i’d been avoiding busta rhymes’ “arab money” track ever since it came out. i just thought it would be some really ignorant ish, something i didn’t really feel the need to expose myself to. i mean, i cringed every time i heard palin say eye-raq, until i discovered that if i wanted to avoid being annoyed, all i had to do was switch the channel which she came on (a larger-than-necessary expenditure of energy as my remote does not work). so if something annoys me, or i think it’s going to annoy me, i simply don’t expose myself to it.
a couple of days ago, a friend asks me, “what are they saying in the chorus?”, and played me the original release with busta and spliffstar. they weren’t really saying anything. it wasn’t as offensive as i thought i would find it. i mean, the first release says a lot more about the ignorance of busta (which i found disappointing, as i had really given the man more credit than that) than it does about arabs. i’m really not that sensitive that i’m going to get insulted every time an american says “a-rab”, however, i’m totally going to judge them.
the day after, i was actually defending “arab money”, saying it wasn’t worse than other examples of rappers misappropriating arab culture (jay z, wyclef jean, noriega, etc.) or east coast rappers’ love affair with anything remotely related to kung fu. or the current jamaican fetishism that’s going on in hip hop.
but then i heard “arab money”, the remix.
and i was mad offended.
i thought i was down, vowing to die for the protection of free speech. i didn’t have to agree with what someone else said to argue that they had every right to say it. i mean, i still am, except now i’ve added a caveat. with rights come responsibilities, and although the right to free speech covers a lot, i don’t extend it to cover blatant disrespect with the intent to start controversy. there’s a responsibility to respect others.
this is all because the song’s hook includes t-pain singing the first two lines of the quran to a beat and other rappers brag over it. it’s mad disrespectful.
oh, and i hate the fact that commenting on or challenging the fact that busta (or t-pain or ron browz or whomever) took something that is sacred to millions upon millions of people and used it as the hook on some jiggy track means that i’m getting all up in it because people can’t do anything un-islamic. it doesn’t. i did have a strong visceral response to hearing the quran used in that way. but to write this, i tried my hardest to remove myself from responding from a place of gut feeling, and moved somewhere more rational.
so here’s my argument: free speech/artistic license is a beautiful ideal. it means (or should) that you are able to say what’s on your mind or in your heart without fear of persecution. it means that you have a voice. it means you can point out the problems with the system, talk about what’s going on, ask questions, demand answers, and make art that upsets the status quo. but, if you have the right to free speech, you also have to acknowledge that you have a responsibility to respect.
hip hop knows free speech. and it also recognises the power of languages (“these are the words that i manifest”, “word is bond” etc.). yet rappers persist to distance themselves from responsibility once they put their music out, but cry out “free speech, artistic license, blah blah, y’all” every time they’re criticised for their content. this hypocrisy has got to stop. if you can’t own your words, if you can’t take responsibility for your artistic output, if your intent is not respectful, then in my opinion, you’ve given up your right to free speech. and commercial success. unfortunately, i’m not going to be agreed with here, as lack of integrity has never been a deterrent to success.
i’ve already seen busta in concert twice. i won’t be seeing him a third time. and that makes me sad because he’s a talented lyricist and an excellent performer.
ps - and on a side note, muslim and arab are not synonymous. a person can very very easily be one and not the other. i happen to be both.
isms20081209: so i like myself more than i like you
i’ve been accused of being a social recluse these last couple of months. what can i say? i happen to enjoy my own company. i like spending time with me. i’m fun. i have way more fun chilling by myself than putting on five layers of clothes, getting soaked to the kneecaps with a combination of snow and rain, freezing in temperatures nobody should be made to go through, to hang out for five hours somewhere surrounded by a bunch of drunken hipsters all wearing american apparel and those glasses everybody made fun of you for wearing back in the 80s.
i like my apartment. it’s awesome. and warm. and it has good vibes. and heating. it also has my library, my laptop, my bass, and a trunk of diy projects that i keep meaning to complete. i’m always busy at home, and never bored.
and i don’t think i’m being anti-social. my flat has a social life of its own, that hardly involves me. it’s rare that a day passes by without people stopping over randomly, whether for a quick coffee and a chat or to spend the night. i love having people over, but my tropical ass is not leaving this house without a good enough reason.
You gotta be fortunate, you gotta be lucky now I was just sitting here thinking good and bad But I’m the kinda woman that was built to last They tried erasing me but they couldn’t wipe out my past
To save my child, I’d rather go hungry I got all of Ethiopia inside of me And my blood flows through every man In this godless land that delivered me I’ve cried so many tears even the blind can see
This is a woman’s world, This is my world. This is a woman’s world, For this man’s girl. There ain’t a woman in this world, Not a woman or a little girl, That can’t deliver love In a man’s world.
