Hip-hop's harbinger of the global age

The Narcicyst chronicles the Arab Spring in "Fly Over Egypt."

(Edmonton) He’s been called many things—rapper, poet, provocateur. But Yassin Alsalman, a.k.a. The Narcicyst, is one thing above all else: storyteller. And he’ll be sharing plenty this week at the University of Alberta’s Festival of Ideas.

Born in the United Arab Emirates to an Iraqi family and raised in Montreal, Alsalman has carved out a hip-hop career by telling stories about his experiences and what he sees in the Arab world. In a sense, he’s a top anchor with the hip-hop news network.

“Hip-hop is the most direct way of sharing your experience without being censored,” Alsalman said in an April interview with Lara N. Dotson-Renta of Quinnipiac University. “It’s a different form of journalism in the sense that it doesn’t necessarily have an overriding intention or somebody standing over them telling them this is the vision of our news network. The hip-hop news network is very diverse in a sense.”

Alsalman writes about politics and cultural identity, often blending hip-hop with academia. Diatribes of a Dying Tribe, his master’s thesis in media studies, dissects the Arab-American experience. That work led to an accompanying CD, Fear of an Arab Planet, by The Arab Summit (Narcicyst and three compatriots, Ragtop, Omar Offendum and Excentrik).

Now living full-time in Dubai, Alsalman has chronicled the Arab Spring with story and rhyme, marking the one-year anniversary of political revolution in Egypt with Fly Over Egypt (see video above).

At the Festival of Ideas, he’ll take the audience through We Are the Medium, a performance and installation examining the displaced experience of a modern citizen, son of an immigrant and future of the world.

The Narcicyst at the Festival of Ideas

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