Native Deen is an Islamic musical group from the Washington, D.C. area.
MH: How and when did Native Deen start?
The 3 of us started performing together in 2000. Although we did not actually come up with a name until about 2002. However, the seeds were planted through the project called MYNA Raps which started in 1992. I was on the first MYNA raps with other artists. Naeem and Abdul-Malik were on MYNA raps 2-4 with other artists. And all three of us were the only artists on MYNA raps 5. We performed songs from MYNA raps 5 for 5 years until we came out with our own album in 2005 titled Deen You Know.
MH: What topics or themes influence your music, lyrics and content?
We all have different backgrounds. And our upbringing finds its way into out music. We have home school backgrounds, Islamic School backgrounds, public school backgrounds, military backgrounds, university backgrounds, marriage, children, etc. We all have different music that we prefer and those different styles of music finds its way into our style as well.
MH: What role does music have in educating and inspiring individuals to change themselves and their communities?
Its huge. Music is a language that speaks to people on top of their regular language. A song can do a lot more than a speech for the emotional well being of a person sometimes. Music is another tool used to communicate thoughts and messages to people.
MH: Some argue that music can be dawah and can educate people of other faiths about Islam and Muslims. Should Muslim artists create music geared only towards Muslims or make music that is relatable to people of other faith too?
Both. Every artist does not have to do both. However, I think the Muslim community needs artists that do both.
MH: Native Deen is one of the pioneers when it comes to Muslim hip hop music. Have you seen an evolution and an increase in appearance of Muslim rappers and musicians?
Oh yes. Its good to see many more artists coming on the scene. Alhamdu-lilah we were able to push the envelope a little and open some doors for the artists coming now.
MH: Many of your songs focus on Muslim American identity. How important is it to create messages for Muslim youth to be proud of their Muslim identity?
It’s very important. Muslim identity is a growing concern for many American Muslim communities.
MH: Native Deen’s traveled internationally and nationally and your music has been universally accepted and been a crucial part of the development of some Muslim youth’s identity. Have you seen common challenges for Muslim youth in the US and internationally?
Gender relations is a common problem. Youth do not feel empowered to have proper relationships with the opposite gender. Identity is another common challenge. Muslim Youth are not aware of their history and sometimes they do not think of themselves highly. And may consider the West as the advanced society because of today’s reality.
MH: Many people complain about the negative connotations associated with hip hop and rap and the messages promoted in the genre of rap and hip hop. How would you respond to individuals who say hip hop and rap shouldn’t be listened to (no matter who the artist is) due to the negative influence it has on the youth?
That is a very general statement. A person can make it even broader and put ALL music into that category. The fact is that music is a tool and hip hop is a style. The lyrics are a different thing. And there are many hip hop songs that are extremely positive. It would be better to teach youth to stay away from bad lyrics no matter what the style of music instead of keeping them away from hip hop alone.
MH: Many Muslim artists like Lupe Fiasco have been critical of current trends in hip hop and amongst rappers and tries to promote positive messages in his music. How important is it for messages in music to be meaningful and positive?
Its very important. But I think its more important for it NOT to be negative. Meaning, a person can write a song about watching water on the beach. Or some experience they had. Another person may not find the song meaningful or positive. But they can recognize that its not negative.
MH: Is it possible for Muslim musicians and artists to go “mainstream” and still maintain the positive messages in their music?
Of course. I think the next generation will produce many more of these types of artists.
MH: Have you seen an expansion of Muslim artists into different genres of music apart from rap?
I’m seeing Muslims artists coming up into every style of music there is. Reggae, Country, Rock, etc.
MH: Who are some of your favorite Muslim musicians or artists?
Since I can’t name them all, I wont name any. Because I know these artists. And I would not want to offend anyone by forgetting.
MH: If you could collaborate with any artists or groups, Muslim or non-Muslim artist who would you like to work with?
I would like to do a project with Lupe personally. I think Naeem would love to do a project with Yasin Bey (Mos Def).
MH: What advice would you give to aspiring Muslim artists and musicians?
Have a partner. Don’t do it alone. Even if its just a manager who is close to you. But have a partner.
MH: Where can we learn more about your work and follow you work?
Facebook and http://www.nativedeen.com