But they’re also Muslim women who pray five times a day, don’t drink, and always wear hijabs.
The women are the first to admit this makes their chosen career rather unusual – in fact they’re widely known as one of the first well-known female Muslim hip hop duos.
“There’s this dichotomy,” says Owen-Douglas, 33. “Some days I’d walk down the street in my hijab with my headphones on listening to the Wu-Tang Clan. I’d catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and laugh. Someone would see me and probably think I can’t speak English properly, but I’m actually listening to rap.”
She’s not the only one who’s surprised by her music passions – she explains that most people look at the pair of them and never assume they’ll rap. “They think we’ll do some poetry, or sing, or be really soft. But I used to rap really hard, and I think it was because of these stereotypes.
“I wasn’t overcompensating, but we were trying to be like, we can rap just as hard as the guys. We’re not these kind of fragile, petalled flowers.”
The fast-talking duo do not come across like “flowers”. They’ve been rapping ever since they left their home town of Bristol to study at the University of London more than 10 years ago. Back then they formed their two-person group Poetic Pilgrimage, and now it has thousands of fans across the world.
It’s pretty impressive stuff, but of course, they also have their critics.
“It’s really because we’re women, or we’re doing music,” says Williams, 34. “There’s this idea [in Islam that] our voices are beauty, and we shouldn’t show our beauty.” She says that at gigs in the Muslim community the women have been asked to sit down throughout their performance and not move, or even perform behind a screen.
At a Muslim speed dating event, one man even told her “I’ll pray for you sister” when she told him about her hip hop. The women laugh over the story, and Owen-Douglas says that even though she’s happily married to a Muslim who supports her, people often tell him he shouldn’t let his wife show off her voice on a stage.
She says his response sums up their thoughts: “He’s always like, have you heard my wife rap? That’s not beautification – she’s scaring people.”
Having asked the women to rap for me, I see what he means (they go for it hard in The Telegraph offices). But it’s also easy to see why they’re so popular. They’re passionate, powerful and, quite frankly, good.
It’s no wonder that they don’t just get criticism from the Muslim community – some people often try and mould them into ambassadors for the religion. “We get expectations of what we should be,” says Williams. “People are always like, you should write a song about the Qu’ran. They want us to be their poster girl and not say anything against [Muslims].”
This is not what the women want to do. They’re both from Caribbean backgrounds
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