Summer 2020, I am invited to realize an installation of contemporary art at the “Nuovo Cinema Aquila” at Pigneto, an almost-suburban neighbourhood of Rome where many artists have found the place to produce their art. I meet at the “Nuovo Cinema Aquila” the rapper Amir Issaa, introduced to me by the director Massimo D’Orzi. Amir was invited to rap on the images that run on the big screen of a short film by Roman Polanski. We start talking about the exhibition, the organization and shortly after we find ourselves talking about the neighbourhood, contemporary language, images and how neighbourhoods like the Pigneto, Torpignattara and Centocelle have changed and how they keep changing because of different image sources and languages that relate continuously thus also transforming the territory itself.
Time passes, sometimes we get in touch, sometimes we meet in my studio and I am more and more convinced that the story of Amir must be told because it is a beautiful example of how it is possible to succeed despite life has not facilitated the task.
Amir Issaa, born in Rome in 1978, from an Egyptian immigrant father, drug addict, who ended up in prison when Amir was a child and an illiterate Italian mother, raised in the Roman suburbs, that of Torpignattara, multi-ethnic neighbourhood which in the years when Amir was a child and teenager, was really borderland where during the day the illegality was organized and at dusk took over the territory. Amir Issaa: a name, a surname, an appearance, a belonging and a family condition, difficult to live in a socio-cultural context and in a historical period to say the least complicated, where only hope and the search for valid relationships were those threads which that adolescent with Arab somatic traits, has never lost. Never as this time, being born in an adverse condition is not confirmation of a predetermined destiny, there is the possibility of separating, rejecting and opposing dynamics, situations and relationships that can be destructive.
Amir today is 42 years old and has a son of 21, uncensored, he boasts about twenty record releases, prizes and awards, two books: the first “Vivo per questo” published by Chiare Lettere, the second released a few days ago for ADD Editore entitled “Educazione Rap” where among the covered topics we find the importance of the power of words, discrimination, the role of women in Rap and others. Amir Issaa holds educational workshops at juvenile and non-juvenile penitentiaries, collaborates with the Italian Cultural Institutes in the world and is invited by schools throughout Italy and universities in the United States to talk about Rap, language, social themes and verbal composition. In short, today Amir Issaa is one of the most engaged and appreciated Rappers in the Italian landscape. What happened? How did that teenager not get dragged down by quicksand?
As a teenager he became curious about the Hip Hop culture as a breaker first and then as a writer in the Capitoline crew The Riot Vandals, after that he was among the founders of the legendary Rome Zoo, a collective that included historical names from the Roman rap scene such as Colle Der Fomento, Cor Veleno, Flaminio Maphia, Piotta, and many others.
But this is all information that you can find online: if you are curious and want to know more, write in the comments your questions, proposals or simple curiosities, so we will build an interview with Amir that we will publish soon here on Papillon.
I, for example, would like to ask him: “Amir, you publish books today that are also used in schools but when you were a teenager or in your twenties, which readings did you feed on?”
Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the translation of this article