The Hidden World of Djiboutian Rappers

Quick link: Make Some Noise

This past July I had the honor of interviewing Fahmi, a young man trying to make it in Djibouti as a rapper. I caught him at a vulnerable moment, just a day after a friend of his had been killed in a car accident. Fahmi was such a fun person to interview – he thinks deeply, believes in his art, and has big dreams. And, he’s working to accomplish those dreams.

(my apologies for the dark and poor quality of the photos in this piece)


…Fahmi put out a cigarette before we started talking. He said that he was out of sorts this evening. He occasionally stared off into the distance and the green lights of a minaret reflected into his eyes off the water while I waited for him to return to the conversation. Sometimes he stopped talking and broke into rap or spoken word poetry. Sometimes he apologized for his use of crass language, and though he had no need to apologize, I confess that I was surprised at his mastery of English curse words.

“I learned English from American rap,” he said and I understood. “I’m trying to clean up my language, though. So I say ‘mother kisser’ instead of ‘mother fucker.’ Most of the time.”

I call the 17-year old, Fahmi the Rapper, that is how I entered his number in my phone, but he calls himself Norelnmam. Its an acronym for Number One Rapper Ever Little New M and M. That’s his stage name. He would like to become Djibouti’s next Tupac or Slim Shady or Lecrae. He has his work cut out for him and he knows it. After telling me his stage name, Fahmi broke into the opening verses of his favorite rap:

Life is just a game that we all play.
So I think its hell, you really think it’s a pain.
You struggle and you fight.
You better find a better way,
No matter what you face, just don’t be late...

Click here to read about the challenge of rapping in Djibouti: Make Some Noise (and to find out whether or not I take Fahmi up on his offer to rap in his studio)