Houda Abouz, a Moroccan rap artist who ‘speaks her mind’

She says her music does not serve a political agenda but gives “a taste of the street and of the deep Morocco.”
Thursday 06/08/2020
Moroccan rapper Houda Abouz, 24, known by her stage name “Khtek”, records a song inside a studio in Rabat, Morocco. (Reuters)
Moroccan rapper Houda Abouz, 24, known by her stage name “Khtek”, records a song inside a studio in Rabat, Morocco. (Reuters)

Rabat- Rap is still seen in Arab society as “street art” that includes obscene and unacceptable words, but fans of the music, mostly youth, say it expresses their reality with its detail and vernacular. Morocco’s Houda Abouz, one of the few female singers to break into the male-dominated scene, agrees that rap is a powerful art form.

Abouz, a 24-year-old majoring in film studies at a university in the northern city of Tetouan, has long been fascinated by hip-hop, and, encouraged by friends, picked up a mic and began to perform.

In January, she appeared in the song “Hors Serie,” performing alongside three big Moroccan rap stars, Elgrande Toto, Don Bigg and Draganov.

Moroccan rapper Houda Abouz, 24, known by her stage name “Khtek”, attends an interview with Reuters inside a studio in Rabat, Morocc0. (Reuters)
Moroccan rapper Houda Abouz, 24, known by her stage name “Khtek”, attends an interview with Reuters inside a studio in Rabat, Morocc0. (Reuters)

The video has been viewed around 16 million times on YouTube – a reflection of the popularity the genre enjoys across the North African kingdom – and its success encouraged Abouz to go it alone.

She followed up in February with her debut single “KickOff,” in which she rails against a society she says does not offer women equal opportunities.

“I am a self-made artist and I write my own lyrics, speaking my mind,” she said in an interview with Reuters in the capital Rabat.

“Rap is my passion and my defence mechanism in a patriarchal society,” added Abouz, who goes by the name “Khtek,” meaning “your sister.”

Her lyrics, delivered in Moroccan Arabic dialect with phrases of French or English thrown in, are sometimes explicit.

“Bad ass, I survived war, drugs, craziness and love,” she sings in KickOff. “Many things did not work out because we are ladies in the country of the dick.”

In recent months, the country’s rap scene has became embroiled in politics after a rapper, Gnawi, was sentenced to a year in prison for insulting the police in a video.

Abouz is not the only female rap singer n Morocco. Another female Moroccan hip-hop star, Manal, has a hit song “Slay” that has been viewed 44 million times on YouTube.

Moroccan rapper Houda Abouz, 24, known by her stage name “Khtek”, works on a song with her composer inside a studio in Rabat, Morocco July 20. (Reuters)
Moroccan rapper Houda Abouz, 24, known by her stage name “Khtek”, works on a song with her composer inside a studio in Rabat, Morocco July 20. (Reuters)

Abouz, who describes herself as a feminist and supporter of LGBT rights, said she was influenced by the pro-democracy protests that shook Morocco in 2011 during the “Arab spring.”

However, she said her music does not serve a political agenda but gives “a taste of the street and of the deep Morocco.”

Men’s prevalence in the world of rap reflects Morocco’s conservative society, she said, but her work tries to seize back the narrative for women. “I write better than you, though you think I’m just a girl,” she sings in KickOff.