A leading light on the underground Iranian rap scene, Justina has been active in hip hop since she was 16. The rapper told us about her journey in music and her fights in a country where women who sing alone in public risk prison.
How and when did you discover hip hop?
I have been in love with music since I was a child and used to sing a lot, but never thought I’d be a singer one day. I was familiar with American rap but discovered Persian rap when I was 16 with the Iranian underground hip hop group Zedbazi. I was a teenager at the time and had a lot of energy and dreams, and was feeling strong. I realized that hip hop and rap could be my best friends, help me understand my feelings and empower me. I listened to Iranian and American rappers as well.
You’re a writer, a singer and a rapper. Did you start to write, sing and rap at the same time?
I started writing classical poems when I was 10 and didn’t have any experience in writing rap lyrics before the age of 16.
In Iran, you can go to jail for singing political songs, that’s why you recorded many tracks in secret. How do you deal with that?
It means that I and all underground female singers take a lots of risks but we want to do what we want! And we can’t forget our dreams.
What is the female hip hop scene like in Iran? Are there many other femcees who defy power like you do?
I live in Tehran, Iran and the female hip hop scene there is not doing well. People think girls shouldn’t sing, especially rap, because in our culture, when women sing or do music, it means they get to know other male artists who can abuse them. Many girls and women are afraid of expressing themselves and trying to make their dreams come true because of our government. But there are some women like me who can’t hide.
According to you, what should be changed in the Iranian society to make women’s lives better?
First, people must change the way they think and understand that women are human beings. If they can understand this, everything will be better for us.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why?
No I don’t, because I just shout out my rights, my human rights, the rights that men have but I don’t.
What are you listening to these days?
Good music of all types with good lyrics.
What are your upcoming projects? Any chance to see you (again) in France soon?
I have some works that will be released soon and my new video “Mesle Ham” was released a few days ago. I wish come to Paris again and have a big concert there.
What do you think about Madame Rap? What should be changed or improved?
It’s a good idea and I think it can be a TV program, like an introduction to female rappers.