Italian Rapper Amir Issa shares multicultural story through panel … – The Daily Collegian

Amir Issaa, an Italian-Egyptian rapper and writer, was invited to a panel discussion to share his multicultural background and its influence on his career and performed on Thursday at the Flex Theatre of the HUB-Robeson Center.

Issaa was born in Rome to an Italian mother and an Egyptian father. Throughout Issaa’s youth, his father was incarcerated and trafficked drugs. This eventually pushed Issaa to pursue a rap career.

“I use rap music like a tool to express myself,” Issaa said. “It’s therapeutic for me, every time I bring a pen and write rhymes … for me it’s like going to a psychologist.”

Issaa was born in the Torpignattara neighborhood of Rome, which has a significant population of immigrant families. While he grew up mostly with his mother, Issaa said he would visit his father with his family.

When Issa went to school, he said he wouldn’t see many people who looked like him and used the name “Massimo” after his mother suggested it would help him fit in more. He said he would often search in parts of Rome where he could find international students or other “second generation” Italians.

“I had an identity crisis, and reacted with silence,” Issaa said. “This situation changed when I started listening to rap music.”

During his youth, Issaa said he discovered rap after finding his older sister’s cassette tapes. Here he was exposed to electronic and rock music and a rap song from Run-DMC.

Issaa said he has enjoyed listening to other New York based hip-hop artists such as Public Enemy or Nas. An Italian rap group that Issaa said is one of his greatest inspirations is called Sangue Misto or “Mixed Blood.”

“Lure sanguinis” or “right of blood” is one of the ways for people to obtain Italian citizenship, which means that a person born outside of Italy is still eligible to become a citizen through descent.

Issaa said the process for “second generation” Italians or people born in Italy to immigrants can be more difficult.

“Many people do not follow this path well, and their children suffer the consequences,” Issaa said. “You must demonstrate that for 18 years you have always been in Italy, your family must reach an income of a certain level to work or go to school, which affects poor people.”

Issaa uses rap also as an “educational tool” when touring schools in both Italy and the United States.

“I try to help kids with parents who might be in jail or are drug addicts, and I use rap for these people to write stories,” Issaa said. “I use rap music in association with the teachers to talk about social issues, discrimination and homophobia.”

During his recent tours in America, Issaa also showcases previous rap and poetry books he’s worked on and had published. In 2017 he released “Vivo Per Questo,” meaning “This is What I Live For,” an autobiographical novel that comments on the dreams and struggles of second generation Italians.

Sade John said she came to the event after hearing about it in her AFAM 100N: Black Freedom Struggles course taught by Alex Lubin, one of the panelists.

During the Q&A, John said she thought it was interesting how aspects of Issaa’s life connected with her own father’s story.

“I was just curious as to how (Issaa’s) relationship with his father impacted his career,” John, a first-year studying mechanical engineering, said. “My father also went through a lot of stuff throughout his childhood, but then music also helped him to be who he is, even to this day, and he still is very passionate about different music types like reggae and things like that.”

Erika Mulá attended the event in collaboration with the Italian Student Society, of which she is also vice president.

“I asked (Issaa) why there’s such a negative connotation around immigrants, especially middle eastern immigrants, even though they essentially helped build Italian culture as we know it,” Mulá, a second-year studying finance, said. “I think it’s good for everyone to get a global perspective on the issue and try to get at least some idea of a way to try and relieve some of that pressure.”

Mulá attended both the panel discussion and the rap concert, where participants were also provided scripts with the lyrics to the raps that Issaa would perform and sing with the audience.

“He’s used rap and rhyming as a way to really express himself and get through some of the traumas and hardships of his life,” Mulá said. “And he’s used his platform now to help other people do the same thing.”


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