Multicolored Image of Tehran in ‘Underground Rap Music’

Iranian Rap music, known as Persian Rap (Rap-e Farsi), born in Tehran and is considered as one of the sub-genres of Iranian underground music. The emergence of this music was one of the results of cultural climates during President Khatami in 1990s. Coming originally from the west, ‘Rap’ became one of the most popular genres of music among Iranian youth. The music adopted by youth and came to light from middle and lower Tehrani families.

Called ‘underground music’, this music not only takes place in the basement of houses, the lyrics and videos are showing the most invisible parts of the city. This forbidden music talks about today’s youth culture, middle class life and issues of urban and daily life of Tehran. Lyrics and videos reveal the very unknown identity of third generation of youth after revolution and specially the lifestyle, ideas and concerns of middle-class Tehrani’s.

My paper is about the image of Tehran, as one of the main subjects of Rap music and one of the main key metaphors of its lyrics. In this presentation, I will argue in the ways third generation of youth after the Iranian revolution are representing Tehran. How they are introducing the social identity, ideas and dilemmas of middle class Tehranis? And in which way they are introducing the urban life of Tehran.

Tehran, as the capital of Islamic Republic of Iran in last 35 years is portrayed as a site of crime, disorder, poverty, drug addiction and class division in Persian Rap. This representation is totally different with images of Tehran, which are given in state-official music in last 35 years. The cosmopolitan atmosphere of Tehran in Rap music is so international at the same time so local to be discovered. The city is addressed as an ‘unfaithful lover’ and modern Tehran is compared with ‘Shar-e No’ district. However in some lyrics the diversity of the city is praised. This hybrid representation of Tehran makes the very true explanation of the multi-cultural, multi-language and multi-colored sides of the city.