We recently did an incredible interview with Brother Luqman Rashad, founder of Mpac, one of the most popular Muslim hip hop groups in the industry. With the recent release of their groundbreaking album “The Takeover”, we sought out to get a clearer picture of their goals, upcoming projects and outlook on the future. Much props to Luqman for taking the time out to answer all of our questions:
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: How has the Muslim community responded to your rap group?
MPAC: The Muslim community has given MPAC Music a very positive response. Every where the music has gone we have received e-mails, phone calls, letters, from brothers and sister around the world expressing their appreciation and support. At times you will find those few who want to label the material haram, but you have to be able to address these issues in an intelligent and mature fashion. It is our responsibility to use this method of hip hop as an educational tool, for those who feel its power, and for those who are ignorant to its methodology. Allah has blessed us with a gift of speech, so inshallah we will use it to cause change in our own hearts, and the hearts of our Muslim brothers and sister that need it. Any time a sister sends us an e-mail saying she wears her scarf know with pride after hearing one of our songs, or a brother is transforming his lifestyle toward positive and more moral behavior, this is what keeps us going strong, this is the essence of our purpose.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What are some of the main issues you are taking on in your album?
MPAC: There are many issues we have set out to tackle on this album, nationalism being one of the strongest and obvious topics. It is a disease that has spread through the hearts of our Ummah and is one of the many causes of our lack of unity and organization. "Muslim Produced" is a phrase that has evolved from the heart of the MPAC organization. It is one of the mottos we try to maintain constantly through our action and behavior. It means to not give allegiance to anything else besides what brings us together. And the one thing that Muslims around the world share is the beautiful religion of Al-Islam. I do not believe in the necessity of bonds based on anything else besides la-ilaha-illalah (there is no God but Allah). This is why I love all my brothers and sisters, the ones I haven’t seen, and the ones I will never see. We have a connection that is centered on a principle that can shake the world, humble the hearts, and maintain a balance needed in the world of mankind.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What was it like collaborating with 786? Can we expect any MPAC/786 studio tracks in the future?
MPAC: Mashallah our 786 brothers are remarkably talented. Any time I see those brothers a smile just appears on my face. The collaboration was such a spontaneous thing, I don’t think any of us knew what happened until it was over. Back stage was the first time we had ever truly met one another. They asked us to drop a verse on their "Make Dua" song, we rehearsed for like 3-4 minutes, and it happened. Inshallah when we can finally catch up with one another again, we can put something really hot together. We try to keep in contact, Jameel mentioned to me a possible collaboration. I wish nothing but jannah for these brothers, and the best in all that they do.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What is MPAC exactly? What are you goals with this organization?
MPAC: The question of what is MPAC is only to be determined by the affects of our change and the influence of our movement. MPAC is an alternative to mainstream society. We provide Islamic music, clothing, and athletics to our Muslim youth. We are actively involved in the Muslim school systems in Chicago. The music seems to have taken on a life of its own. We are constantly getting more brothers and sisters involved. The creative minds and innovativeness of our board and members contributes greatly to organizational direction and forward growth.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What are your long term goals with M-P.A.C? Record deal? Stay Independent?
MPAC: The plan for the future of our music department is to have a stronger overseas presence for one. We have received many e-mails from our brothers and sister from the U.K. Inshallah we hope to see you brothers and sisters soon. Also, as far as a record deal goes, we have never intended to join any mainstream record labels. We have a lot of connections and friends who have rapped with us in the past. They have received deals and are signed. The option is always their, and if we ever choose to take a direction such as this, we of course will have to have complete control and creative rights PERIOD. I do not however see the organization taking that route at this point and time. What I have found that is interesting is that in the "Islamic hip hop scene", artists are not looked upon the same as mainstream artist. I start to wonder if they believe that we are incapable of doing what they are. It is an immediate reflection of the situation of this Ummah. Status defined by everything else besides our belief in Allah. Yes, Mpac has a lot of work to do. And to all our Muslim artist, stay strong and focused the ultimate reward is with Allah.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: How is the Muslim hip hop scene in Chicago?
