Libyan-American hip-hop artist Khaled M is celebrating the news that rebel forces have entered Tripoli with new music. For a few months, the rapper has been recording his first music video, an upbeat song titled “Lights Out.” But he decided that it wasn’t appropriate to release feel-good music until Libyan Col. Moammar Gadhafi was out of power.
“Hopefully we’ll put this out in two weeks, when he’s really gone” said Khaled.
Khaled was raised in the Libyan dissident community based in Lexington, Kentucky, home of an anti-Gadhafi group called the National Front for the Salvation of Libya. His father was one of the founders of that group, and according to Khaled, was tortured for five years by the regime for opposing the government. Khaled spent the first years of his life on the run, using false identities and traveling from country to country.
On Monday, he reacted to recent reports that rebel forces had entered Tripoli.
“I’m still in a state of shock a little bit. This was once a fantasy and it’s hard to grasp as a tangible reality,” said Khaled. “I’m definitely proud of the Libyan people. I’m proud of the revolutionaries. You couldn’t blame them if they killed Gadhafi’s sons and henchmen on sight, but they’ve decided to capture them and send them to the courts, which is even more honorable.”
Prior to the beginning of Libya’s “February 17” revolution, Khaled had never made politically-motivated music. When violence first erupted in the country, he was moved to write raps about the conflict, but hesitated at first.
“I’ve known nothing but opposing Gadhafi my whole life, but I still wasn’t sure if it was my place to say something as a Libyan-American removed from the conflict,” said Khaled. “It wasn’t until Libyans inside Libya and around the world starting calling on me, saying ‘Khaled, be our voice, say something’ that I decided to get involved.
Khaled recorded a song titled “Can’t Take Our Freedom” to raise awareness about government atrocities in Libya and uploaded it to YouTube, accompanied by graphic footage from the front lines. It quickly amassed over 50,000 hits in a single week, according to Khaled.
Although he’s happy about the rebels’ recent successes, Khaled says the biggest challenges for Libyans both at home and abroad lie ahead.
“It's definitely not going to be easy from here on out, but what we'd like to do is to serve as a model for the rest of world on how we can do this the right way. We're optimistic and we're happy, but we know the party hasn't started yet,” he said.
Khaled M is currently based in Chicago. He will be coming to New York in October to perform an inter-faith showcase with the Jewish hip-hop collective Shemspeed.
Watch the video for “Can’t Take Our Freedom” here.