Friday, June 8, 2007

In case you didn't already know:

Davey D sez, "Hip-hop has been vocal about the war":
While debates raged in Congress recently about funding the war in Iraq, the Source Magazine, which has long been considered the bible of hip-hop, published an article asking why more rap artists haven't spoken out against the war. It also profiled Oakland rapper Boots Riley of the Coup and Mississippi rapper David Banner, because both have been vocal from Day One about their opposition to U.S. intervention in Iraq and assertions that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Ironically, the Source article hit the newsstands at the same time as a Chicago Tribune column by Grammy-nominated rap superstar Twista, who took the president to task for his veto of an early bill that attached war funding to a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Twista urged fans to speak up and do whatever they could to bring the troops home.

"They didn't attack us, so why should we have to attack them?" he wrote. "Sometimes I don't know what to think."

I'm certain Twista was offended by the Source article, just as I was, because his position on the war was similar to that of countless hip-hop artists who have expressed vehement opposition and have taken action.

In the Bay Area, three anti-war hip-hop compilation albums have been released: Hard Knock Records' critically acclaimed "What About Us," which featured Zion I, Blackalicious, Michael Franti, the Frontline, Piper of Flipsyde, Rico Pabon and Hobo Junction, among others; "War (if it feels good do it!)," a compilation by Bay Area music veteran Billy Jam, which features sound montages skillfully mixed by the DJs of Mass Destruction and songs from Public Enemy, Mr. Lif and local artists Azeem and Aya de Leon; and "War Times - Reports From the Opposition," put out by Oakland's Freedom Fighter Music, hosted by political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and featuring anti-war songs by local artists Goapele, Hanifah Walidah, Felonious and Red Guard and tracks by nationally known spoken-word artists Danny Hoch and Suheir Hammad. Many of the artists on "War Times" also organized and participated in anti-war rallies around the country.

We would be remiss not to mention Bay Area rapper Paris' album "Sonic Jihad," which was probably the first disc addressing the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq. Featured on this landmark LP were dead prez, Kam and Public Enemy. The album was accompanied by a 10-page essay and, later, a DVD breaking down the politics behind Sept. 11 and the war on terror. It sold more than 300,000 copies worldwide.

Also deserving a mention is San Francisco's Rappin' 4-Tay, who teamed with then-presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich to do the song "Weapons of Mass Distraction."

These examples represent just the tip of the iceberg. To date, more than 100 anti-war songs have been put out by hip-hop artists.

They range from Snoop Dogg's insightful "Brothers and Sisters" to Nas' Tears for Fears-inspired "Rule," Eminem's groundbreaking "Mosh," Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Mele-Mel's "Tha Bushes," and KRS's heartfelt track "Soldier." Even the Ying Yang Twins released an anti-war skit, "We at War." These are just a few of many that stand out.

Former San Jose producer Fredwreck brought together some of the biggest acts on the West Coast, including Mack 10, WC, Dilated Peoples, Defari, Cypress Hill and Daz, to do two anti-war songs, "Down With Us' and "Dear Mr. President." Radio stations were afraid to touch these politically charged songs, even though they were available for free.

Lupe Fiasco, Jay-Z, Cypress Hill, Mobb Deep, Wyclef Jean and Talib Kweli are also among those who have recorded, or were featured on, anti-war songs.

So let it never be said hip-hop has been silent about the war. We need to ask why we haven't heard more of these voices in the mainstream.

The first thing I thought of when I read this was that one can find anti-war songs in hip-hop going back well before the current US eternal war on terra. There's a tune called "Niggas Wanna Rap" by Mystik Journeymen from their late 1990s album The Black Sands ov Eternia that touches on the exploitation of young men in impoverished conditions in the service of American hegemony. Probably should make mention of poet Saul Williams' album Not in My Name, which was a powerful anti-war statement recorded and released at the height of America's pro-war hysteria. AWOL Magazine (sponsored by Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors) has been weaving an anti-war stance with hip-hop since the turn of this decade. The anti-war narrative in hip-hop is arguably as old as the form itself (check the spoken word artists such as Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron for example). Seek and ye shall find.

A shout-out to Left I for the tip.

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