2001 with her song Who’s That Girl. It would be followed up by another hit single, Let Me Blow Ya Mind, featuring Gwen Stefani (of No Doubt) which would win Eve her first ever Grammy award in 2002 for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. The lady’s been busy making hits ever since.

Now let me blow ya mind… Not only has Eve performed in Beirut recently; she’s done it twice. Her first-time debut in Lebanon was at Pier 7 on July 1, 2011. Don’t worry though, it was so crappy that- oh no wait a minute, they actually booked her again on September 7, 2012. Well ain’t that a bitch…


3. Big Boi



If there’s any rap group that could be credited with putting Atlanta, Georgia on the hip hop map, it’s got to be OutKast. The duo, consisting of André 3000 and Big Boi, first came onto the scene way back in 1994 with their critically-acclaimed debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, regarded by many as the blueprint for what would become the Southern hip hop sound a.k.a. Dirty South. The following years would see the two release a string of hit albums and singles, some of which include Ms. Jackson, Hey Ya! and more. In 2007, Big Boi announced plans to pursue his solo career, and in 2010, his debut album Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty was released.

In 2011, Big Boi was booked to perform right here in Beirut on October 10, 2011 at Pier 7. I mean sure, Big Boi’s no OutKast, but he’s still worth seeing, why all the hush-hush?


4. Royce da 5’9 and Joe Budden



Joe Budden is an MC from Jersey City, New Jersey who got his big break in 2003 with the popular Grammy-nominated summer hit single Pump It Up, followed by a pretty successful career. Royce da 5’9 is an MC from Detroit, Michigan known for both his solo career as well as collaborations with Eminem (never heard of him) most notably as the duo Bad Meets Evil. Both Budden and Royce are members of the popular rap supergroup known as Slaughterhouse, alongside Joell Ortiz and Crooked I. These are no small fish people.

You probably know where this is going by now: Budden and Royce played a show here in Beirut in 2012, on January 20 at the now-closed Palais by Crystal. Once again, the hip hop community was not invited.


5. DMX



After steadily climbing his way up the hip hop ladder with features alongside Jay Z, Ja Rule and LL Cool J, New York MC DMX finally hit it big with his 1998 single Get at Me Dog from his chart-topping debut album It's Dark and Hell Is Hot. Numerous successful singles would follow, and even some career bumps, like various arrests and legal charges throughout the years, and bizarre turns, like his choice in 2009 to study the Bible and take up preaching and gospel music. However, he is back on track these days with his latest album, 2012’s Undisputed.

Yup, you guessed it: Not too long ago, on New Year’s Eve 2013, DMX gave a performance in Beirut at the newly launched club O1NE. Tickets ranged from a modest $200 to a slightly heftier $500. You get food though.


But wait, there’s more…

I’m not saying we'll always want to be informed of these things; in fact I actually lost some respect for this country when I found out Lil Jon, Flo Rida and Chingy have performed here… goddamn Chingy. But for the love of God, fans deserve to know when an artist they like is in town and should be able to go see them live. Here’s some other artists you may have missed out on these past couple of years: Big Sean, J Cole, Busta Rhymes (oh yeah), Wyclef Jean and Pras (on separate occasions mind you), Fabolous, Fat Joe (been here twice, maybe more) and Lloyd Banks (been here thrice, maybe more).

I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out Tupac’s playing here this weekend.

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