Morocco and Algeria have the richest hip-hop scenes in the Middle East and North Africa region, Mr. Aidi said, in part because of their connection to the immigrant communities in the French urban peripheries where hip-hop is very popular.
“As break dance — or ‘le smurf,’ as it was called — took off in France in the 1980s, the styles would trickle down to North Africa, carried by European-born youth bringing cassettes, sneakers and tapes of ‘H.I.P.H.O.P,’ the pioneering French TV show which began airing in 1984, four years before ‘Yo! MTV Raps,’” he said.
According to Mr. Aidi, the form developed during a tense political period in Morocco when the government was cracking down on street protests, after the riots of 1984 prompted by hikes in food prices. While protesters and outspoken artists were targets, dancers flew under the radar because they were seen as apolitical. When a second generation of Moroccan B-boy crews emerged in the early 2000s, their art really began to flourish.
“The government also began supporting hip-hop in earnest in the mid-2000s, after the Casablanca bombings of 2003, seeing music as a way to keep youth away from extremism,” Mr. Aidi said, referring to a terrorist attack that killed 45 people. “The Moroccan regime keeps a fairly tight grip over the hip-hop scene, showcasing pro-regime rappers and isolating or arresting oppositional ones.”
Now, a new generation of B-boys, and B-girls, is forming in Morocco.
Hajar Chaiboub, 21, started break dancing at the age of 13. She saw a group of peers rehearsing near her apartment in Temara, a city close to Rabat, the capital of Morocco. They made her feel welcome and taught her the basics.
“It wasn’t like any other sport or even like dancing,” she said. “I felt comfortable. I knew all the guys, I was like a sister to them.”