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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.
Technology allows Virginia police officers to scan the license plates of passing drivers, but lawmakers want to limit how long they're allowed to hold onto that information.