The Dapper Rapper of Iran


Turns out that mullahcratic Iran has an "official" rap singer, or at least a tolerated one. He's Shahkar Binesh-Pajouh, aka the "Dapper Rapper." The BBC reports that he "uses rap music mixed with Persian classical poetry in order to criticise poverty, unemployment, and the chi-chi women of Tehran wearing too much make-up under their chiffon headscarves."

If Binesh-Pajouh is rapping against women who are too chi-chi under their chadoors, then it's not very surprising that he's been permitted to release an album (albeit after four years of delays). Rapper Shahkar's most anti-revolutionary message, suggests the Beeb, is that there is too much social mobility. "The problem is in Iranian society," he says. "Social classes are all mixed up and not as clear cut as before the revolution."

Reporter Frances Harrison couldn't find many (well, any) fans to quote, but says the album has sold well. Perhaps it's the novelty. There's even some disagreement about whether Binesh-Pajouh's stuff is really rap. Maybe it is, or maybe it's rap the same way Krokodil was humor, and for the same reason.

Krokodil was the "humor" magazine of the Soviet regime. Its purpose wasn't to be funny; it existed to serve the regime's purposes. Sometimes it offered a safety valve by making jokes about internal problems, like the shortage of goods. But its real value lay in deriding whatever the regime didn't like at any given time, including the USSR's own cultural dissidents.

Here's a Dapper Rapper lyric: "She spends all day in the hairdresser, out partying till midnight, puts on loads of make-up, eats pizza and more than anything else she cares about her lipstick and lip liner."

Pizza? Anyway, Binesh-Pajouh apparently lives pretty well himself. He doesn't have to live like a rapper, he says, to sing like one.