Shortly after releasing a viral freestyle that was regrammed by everyone from Will Smith to P.Diddy, Neelam Hakeem just dropped the hotly anticipated music video for her female-empowering new track, “I’ll Be The King”. The three-minute clip, which was directed by her husband Marquis Henri, does not feature the elements of a typical rap video. Instead, the hijab-wearing MC sits on a literal throne, plays football with the boys, and rides alongside niqabi women in motorcycles, whilst rapping about modesty, self-respect, and empowerment. “I done came through bondage/Now that I’m free/I won’t get stuck in a chain with another lame,” she rhymes, wearing a Nike Pro hijab paired with a Colin Kaepernick jersey.
“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,” said the rapper in the September 2018 interview with Vogue Arabia, listing Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu as “positive and authentic and not overly sexual” role models. “There’s no other music genre that [degrades] 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.”
So it’s hardly surprising that Badu makes a cameo in the music video, appearing towards the very end of the clip. “The icon living”, as Hakeem calls her, is seen sitting on her very own throne. Nestled by her knees is the burgeoning rapper, who lays her head on the iconic singer’s lap, suggesting acknowledgments of the female greats that came before her. “In 1997 I heard Appletree for the first time and it was a whole mood that had me hooked,” wrote the Los Angeles-based rapper alongside a teaser clip of herself and Badu from the music video, which she uploaded on her Instagram page. “I fell in love with the pure authenticity and messages she displayed through her art. To be sitting next to her in this video over 21 years later is truly unreal!”
The music video comes just weeks after Badu and Hakeem shared the stage during the female cypher at the 2018 BET Hip Hop Awards, which aired earlier this month. Watch the full music video above.