Many Americans are not aware of the commingling of Islamic and American popular culture that has occurred over the last half-century. One of the ways that influence can be seen is via popular hip-hop music by artists who identify with an Islamic tradition as well as those who do not. Key to transmitting these influences has been a multiplicity of traditions that emerged out of the African American Muslim context, such as the Nation of Islam, the Nation of Gods and Earths (“Five Percenters”), and Sunni Muslims. Within each of these traditions, the expression of Islam varies, but their collective influence on popular hip-hop music has served to create a unique cultural space for Islam in urban America.
Spot the Islamic terminology, imagery and ideas in the lyrics of songs by artists such as Public Enemy, Lauryn Hill and Puff Daddy, among others. Click on the album covers above to read about the relevant songs, hear audio clips and watch videos.
This timeline was researched and written by Zaheer Ali, a doctoral student in history at Columbia University. His dissertation is on the history of the Nation of Islam in Harlem, and is part of a broader intellectual project examining the historical relationship between Islam and Black America.