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Miss Raisa, the essence of rap

Fuente. Los Replicantes

Miss Raisa is the stage name of Imane Raissali, a Catalan rapper of Muslim origin who has found in music a space to express her own story. In her songs, she highlights issues that have haunted her all her life, such as racism, gender and religion.

She began rapping without hesitation. At the age of fourteen, she was drawn to rap and hip-hop thanks to some of her classmates at school. She wrote her first song with one of them and learned to follow the tempo. A microphone, headphones and an instrumental track, was all her equipment. She discovered how to channel what she felt through the urban rhythm, and saw it as an outlet for all the feelings she had bottled up. The rapper describes herself as a shy girl who, thanks to urban music, underwent a radical change in her life and personality. As the years go by, her lyrics have come to revolve more around social issues.

Miss Raisa is one of the newest and most refreshing voices in our urban music scene. She raps in both Catalan and Spanish with the aim of giving a voice to all the groups she represents: immigrants, women and Muslims. In fact, she rose to fame thanks to her song “Una niña” (A Girl), where she spoke out about the discrimination that immigrant women face for wearing a veil. She intended for all women to feel part of the Spanish culture without having to abandon their roots. It was a problem that she herself had experienced firsthand, both in her professional and personal life.

Rap has helped Imane to speak about any topic quite naturally. In her musical work, she blends the classic old school style with experimentation of the genre. For her, the importance of her music not only lies in the message, but also in working on her voice. The clarity and calmness she conveys while rapping make each verse an irresistible melody. Imane takes advantage of her lyrics to demand rights and expose injustice, focusing mainly on sexism, racism, and Islamophobia, which are still very present problems in today’s society. This leads to her songs being considered by many as combative, although she prefers to define them as vindictive. For this reason, she received criticism from both cultures; on the one hand, she was targeted for wearing a hijab and not wanting to adapt to Spanish customs, and on the other, many Muslims criticized her for making music, which they consider haram (sinful, in Arabic).

This has made her feel caught between two sides, unable to feel part of either. Although she has always received criticism, her real ordeal began after taking a stand on social media in favor of the LGBTQI+ community. She also decided to take her hijab off because she did not feel fully identified with it. Unfortunately, hate on social media has no limits. Imane is aware that it is impossible to be accepted by everyone. In fact, criticism is a sign that her lyrics are making some kind of impact.

This is why Miss Raisa denounces hate and intolerance through her music. Her songs are composed of values, aiming to send a message of empathy. From the beginning, rap has become the soundtrack of an array of activist movements. Her lyrics are mostly a kind of political and social discourse that questions the way society deals with the difficulties that affect certain social sectors. It is her way of venting and letting go, like having a conversation with herself. Her singles “Déjalo” (Leave it) or “Siento” (I feel) are the perfect showcase to understand where her inspiration comes from. She does not intend to be a role model, but her songs make many people feel identified. As Imane herself says, that is the magic of music. Her personality, attitude, and strength are the ingredients with which she elaborates each song.

When and where did rap originate?

Rap emerged in the 1980s as a genre that revolutionized the music scene. The most marginalized neighborhoods of New York were its birthplace, within the larger context of hip-hop culture. For the first time, the experiences of the streets were being transmitted poetically through rhyming lyrics. Similar to blues and jazz, rap emerged in a context branded by slavery and segregation. Ethnic minorities began to replace their slain leaders’ speeches with a more street-oriented expression to portray different situations of hardship and misery. It was a way to fight against oppression through the power of words. Rappers, also known as MCs, were responsible for adding rhythm and lyrics to their own stories under creative melodies. Although rap has become a mainstream genre, it has not lost its true essence. This is why it is considered one of the most popular revelations worldwide within urban music. As Spanish rapper Nach once said, “R for revolution, A for attitude, P for poetry.”

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