Neelam Hakeem is no ordinary female rapper. Advocating women’s rights and speaking on social and political injustices through her music, she also represents modesty and Islam. Being a 31-year-old mother to two children and a wife to her husband, Marquis Henri, the former medical claims analyst has been lauded by the likes of Will Smith and P Diddy and for good reason…
Hakeem converted to Islam in 2007 and spoke of the challenges she faced with modesty to Vogue Arabia, “I never felt like I was fully ready to commit to hijab – my hair was a crutch for me. 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. I don’t have a Kardashian body,” she said humorously.
Neelam Hakeem also spoke about her final decision to wear hijab, “I remember it was March 27, Muslim Women’s Day, and I was going through the hashtag on social media. What I saw inspired me. When I told my husband that I was thinking about wearing the hijab, dressing modestly, and seeing if I can use my social media to inspire other women, he told me to do it. I’m a believer in doing something because you want to. Hijab should be a choice,” and hasn’t looked back since.
Neelam Hakeem has stunning African features and carries herself with an air of regality that she is perhaps unaware of. As she poses and endorses modest-wear brands for her 300,000+ Instagram following, she encourages a body positive image and successfully makes the silent statement that you don’t need to show your skin to be noticed.
The talented female rapper and her husband produce music together and sharing her opinion on female representation within the music genre, she stands up for the women she is inspired by, “Rap is not always positive in its portrayal of women. While I do believe that we should do whatever we want – no one should dictate to a woman how she should dress. There should be options.”
As she talked about her favourite icons, including Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu, she stated, “These are women who are positive, authentic, and not overly sexual. Meanwhile, rap has been calling women bitches and hoes – there’s no other music genre that treats women like that. It’s unreal. As if twerking is all we have to offer. Just have some more positivity! Instead of degrading a woman, call her a queen. I’m surprised by how many men are into this new direction, who say, ‘Wow, you’re so beautiful and not naked.’ People tell me that I’m changing the narrative; opening their eyes. It’s important for me to be able to touch people from all walks of life.”
From where she began as a rapper, when her husband, Henri, discovered just how talented Neelam is, it wasn’t long before her own lyrics were rapped into songs by Kane West and Jayden Smith, whilst iconic producers and rappers like P Diddy and Erykah Badu have championed her works on their social media channels giving Hakeem an online audience of some 47.7 million viewers and followers.