October 30, 2015 | Quote

U.S. Scratches Out ISIS Rapper

He was the best of the Islamic State’s stable of sucker MC’s. And now, his career is over. 

A U.S. airstrike in Syria killed Denis Cuspert, a German-performer-turned-rapping-propagandist for the self-proclaimed Islamic State, a defense official confirmed to The Daily Beast.

The death of 39 year-old Cuspert, arguably the most talented rapper recruited by ISIS, highlights the surprising relationship between the terror group and hip-hop. Cuspert’s effort is part of a phenomenon known as “Jihad Cool,” a push by ISIS to make the jihadist outfit attractive to young recruits.

Cuspert performed under the stage name Deso Dogg before he abandoned his career in 2012 to eventually join ISIS, where he adopted the name Abu Talha al-Almani and turned into the group’s most effective rapper. His role in the organization remains unclear, in part, because many suspected he had been killed years ago.

But he always re-emerged in propaganda videos, including one set to rap.

Rap, it turns out, is a quasi-loophole around the ISIS ban on musical instruments, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Daily Beast. In ISIS-controlled areas, playing these instruments is punishable by death. But Cuspert and others only used their voices, and their tracks were a cappella; unlike the rap music he made before joining the Islamic State, his body of work for ISIS did not include musical instruments, which the organization considers forbidden.

“Deso Dogg was far more successful than any other ISIS rapper,” Gartenstein-Ross said.


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