Ismael Lea South was born in May 1973. He was introduced to hip-hop at a young age and immediately became a fan. As he got older, he began to see the positive messages in the genre, which attracted him more while he was a student at South Kilburn High School.
Ismael says, “Our school had a large African and Afro-Caribbean heritage.” We used to listen to Big Daddy Kane, A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, Eric B., and Rakim, among others.
How it started
Initially, Ismael would nod his head to hip-hop beats, but with time, he began to notice more about the message his favorite artists were passing across.
“This was a time when a lot of the rappers were using Arabic phrases, and they weren’t necessarily Muslims, so they would say things like “Inshallah” (meaning God willing).”
Ismael also paid attention to artists with greater depth in their hip-hop music. This helped him look at life from a new perspective.
“There would be some rappers who would rap about how they started looking at life a bit deeper, and they’d rap about spirituality,” he explains.
Ismael Lea is not alone
South is not the only hip-hop artist to convert to Islam in recent years. Rapper Mos Def (now known as Yasiin Bey) converted in the early 2000s, and rapper Lupe Fiasco converted in 2012. Bey and Fiasco have been outspoken about their Muslim faith and used their music to spread positive messages about Islam.
Today, South is a proud Muslim and an active member of the hip-hop community. He uses his platform to promote peace and understanding between people of all faiths and backgrounds. He proves that hip-hop can be a force for good in the world.
South said he was drawn to Islam because of its focus on social justice and its commitment to peace.