New Muslim Cool
You might come to this film with some knowledge of hip-hop, or you might not. You might even have some knowledge of Islam, too. Neither is required, however, because New Muslim Cool is, when you get right down to it, a story of a man trying hard to know and be himself in the world.
Jennifer Maytorena Taylor gives us Hamza Pérez (formerly Jason), a Puerto Rican Muslim from the streets of Boston who, along with his Muslim community from Beantown, has transplanted himself to Pittsburgh, PA to start a mosque and put down some roots. Hamza is also a hip-hop artist, and he and his brother Suliman call their rap group Mujahideen Team (aka “M-Team”). Early in the film they joke that while they don’t speak much Arabic, they do know “Arabic Spanglish Ebonics.” As a former drug dealer who converted to Islam at twenty-one, Taylor frames the film with Hamza’s description of having two recurring dreams in his life: in one, he goes to jail, and in the other, he dies. He claims that “they both came true,” though not in ways he would have thought.
Throughout the film, we see Hamza working tirelessly to negotiate the seemingly disparate layers of his life, which includes managing the unintended social consequences of his hip-hop lyrics—think Immortal Technique—on his job as an interfaith prison chaplain. Without giving too much away, Taylor’s eighty-six-minute film brings Hamza’s journey as a husband, father, son, brother, artist, and man of faith into your living room in a way that will fully engross and inspire reflection—regardless of where you are coming from spiritually.