Monday Oct. 3, 2022
- 8pm CONCERT by Amir Issaa, followed by a Q&A – Leshowitz Hall, inside Chapin Hall/Cali School of Music at Montclair State University – see map)
Lyrics in Italian and English will be provided to the audience (see also pdf here)
- 5:30pm Potere alla parole/Power to Words: A WORKSHOP in Italian led by Amir Issaa (Schmitt 110)
Students develop their own rap lyrics based on models provided by Amir as well as his guidelines on how to articulate life experiences into a rap song
Born and raised in Rome, in the neighborhood of Torpignattara, Amir is the son of an Egyptian immigrant father and an Italian mother. He initially approached hip-hop culture in the 1990s, first as a b-boy/breaker (breakdancer), and then as a writer for Roma’s graffiti crew The Riot Vandals. He is among the founders of the legendary Rome Zoo, a group made of Rome’s rap artists such as Colle Der Fomento, Cor Veleno, Flaminio Maphia, Piotta, and many others.
Hip-hop for Amir has gone from functioning as a safety valve for the emotional distress caused by the legal troubles of his father, who was incarcerated when Amir was still a child, to a tool for political activism focused on anti-racism and supporting challenged youth, especially through writing laboratories aimed at unpacking stereotypes and prejudices that lead to discrimination. To this goal, he has collaborated with Save the Children, Centro Astalli, the Community of Sant’Egidio, and UNAR (Union for Anti-discrimination). Amir has played a prominent role as an activist in the campaign for the law on citizenship for children of immigrants in Italy (known as New Italians) through the support of petitions, a visit to the President of the Republic, and the launching of theme-focused songs (“Straniero nella mia nazione”, “Non sono un immigrato”, “La mia pelle,” or “Ius Music”). The law reform is still in progress.
Amir debuted his musical career in 1999 by rapping in “Preparati”, from Colle Der Fomento’s Scienza Doppia H, an album that is still widely considered as one of Italian rap’s masterpieces. Collaborations mark the beginning of his career in the early 2000s: Supremo 73, Mr. Phil, Primo, Sparo Manero (a.k.a. Il Turco), Maylay Sparks, and New York rapper Afu Ra. In 2005, Amir starts working on his first solo album, Uomo di Prestigio (re-issued by Emi/Virgin one year later), followed by Paura di nessuno (2008), Duepuntozero (2009), Radio inossidabile (2011), Quando hai perso tutto (2018), among others. The single that launched him is a very personal and alternative reading of Italy’s capital (Questa è Roma, 2008), while a recent single that confirmed his interest in collaborations and politically committed music is Non respiro, co-performed with David Blank. Written by Davide Shorty, the song is a commentary on the death of George Floyd and has become a sort of anthem for Italy’s BLM. See samples of Amir’s songs on his official website (Spotify list on the right).
His songs are part of several movie soundtracks, most notably Francesco Bruni’s movie Scialla! (2012) composed with The Caesars, and nominated for David di Donatello and Nastri d’Argento awards. As of now, Amir is the only rapper to have walked the red carpet of the Venice Film Festival. He has also acted in docu-films (Francesco Barnabei’s La Luna che vorrei) and participated in TV programs (Guerrieri, Questioni di famiglia, and Nemo).
He is the author of the memoir Vivo per questo (Chiarelettere, 2017), as well as of the book Educazione Rap (Addeditore, 2021), focusing on his socio-political activity in schools, universities, prisons, conferences, TED talks, etc. Vivo per questo is forthcoming in English as This Is What I Live For: An Afro-Italian Hip-Hop Memoir (edited by Clarissa Clò for San Diego State University Press). See Libri section and Scuola section on his official website.
Amir is also an author: (2017), his personal and artistic autobiography, is a testament to the challenges and imagination of the second generation in Italy, while his second book, Educazione Rap (2021), looks at rap as a poetic linguistic exercise as well as a shared experience of social impact across borders.
- Organized and sponsored by the Inserra Endowed Chair In collaboration with the Italian Program (Dept. of World Languages and Cultures) at Montclair State University.
In partnership with the Cali School of Music at Montclair State University as part of the Hip Hop Residency Week Program. See full program and bios of artists and scholars Rahzel, Jon B., Sonita Alizadeh, Toni Blackman, and Dr. Elliot Gann. Co-sponsored by SUNY Stony Brook.
Amir Issaa’s full bio and list of prizes (see bottom of page)
Articles about Amir Issaa’s music and activism + list of videos shot during workshops
List of music videos by Amir Issaa
Lyrics of ten select songs (with English translation)
Interview at Fahrenheit with Amir Issaa
Interview on La Repubblica about recent acts of aggression by trappers in Italy (only for subscribers)