• Nelly Performs In Kurdistan, Brings Late 90s Hip Hop Back To Iraq

    The militias fighting against the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and eastern Syria have a new unlikely ally: last decade’s star rapper Nelly, who performed in the Kurdish capital Erbil on Friday.

    Weeks ago, rapper Akon announced that he would appear in Erbil, “that 8,000-year-old city,” in Friday’s concert benefiting the Rwanga Foundation in Kurdistan. The foundation’s mission is to “assist the most vulnerable members” of the northern Iraqi region, whose peshmerga militias have been fighting against ISIS since summer 2013.

    The concert marks the final round of a youth soccer league, called Xoli Raperin, run by the Rwanga Foundation. The proceeds from ticket sales reportedly “go to those impacted by the recent conflict,” giving “help to those that need it most.”

    Unfortunately, on Sunday the foundation announced that “Akon has cancelled for personal reasons but hopes to visit Kurdistan in the near future.” In his place, unnamed “famous, successful American artists” would be taking the stage.

    And on Thursday, it disclosed that Nelly — most well-known for 2002’s “Hot In Herre” — would perform at Friday’s concert.

    Social media users in Kurdistan reacted with a mixture of Kurdish pride, excitement and confusion.

    You know your people made it when Akon and nelly are performing in Kurdistan! #bijiKurdistan

    — Free Kurdîstan (@alebabiri) March 13, 2015

    .@Nelly_Mo performs in Erbil, Kurdistan. #ISIS darkness has no place in this country! pic via @vvanwilgenburg pic.twitter.com/PwJbuGQI5R
    — Avêsta (@iRevolt9) March 13, 2015

    One Kurd suggested that Nawzad Hadi, the governor of Erbil Province, was hypocritical to meet with Nelly while ignoring the Kurdish fighters who had died on the battlefield against ISIS.

    How many martyred peshmerga families have been invited for lunch with #Erbil governor Hadi like #Nelly? #KDPLogic pic.twitter.com/ebJQV768NU

    — Ranj Talabany (@ranjtalabany) March 13, 2015

    Others criticized the poor planning for the concert, complaining about how sparse the crowd was for the purportedly groundbreaking event.

    I can hear the whole crowd at the #Nelly concert in #Kurdistan because it’s barely a crowd. Epic fail. #TwitterKurds
    — Lawen Azad (@LawenAzad) March 13, 2015

    I’m for inviting western artists (usually costly) IF money is raised, but mismanagement = poor turnout. Was there profits? #Nelly #Kurdistan

    — Nova K. Doski (@NovaDaban) March 13, 2015

    The celebration also included a show by motocross star André Villa.

    The Kurds, a non-Arab ethnic group, have spent decades in violent and nonviolent efforts to secure independence and self-rule from Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Since Islamic State terrorists began controlling large parts of western Iraq, Kurdish peshmerga forces have fought to push the group back, with limited support from the United States and other Western powers.

    Nelly’s most successful albums, “Country Grammar,” “Nellyville” and “Suit,” were released between 2000 and 2004 — accompanying the initial U.S. incursion into Iraq under President George W. Bush.

    Follow Ivan Plis on Twitter

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