Iraqi rapper Khalifa OG: 'dark comedy is the only way to write about life here'

As his latest song reached 1 million views in 8 days, Hussein reveals his approach to rap

In a forgotten neighborhood behind Baghdad Airport, The 56 Gangsters are trying to deliver a message.

It is a group started by Iraqi rapper Khalifa OG, real name Hussein Khalifa, 23, and his friends when they were in school in Hay al Jihad, Baghdad, in 2016.

Hussein is one of many rappers in Iraq who are writing about life in the country in their own style.

His latest song, Tabsy, reached a million views in eight days.

“We started a rap group, me and my friend MC Dalo when we were in high school and we haven’t stopped since,” he told The National.

“We Iraqis are upset and sad – and we have many reasons to be. I found dark comedy and irony as the only way to write music about our situation."

Most of his songs represent common social issues in Iraq’s society.

“The idea of the song ‘Tabsy’ came when I was questioning if I should leave Iraq and people were leaving for Lithuania,” he said.

It is one of many issues he discusses in his lyrics. In his song Khrekh, written during college graduation year, he describes how hard it can be to find decent work.

“I try to talk about our problems in a fun way. We can not keep pestering about the issues. We have to keep it fun. Why else are we living if not?”

Updated: January 14th 2022, 7:29 AM