The three tough guys in baggy trousers and oversize T-shirts strutted across the stage to a hip-hop beat, swinging their microphones from side to side.
Then, as a ball of fire flashed across a screen on stage, the tough guys began to rap. "Forgive us our sins and protect us from the fires of hell," they chanted, along with the Arabic profession of faith for Muslims: "La ilaha illalah" (There is no god but God).
That night at DePaul University, rap music and Islam merged in the form of MPAC, a Muslim hip-hop band from the South Side. The group, one of several in the United States, is part of a growing movement with ambitious goals.
"We try to have lyrics to uplift Muslim youth," said band member Luqman Rashad. "We want them to know that Islam can be strong and cool."
Muslim hip-hop is but one sign of a new and evolving American Muslim identity. Across the United States, Muslims are bringing their religion to Latinos and African-Americans, who are converting to Islam in greater numbers.
In return, they are learning creative ways to fuse Islam with other cultures and traditions.
"It is our goal to bring races together," said Jameel Karim, another MPAC musician. "Music is so powerful and universal."
While Muslim hip-hop bands have achieved varying degrees of success, they have one thing in common: The lyrics remain true to Islamic beliefs...
But in the mid-1990s, Sunni Muslims began creating their own music. This form of hip-hop, produced largely with a Muslim audience in mind, is becoming popular in several cities, fans say, with the better-known groups including Native Deen of Washington, D.C., and California's Jurassic 5...