MPAC: The hip hop scene in Chicago for us is very intense. Truthfully the environment caused by our own artist keeps everyone constantly on their toes. I really enjoy this environment, because if you slip you might get put on the spot. Ahamd al-Ashgar "phoreign threat", Ahmad saleem, Moawiah, Omar, are all extremely talented. And being raised around hip hop it is hard for me to have to limit them sometimes. They are some of the most talented young Mc's I have ever been encountered with. Expect to see great things from these brothers in the future. Chicago is hip hop, its funny cause you will go out in the streets and see that everyone raps. Mashallah there is a lot of talent, as well as a lot of room for problems and beef. It’s all about moving strategically and maintaining focus.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: How did you all meet and decide to create this group?
MPAC: Jamel Karim and I years ago use to have a rap group called Nocturnal light. We had released an underground CD called Messiahs Fire, under one of our previous aliases. We were performing in clubs and developing a very strong fan base: my college basketball team, college campuses, fans and many other brothers causing a very strong entourage. "Man plans, but Allah plans, and surely Allah is the best of planners" Jameel and I found ourselves in situations that had the potential to destroy us both physically and mentally. We had worked hard, to find out what we thought we wanted, could quite possibly mean the sacrificing of our souls. Jameel and I both backed out of the scene never to be seen again. A year later Jameel began working on change is inevitable, I started up MPAC and was spending most of my time on the development of the organization. I sat with Jameel who had already began working with Moawiah, and proposed a collaboration of efforts. We knew what we were capable of together; we had been rapping together and battling each other since the sixth grade. We snatched up Omar next, then Ashgar and saleem. And that is the quick version of the start of MPAC music. Jameel and I both know that without the struggles we have over come and battles we have encountered in the past, we would not be who or where we are today.” All Praise is due to Allah"
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What is your range of musical influences?
MPAC: I have been influenced by many artists. My father use to rap verses to me from "the last poets" saying "this is real music boy, not that garbage you guys be listening to". And to a certain extent he was right. Nas, Rakeem, Tupac, Biggie smalls, jay-z, all had something very special about them. Biggie smalls story telling, Nas the street philosopher, Tupac's realness. They have all contributed to our musical rap styles. The message which is the most important part was contributed by leaders such as Malcolm x, Ahmad Deedat, Jameel Alamin, and our beloved Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. I encourage that many people can understand the difference and importance of the message and the method. Hip hop is like speaking another language, and those who know that language will be reached through it inshallah.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: How is this album different than your previous album?
MPAC: This album is different from previous albums in many ways. The diversity of our artist contributes greatly to the albums diversity. We as I mentioned earlier are tackling many issues that exist within our Ummah. This is the first album the whole group has done together; we got a chance to see what each other were capable of and how well they worked together as a team. Mashaallah I am more then happy and confident with the brothers we have and their capabilities.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What do you guys do when you're not making music?
MPAC: Ahmad al-Ashgar and Ahamd Saleem are still in high school so they hopefully are studying and going to school throughout the week. Omar is still in Jr. High School, so he better be studying to. Moawiyah is working with MPAC selling CDs, spreading the word, keeping the guys in line, as I said before he has taken on the big brother role with a lot of our guys. Jameel being on the board is constantly busy, with new projects for music, athletics, and apparel, school programs, and speeches. I am just finding a way to assist these beautiful minds the best way that I can, and finding ways to keep us all strong and solid. Inshallah
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: How has Islam shaped your life?
