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Iraqi American musician Stephan Said once went by the name Stephan Smith — his mother's maiden name. He adopted it after record label executives told him he would never make it as a musician in America with an Arab name.
But the decision to change his recording name to something more familiar to American audiences never sat well with Said, a social justice activist. With his latest album, difrent, he reclaims his birth name and continues singing about freedom and the American dream with a blend of world, hip-hop, and folk influences.
Said talks with NPR's Neal Conan about his music, the challenges of marketing music with a message, and the organization he launched to help other activist artists get their music — and their causes — into the public eye.