Khat Thaleth (Third Line: Initiative for the Elevation of Public Awareness) is a politically minded Arab hip-hop compilation making lyrical ripples throughout the Middle East. The title of this collection from San Francisco label Stronghold Sound means “third rail,” a reference to the hijaz rail line that once ran through the Arab world but also to a possible third path in the politically divided region.
The project’s contributors hail from Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and all over the Arab world and Arab diaspora. Rappers like Palestinian hip-hop trio DAM, Iraqi-Canadian MC The Narcicyst, and El Rass from Lebanon all throw down, offering cutting couplets tackling poverty, violence, political corruption, repression and, ultimately, revolution.
The outlook of the MCs on this compilation is revolutionary, but their perspective is nuanced and grounded in stark reality. All the lyrics are available to read in Arabic or English online and the lyric sheet is an awesome document in its own right, crammed with lines that burn with emotion, intellectual honesty, moral urgency and raw poetry. In short, real hip-hop. You can also stream some selections from the compilation here. The tracks can boast draw musical influence Arabic music, making for compelling listening even if you can’t follow the flow.