Persian rapper Erfan has built a career on controversy. Having explored topics deemed taboo in his native Iran (where his music is illegal), he has often run into trouble for his outspoken views and his music has been tied up in political red tape. Outside of Iran, Erfan has lived much of his life in the US, continuing to write and make music, despite the fact that most of his fanbase resides in his home country. Inspired by a mix of world politics, Sufi poetry and hip-hop acts like Tupac Shakur, Ice Cube and Wu-Tang Clan, Erfan set out to become one of Iran’s first proper MCs, pulling from as many disparate musical influences from either side of the globe.
“Bayad” a cut off his second album, Hamishegi, features the rapper throwing down swift poetry over a jackhammering rhythm given a late ‘80s electro injection à la Mantronix, the beats slamming like ball bearings against hard rubber. Featuring Persian rappers Khashayar and Sarkesh, “Bayad” is a number to size up the competition. A diss track aimed at inferior Persian MCs, Erfan takes pot shots at his lesser-skilled contemporaries with cocky humour and strut. “My lyrics will always grab your attention / I got your eyes and ears because I stand out like a blood pot splashed on the snow” goes one translated line.
About his position as a music artist coming from a politically-troubled and conservative nation, Erfan is quite pragmatic: “[The conservative aspects of Iran] definitely was and still is an issue,” he says. “But at the same time I’ve broken a lot of boundaries and changed everything through hip-hop. Iranian people had never heard anybody talk about sex, drugs or even politics the way I do in music. In a way the parents became familiar with what goes on in the mind of our generation since there is a huge culture gap between us…. Living in both countries (Iran and the US) has helped me shape an unbiased point of view on the politics of both countries since I can critique both countries with personal experience to back up my positions. I love the people of both countries as my own, so when the foreign policies of either country have negative effects on the life of these people, I feel like I have to be vocal about it and express my opinions.”