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Tupac in Sarajevo: The Rise of Rebellion Rap in Eastern Europe

Vildana Muratovic, a native of Bosnia-Herzegovina and now a citizen of the United States, describes the impact of hip-hop music on the people of the Balkans following her 1997 return to Sarajevo.  Her paper was written in 2007.

Since its humble beginnings in the 1970s to its present day multi-billion-dollar industry, hip-hop and rap have transformed the world of music and pop culture and come to represent the political and economic struggles of African Americans. What started as a rebellious artful expression, soon transformed itself to a capital-generating, culturally-transformative lifestyle which did not take long to reach the global scene.

Among the vast regions of the world that hip-hop has touched are the recently-war-torn Southeastern European nations. In the 1990s rap and hip-hop emerged as major tools that expressed the anger and outrage people felt towards the ethnic conflict which led to war and many economic setbacks. But it wasnt until 1997, when I visited my family back in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina that I realized the full impact hip-hop had on the Balkans. The way young members of the society used rap to deal with their impoverished situation as they tackled their socio-political challenges intrigued me. Despite this war torn nation’s protracted battle with the aftermath of economic depression, and political instability, urban youth still hoped for a better future.  Rapping became an integral part of that expression and hope.

I was surprised that in one of my classes in Sarajevo, the first thing classmates asked of me when they found out I had lived in America was to help them translate one of Tupacs songs. They felt that they had much in common with this recently-deceased African American rapper.  The large graffiti slogans, just one of hip-hops component elements, were painted onto bullet scarred walls and buildings left splattered with grenade remnants. Slogans such as Death to Chetniks! Welcome to Hell!, and even 2Pac for Life were visible throughout the city and gave me a sense

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