My own way: How Safi G is taking Chicago underground by storm
This article was originally published in Palestine in America’s second annual print issue. Buy a copy here
Safe M. Safi, aka Safi G, is a 22-year-old Palestinian underground rapper hailing from Chicago’s North side. Safi G is part of a motley crew of Chicago native artists called , “Bad Ass Niños Doing Incredible Things” (B.A.N.D.I.T.).
Safi was introduced to hip-hop as a kid, during a period of time when he was living in Jordan. He decided on his rap name because “Safi” means “pure” in Arabic. The “G” can be interpreted any way the listener chooses—Genesis, Great, Gold, “anything positive.”
Safi G started writing poetry at a young age and was introduced to the underground hip hop scene overseas. His life changed when his brother Hasan gave him the late rapper Tupac’s “All Eyez on Me” album. After listening to Tupac’s “Ambitionz az a Ridah”, his fate was sealed.
“Music-wise, I idolize [Tupac], like I know every single one of his songs,” Safi G said.
Old-school hip-hop inspired him to work on changing the Chicago rap game by bringing back music with a message.
“I just don’t like Chicago music.” he said, referring to his “Last Day Freestyle.”
“It’s all shootings and sh*t….I saw sh*t go down. Music condones that. Let’s say the next generation is coming, our brothers, my brother, your brother, anyone’s brother, they listen to drill music. They’ll say it’s cool to shoot sh*t up, it’s cool to go out and gangbang, it’s cool to sell drugs, it’s cool to call women, you know out of their names. That’s not cool at all,” he elaborated.
Safi G wants his music to tell a story. “If there’s not a message in your music, then I don’t think you should be making music,” he said.
Just listen to a few of his tracks and you’ll hear that his message is about freedom, revolution, and peace. He cites artists like Common, Nas, Chance the Rapper, and “Old” Kanye as artists he looks up to.
Safi G’s parents have always supported his work, but have encouraged him to go back to school. Safi G completed his General Educational Development (GED) and wants to study to become a mechanic, saying that it is important to get an education so he can “keep it behind [his] back and focus on [his] music.”
Safi G returned overseas last June to reunite with family and find inspiration for his upcoming projects. He’s currently working on several tracks this summer, which he plans to release in 2017 with fellow B.A.N.D.I.T. artists. He is also working on a new EP with Iraqi artist and friend, Relic, They plan to call their collaboration “Arabian Knights.”
He hopes to break into the music industry one day—following in the footsteps of artists like Kendrick Lamar—by dropping thought provoking songs. Safi G wants to release his own version of “To Pimp a Butterfly,” which would reflect on the refugee crises in Palestine, Iraq and Syria.
Safi G and B.A.N.D.I.T. be performed at Palestine in America’s Palipalooza concert in August, 2016, as part of a lineup of Palestinian talent in Chicago.