In hip-hop, it's common practice to display pride in your hometown or neighborhood in your lyrics. Yet, one Saudi Arabian rapper is facing prison time for making a record that highlights the city of Mecca.
A young woman rapper named Asayel Slay created a rap song called "Girl of Mecca." In the lyrics, she praises women from the city as "powerful and beautiful," and rapping "our respect to other girls but the Mecca girl is sugar candy." The track was accompanied with a video of Slay dancing around a cafe with men and women from the city.
However, this single and visual did not meet the Saudi Arabian government's standards. Although Slay doesn't utter a single obscenity and the video is free from any suggestive antics or drug use, the governor of Mecca, Khaled al-Faisal, ordered that Slay, and those associated with the video, be arrested.
He claims that the song/video "offends the customs and traditions of the people of Mecca and contradicts the identity and traditions of its high-ranking children." The video and song have since been removed from YouTube.
In 2018, the Saudi Arabian government announced that it would reform its restrictive policies. Despite this, activists believe that repression has increased as the government is looking to censor their freedom of expression further. These policies are typically disproportionately waged against women. For some people, the response to Slay's single is an example of this.
"This is so typical of the Saudi government to do - bring western influencers to artwash the regime but attack real Saudi women who try to artistically express their cultural identities," Saudi feminist, Amani Al-Ahmadi, said per BBC.
Supporters of Slay also point to the treatment of Moroccan singer, Saad Lmjarred. The normal punishment for rape in Saudi Arabia is the death penalty. But the government has allowed Lmjarred to perform in the country even though he's facing three rape charges.