Forget Azealia, Celebrate Zayn + These 5 Muslim Musicians Instead
Sometimes when it rains, it pours. That’s all we can really say about the latest in the seemingly endless shit storm that is Azealia Banks on Twitter. Her latest stint, in which she spewed some more hateful slurs in 140-character increments, has (finally) got her banned from the social media platform for good. This week’s target? That dreamy crooner we all daydream about having pillow talk with, Zayn Malik.
Things got ugly fast, with phrases like “hairy curry scented bitch,” “paki,” and “Punjab” thrown around. The bashing of Malik’s Pakistani culture is par for the course for Banks, but saying that he eats sand (“I eat sand for breakfast and suck dick for dinner,” she wrote alongside a retweeted photo of Malik) and that his mother “is a dirty refugee who won’t be granted asylum” took things to a whole new, disgusting level. Aside from the fact that Malik’s mom is Caucasian (apparently fact-checking and racism aren’t compatible), Banks’ tweets are particularly alarming given America’s decision to deal with the refugee crisis by calling for bans on Muslims. Considering the current state of political unrest, Banks’ words could be the catalyst for unapologetic racism, Islamophobia, and violence.
It’s unfortunate and distressing that in 2016, an artist like Malik can’t celebrate his identity by singing in Urdu on his album, or even exist as a Muslim, half-Pakistani musician without having people like Banks accost him with this reckless language. Malik has faced Islamophobia throughout his career and has become a poster child for Muslim musicians, despite there being a wealth of other musicians who happen to be Muslim. To celebrate these artists who’ve transcended Islamophobia and become musical icons, we put together the five Muslim musicians you should be listening to right now—if you aren’t already.
Born Yunalis Mat Zara’ai, the Malaysian singer mentored by Pharrell Williams has taken the music industry by storm with a sound that fuses R&B, pop, and even folk rock. In addition to singing, she also owns a clothing label called November Culture that sells clothes and scarves, and graduated with a law degree in Malaysia in 2009. Recently, she’s been wooing Usher in their new duet “Crush,” and is well on her way to releasing her fifth album, Chapters. A devout Muslim, she keeps her hair in her hijab while she croons on her tracks—a choice that’s caused controversy in the past from bigots. In regards to her headscarf, she had this to say: “I am proud—it’s my choice to cover up my body. I’m not oppressed—I’m free.
How’s that for a major key for you? The rapper, producer, and prolific Snapchatter is also a devout Muslim from Palestine. A few years ago, when he appeared on Larry King Live, he revealed that he “prays more than ten times a day, whenever he walks in and out of a room.” The hit maker believes in peace, unity, and inspirational speeches on his elliptical.
The Queens-based rapper, who spent the formative years of his career as a member of A Tribe Called Quest, has also been a practicing Muslim since 1996. He converted that year, changed his name from Jonathan Davis to Kamaal Ibn John Fareed, and never looked back. Since ATCQ split in 1998, he’s been recording solo albums for over a decade, with his latest, The Last Zulu, slated for a 2016 release. For Tip, being Muslim is simply a personal piece of own his identity. “I think everyone should just be allowed to believe what they want to believe, as long as they don’t transgress against the next person,” he explained to The Guardian.” It doesn’t make a difference what you are.”
The rapper that kicked and pushed his way into stoner skater stardom when he emerged from the Chicago hip-hop scene has been vocal about the struggles of maintaining his faith in the music industry. Despite the temptation to smoke and drink, he doesn’t judge those do. “I try not to do that with anybody, any capacity. My fellow Muslims, non-Muslims, Christians, whomever,” he told Katie Couric in 2014. “At the end of the day we’re human, we have faults we make mistakes.” Not content to just be a rapper and entrepreneur as the CEO of 1st & 15th Entertainment, he’s also been known to rock out as the lead singer of rock band Japanese Cartoon using his given name, Wasalu Muhammad Jaco.
That’s right. The rapper,who told you to “Fuck the Police” before evolving into the Are We There Yet dad you don’t want to go on a road trip with, is Muslim. He converted to Islam in the ’90s after leaving the sociopolitically charged rap group N.W.A., and once called the militant faction the Nation of Islam “the best place for any young black male.” But don’t expect to see him hitting up his local mosque anytime soon. “What I call myself is a natural Muslim, ’cause it’s just me and God,” he explained in 2002. “You know, going to the mosque, the ritual and the tradition, it’s just not in me to do. So I don’t do it.” While he may be busy acting in a sitcom right now, look out for his next album, Everythang’s Corrupt, slated to come out sometime soon.
Stay tuned to Milk for more inspiring musicians.
Images via The Fader and The Miami Herald.