MPAC: Islam has shaped my life by first giving me the father I have. My father has been an unmoving rock that has always pushed and supported me in all that I do, and spent and still spend his life educating me about the importance of Islam in my life and my relationship with Allah. My father would never let me give up, if I started something I had to finish it, no other option existed. I have used this fuel that he has imbedded in my soul to motivate those around me and inshallah help my brothers and sister recognize the strength that lies within them. He would of course say "Everything good you have received from me comes from Allah; everything that is bad or destructive comes from my faults and short comings". Islam within itself is perfection, and I realize this. I have questioned Islam, and it has always come back to me clearer. I have been in heated college classroom debates and one on one conversations with non - Muslims. The completeness and well roundedness of Islam always speaks for itself, and many times catches the ears of many others around you who you least expect are listening or pay attention. Islam is the message for all mankind, but we do not truly accept Islam until we learn it, understand it, and use it as the foundation for our lives. In any other case it is just a tradition that gets passed down like culture, and if questioned it is demolished. This is why we have brothers and sister attempting to blend in to the environments of this world instead of stand out. And we in MPAC plan on changing that inshallah
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: The Muslim community has been ailing for quite some time now. What do you think can combat this?
MPAC: Islam can combat this. If we are ailing we are lacking something our religion has given us. If you ask me: its brotherhood/sisterhood, unity, and leadership that are respected by action and knowledge. This Muslim Ummah is ailing because the essence in which makes us Muslim is lacking. We have to build a generation of Muslims that maintain the understanding that "knowledge is power, but applied knowledge is powerful". And to be as censored as I can this is the general idea that I personally feel our entire Ummah is lacking around the world.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: Why is your album called the Takeover?
MPAC: Our album is called the takeover because we believe this is the beginning stages of a takeover. What kind of Takeover? Well it starts with the mental Takeover. Islamic rap music is designed to provide an alternative to the demoralizing music, and mentalities spread through many main stream music groups. The Takeover expresses the process but in a much stronger tone. We are taking over whatever non-sense has been placed in our Muslim youth minds and providing depending on the individual a remembrance or an explanation of what already lies inside of them. And this strength will takeover anything else that tries to bring them down or destroy them inshallah.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: Walk us through the production process to create a typical M-PAC studio track? How long can it take?
MPAC: It would depend on the complexity of the song, the artist, and the composition of everyone’s schedule. As I mentioned earlier, I am very confident that our artist are capable of dealing with any lyrical tasks put in front of them. They had to earn that respect from me, but they more then earned it. The hottest verses get on the songs. Everyone get to have their voice heard. We as a group discuss the general idea of the album and issues we would like to address, and move forward. A lot of the magic happens in the studio, while we are recording the songs. We add new ideas and test the water hearing the song on track, and the finished product is "The Takeover"
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: We have received feedback in our message forums about the effect your music has had on them. We have seen people come closer to their faith and deen after being inspired by your music…your thoughts on this?
MPAC: My thoughts are exactly what my father would say. "The goodness that comes out of MPAC comes from Allah; anything else comes from my shortcoming as a leader". We are just vessels that have been given gifts to speak and be heard. This music is a reflection of what already exist within us all. Mashallah don’t thank MPAC thank Allah.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: Random question: How old are you guys?
MPAC: I assume this is geared toward the music department. The organization as a whole is ran by young brothers and sisters. Ahmad al-ashgar and Ahamd Saleem are juniors in highschool. Muawiah jameel and the rest of us are in college or have recently graduated.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: You guys have an awesome website, who designed it?
MPAC: Mashallah the website has been designed about four to five times. And within a few weeks is getting completely changed again. We have a few brothers who are Graphic designers, Computer engineering/design, and local brothers who all contribute to the site. Muhammad Meah (computer engineering), Abdullah Fadhli(graphic design), Mustafaa Dafallah our young genius and future leader.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: You all have a HUGE fan base, what would you like to say to your fans?
MPAC: I would like to tell them MPAC would be nothing if it did not affect the hearts. Your support is what gets us up every morning, working to provide something special for you. Thank you for accepting us into you minds, hearts, and homes. We will stay Muslim Produced Inshallah, and we will always represent for our Muslim brothers and sisters around the world. You are where our hearts lie, our heart do not lie in sounding like non Muslims or try to be a part of their world. They are not our teachers. As Brother Jameel Al-Amin put it, "We are not here to imitate, we are here to originate, we are here to dominate". Stick to this deen brothers and sisters, because in the end it is all that truly matters. Much love MuslimHipHop.com. Jazakallah khair for your efforts.