By Danielle Marie Hurren
The fact of the matter is that a great rap song is a form of social outreach and one that reaches across all the social districts to make a real open demographic. And to make social discordance audible through tracks such as ‘’Ius Music,” is the entire purpose of Amir Issaa’s artistic work as one of the major rappers and Hip Hop artists working in the Italian music scene today.
The kid from Torpignattara and the boy born to two different heritages; an Egyptian father and an Italian mother. A situation which places him in a precarious nomadic and legal status in Italy.
“Ius Music” is a song which drives right to the heart of a debate on the rights of those born on Italian soil to Italian citizenship. Right by soil, or right by blood.
“Ius Soli” are land rights, rights to citizenship based on being born on that soil. “Ius Sanguinis,” are blood rights.
Under the current laws, Italian born citizens with non Italian ancestry are told that their blood denies them a right to a domicile relationship with the Italian streets they daily traverse. With ancestral blood being in such a way prioritised, children born in the country to non Italian parents grow up and reach adulthood in a state of legal nomadism.
Thus a culture is created in which people are dispossessed of their right to fully belong. The children of parents who have emigrated to the country must wait until they are eighteen years old before they can begin the legal process and attempt to gain citizenship in the country of their birth. And there is no guarantee.
It is a quagmire which places people in a precarious legal status within the country of their birth. The reality of which was highlighted earlier this year, when the heritage of a talented athlete, one who achieved a new record in the pole vault, meant that it was unable to be considered as an Italian achievement. That an Italian born girl, of Nigerian heritage, achieved in that pole vault such heights that can do nothing to propel or to raise her status up to the margins of legal actualisation. That she remains an alien, a non-person and that all her talent and achievements may never be claimed by Italy. This is the situation being faced.
And this is in a country which is an EU nation state, a country of the free and Democratic west. A political player in a world in which the fundamental tenets of the USA, are built on and in part comprised of this notion of “Ius Soli.”
And with the last great waves of protests aimed at firing up a legal change to Italy’s avoidance of the basic rights of “Ius Soli,” taking place in 2017, there is no lack of desire for change. After all, it is a policy which leaves great swathes of the Italian population in a renegade social status. A situation which Issaa has made it his personal mission, as both an artist and as a social speaker, to fight against.
Issaa well understands that Hip Hop is an art form which has long been giving articulacy to the socially dispossessed. Yet, at least with one half of his parentage being of Italian origin, Amir was one of the relatively fortunate ones and was able to gain his Italian citizenship in the country of his birth. However, this ability to gain his own right to citizenship has only fueled him up further in the fight to help his peers gain the same and he has never distinguished between his work as a rapper and his work as a speaker and lecturer at universities across the USA.
As Issaa says in “Ius Music,” “diventi uno straniero nella tua nazione, stessa lingua, stessa rabbia, stesso cibo, siamo nella stessa merda”, “you become a stranger in your nation, same language, same rage, same food, same shit”.
Essentially what Issaa manages to achieve is to work with his art form, rap music, to highlight the dispossessed status of his fellow brothers and sisters. Rap itself has something of a historical obsession with status. Nothing less than what you would expect from an art form which is largely the marginalised’s payback to society. A great picturesque assertion of significance in the colour of gold and in the idea of empowerment through acquisition
Yet Issaa tackles this payback in a different way and he is preoccupied with status in the way he uses his artistic voice and platform to fight for the legal status of his fellow brothers and sisters.
By focusing his art on the necessity of bringing his own and others citizenship into the realm of statutory rights, he makes his own form of payback. He gives voice to all those who are born to an incognito legal status, for which rap and hip-hop often function as a homing device. A way for kids to ground themselves in a culture of rap and hip-hop in a society which leaves them ethereal in terms of their legal rights and status.
De facto is a legal term which means to hold “a specified position in fact, but not necessarily by legal right”. And the fact of the matter is that rap is a de facto genre. A musical sound of the socially discordant and those who remain disenfranchised and sidelined from the main centre of Italian society. And it is also a fact that the current legal situation, as it stands today, makes all those born to non Italian parents, de facto citizens and so de facto people. Those who have rights in fact, but not in practice and certainly not in legal actuality.
To turn this de facto legal status into something which is genuine and real and which will allow all those born on Italian soil to leave behind this current reality of a life of alien legal status, is both Issaa’s fight and his personally defined artistic duty.