Secretly like rap but cringe every time you hear the word “biatch?” Enter Hich-Kas: a rapper native to Tehran, who is at the forefront of the burgeoning rap movement in Iran. Born Soroush Lashgari, Hich-Kas (meaning “nobody” in Persian) combines the natural rhythm of the Persian language with traditional western rap styles to create something all his own. Hich-Kas’ latest (and only) album is Jangale Asfalt (Asphalt Jungle), which came out in 2006 and was produced by the Iranian hip-hop producer Mahdyar Aghajani.
There are 11 tracks on the CD, in both English and Persian, that use a variety of traditional Iranian instruments. In his own words, Hich-Kas raps about “social issues, street issues, moral issues.” But the songs also have a decidedly political bent, reflecting the Iranian youth’s desire to connect more to the rest of the world. Many of them seem very aggressive in the way that some more popular rap is nowadays—a heavy percussive beat with forceful-sounding lyrics. Some prime examples of this in his music are “Vatan Parast” and “Zenden.” Rapping by one person (primarily Hich-Kas, although British-Iranian rapper Reveal makes a few appearances) will be followed by a chorus and then more rapping, a formula often used here in America.
Hich-Kas’ rhythm and cadence is excellent; the beat matches his stresses well and the rest of the superseding rap is varied enough to retain interest. His vocal presence is great, and from the sound of it, his enunciation is also good. He sometimes diverges from this into traditional Persian music, which adds some more variety; in “Diveh Va Del,” he even mixes and matches heavily with this, rapping over traditional Persian music and vise versa. While cool, it’s not as strong as when he is sticking with the basics: a good beat with the rhythmical Persian rap he excels at.
The weakest part of the album is when Hich-Kas breaks out the English in his songs (although it should be noted that it may be Reveal who is speaking in some of these). His rapping ability in English is much more limited, most likely due to the fact that English is not his first language. Compared to your average American rapper, he is really outclassed in this area and is unable to deliver nearly the same “flow” as an English-speaking rapper. Hopefully in the future, he will stick to Persian, where he really shines.
So, should you buy Jangale Asfalt? I say yes. Hick-Kas’ album is an excellent example of good rap that follows all the basics but adds something truly unique: the Persian language and music with a social perspective exclusive to the situation in Iran. Despite a few small hiccups in the album, Hich-Kas shows a true appreciation and talent for western-style rap. Combine those two and you have a musical force to be reckoned with—and not once does he use the word “biatch.”