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THE WIRE

A Female Voice Busts Into 'Man's World' Of Moroccan Rap

With edgy lyrics and an attitude that's too legit to quit, rapper Houda Abouz — aka Khtek — is pushing against the grain and gaining a substantial following.

Houda Abouz goes by the name Khtek, meaning 'your sister'
Houda Abouz goes by the name Khtek, meaning "your sister"
Ahmed Eljechtimi

RABAT — In a rap scene dominated my men, women's voices are starting to make waves in Morocco.

Houda Abouz, a 24-year-old who majors in film studies at a university in the northern city of Tetouan, has long been fascinated by hip-hop. Encouraged by friends, she finally decided to picked up a mic, and from there began to perform.

In January she appeared in Hors Série, a song in which she performed alongside three big male rap stars in Morocco: Elgrande Toto, Don Bigg and Draganov. The video has been viewed around 16 million times on YouTube — a reflection of the popularity the genre enjoys across the north African kingdom — and its success encouraged Abouz to go it alone.

She followed up in February with her debut single KickOff, in which she rails against a society she says does not offer women equal opportunities.

"I am a self-made artist and I write my own lyrics, speaking my mind," she told Reuters in an interview in the capital Rabat.

"Rap is my passion and my defense mechanism in a patriarchal society," added Abouz, who goes by the name Khtek, meaning "your sister."

Her lyrics, delivered in Moroccan Arabic dialect with French or English phrases thrown in, are sometimes explicit. "Badass, I survived war, drugs, craziness and love," she sings in KickOff. "Many things did not work out because we are ladies in the country of the dick."

In recent months, the country's rap scene has become embroiled in politics after an artist named Gnawi was sentenced to a year in prison for insulting the police in a video.

Abouz is not the only woman making a mark in the male-dominated Moroccan rap world. Another female hip-hop star, Manal, had a hit song Slay that was viewed 44 million times on YouTube. Abouz, who describes herself as a feminist and supporter of LGBT rights, said she was influenced by the pro-democracy protests that shook Morocco in 2011 during the Arab spring.

However, she said her music did not serve a political agenda but gave "a taste of the street and of deep Morocco." Men's prevalence in the world of rap reflected Morocco's conservative society, she said, but her work tries to seize back the narrative for women.

"I write better than you, though you think I'm just a girl," she sings in KickOff.

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Society

Parenthood And The Pressure Of Always Having To Be Doing Better

As a father myself, I'm now better able to understand the pressures my own dad faced. It's helped me face my own internal demands to constantly be more productive and do better.

Photo of a father with a son on his shoulders

Father and son in the streets of Madrid, Spain

Ignacio Pereyra*

-Essay-

When I was a child — I must have been around eight or so — whenever we headed with my mom and grandma to my aunt's country house in Don Torcuato, outside of Buenos Aires, there was the joy of summer plans. Spending the day outdoors, playing soccer in the field, being in the swimming pool and eating delicious food.

But when I focus on the moment, something like a painful thorn appears in the background: from the back window of the car I see my dad standing on the sidewalk waving us goodbye. Sometimes he would stay at home. “I have to work” was the line he used.

Maybe one of my older siblings would also stay behind with him, but I'm sure there were no children left around because we were all enthusiastic about going to my aunt’s. For a long time in his life, for my old man, those summer days must have been the closest he came to being alone, in silence (which he liked so much) and in calm, considering that he was the father of seven. But I can only see this and say it out loud today.

Over the years, the scene repeated itself: the destination changed — it could be a birthday or a family reunion. The thorn was no longer invisible but began to be uncomfortable as, being older, my interpretation of the events changed. When words were absent, I started to guess what might be happening — and we know how random guessing can be.

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