Rapper Neelam Hakeem is Changing the Game and the women are all for it! Championed by Diddy and Will Smith, Neelam Hakeem is breaking onto the scene with her piercing rap and modest hijab style.
“I converted to Islam in 2007, but I never felt like I was fully ready to commit to hijab – my hair was a crutch for me,” says burgeoning rap artist Neelam Hakeem. “From a fashion perspective, I didn’t realize that you could be modest and fierce at the same time; that you could walk into a room and command it. Not that I was ever a skin-shower,” she laughs. “I don’t have a Kardashian body.”
(Vogue) The diminutive Hakeem, whose face has the full and regal features of an African queen, is speaking from her home in Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband, Marquis Henri, their two young children, and her mother. At first glance, the 31-year-old, with her Instagram following of 300 000, may give the impression of being just another modest influencer, posing in brands like Dulce by Safiya, Culture Hijab, and Hayah Collection. Then you play one of her videos, and she starts rapping about everything from political and social injustices to women’s rights.
In a matter of months, her lyrics, rapped to songs by Jaden Smith and Kanye West, have made impressive rounds on social media. Diddy, Will Smith, The Shade Room, and Erykah Badu have all regrammed her songs. Their combined followings have broadcast Hakeem’s lines and modest style to some 47.7 million followers.
With her international visibility on such steep ascent, how does Hakeem stay grounded? “I have a mission,” she says, with distinct determination. “And my mission is more important than my ego.” Hakeem was born in 1986 in Seattle, Washington. She describes her childhood as normal, peppered with outdoor adventures alongside her two sisters. When she was 15, her parents divorced, and the world as she knew it shifted.
“My mom drove us from Seattle to Los Angeles, we stayed in shelters along the way. My first day in South Central LA was September 11, 2001,” she remembers. In her new neighborhood, she was exposed to guns and gang shootings around her school. Meanwhile, her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. “I saw her lose 80% of her bodily function,” she says of her mother’s rapid deterioration. “Growing up, I was a shy kid, scared of everything, but when my mom got sick, I had to step up – I had to take care of her and my sisters. That completely changed me. I grew strong.”