I’ve borne and I’ve bred, I’ve cleaned and I’ve fed, And for my healing wits I’ve been called a witch, I’ve crackled in the fire and been called a liar, I’ve died so many times, I’m only just coming to life.
“The short story should be a sacred form, since it’s the most common way we tell our lives. That’s why, in my opinion, the most effective kind of story is short indeed, very short & pointed. Short enough & pointed enough to make your teeth curl.
The short story is a breath of life. Both dimension and basic function. Like the lungs expanding, retracting. The circle of transbluesent spirit in and out, connected like a wheel, a circle, how we go, our role.
The rhythm is the dialectic that creates description. Everything is a story. Rhythm is the most basic, the shortest of all stories, the Be & At.”—"Northern Iowa", Amiri Baraka in Tales of the Out & the Gone
Dec 7 - after I posted this, my mother sent me the following email:
"When I was young as a Bluebird and a Girl-guide, we were taken to the Mygoma where we volunteered to feed and change the babies. We were also taken to the Hospitals to the Neonate Unit to help even before the abandoned ones were taken to the Mygoma. That was in the late Sixties. It is very sorrowful to see that through the years things have not changed. Even more disastrous is the practice of pediatric medicine, and the fact that the attending staff in the Mygoma were not better informed about the fundamentals of babies’ health."
last week, i received an invitation in the mail. to the ten-year reunion for my graduating class from university college london. a whole decade since i left with a degree and an overwhelming sense of now-what?.
obligatory severely condensed wrap-up: a second bachelor degree, a masters degree, almost four certificates. london, khartoum, denver, pittsburgh, vancouver, regina, moose jaw, calgary, edmonton, ottawa, montreal, east lansing, winnipeg, boulder, toronto, havana, geneva. from science to journalism to environmental communications with a sprinkling of project management, graphic design, social work, and urban planning. published in anthologies, magazines, websites, and self-published a chapbook. art shows, under- and over- ground. found and lost friends (RIP). found and lost cars (scrap heap). found and lost cats. found and lost love (no regrets, carpe diem, right meems?). grew up. befriended my slow cooker, snowboarded, learned spanish, bought a bass. titled “writer”, “poet”, “journalist”, “promoter”, “consultant”, “teacher”, “tanti”, “multidisciplinary artist”, “maneater” (hall and oates, holla!)… self-indulgence bores me, i’m done.
i’m a lot happier today than i have been for the past ten years. i love my home. i’m surrounded by good people. music keeps me going. i’ve not befriended my depression, but at least i’m trying to find ways to carry a lamp with me into the darkness.
and i figured out that i’m part-shark. if i don’t move i’m dead in the water.
I crisscrossed with Monk Wailed with Bud Counted every star with Stitt Sang “Don’t Blame Me” with Sarah Wore a flower like Billie Screamed in the range of Dinah & scatted “How High the Moon” with Ella Fitzgerald as she blew roof off the Shrine Auditorium Jazz at the Philharmonic
I cut my hair into a permanent tam Made my feet rebellious metronomes Embedded record needles in paint on paper Talked bopology talk Laughed in high-pitched saxophone phrases Became keeper of every Bird riff every Lester lick as Hawk melodicized my ear of infatuated tongues & Blakey drummed militant messages in soul of my applauding teeth & Ray hit bass notes to the last love seat in my bones I moved in triple time with Max Grooved high with Diz Perdidoed with Pettiford Flew home with Hamp Shuffled in Dexter’s Deck Squatty-rooed with Peterson Dreamed a “52nd Street Theme” with Fats & scatted “Lady Be Good” with Ella Fitzgerald as she blew roof off the Shrine Auditorium Jazz at the Philharmonic
Artists I have seen live (before my memory completely fails me)
Genesis Joe Cocker Prince (w/The Rainbow Children) James Brown Craig David Kele le Roc Sharon Jones Anthony Hamilton KRS-1 Busta Rhymes Kardinal Offishall John Holt Tricky Roots Manuva John Legend The Roots Platinum Pied Pipers K-Os Arrested Development Big Black Lincoln The RZA Devin the Dude Tumi & the Volume Dizzee Rascal BeenieMan Tanto Metro & Devonte Shaggy Rayvon Toots & the Maytals Stiffed Alabina Barrington Levy Bahamadia 88 Keys Marley Marl Ladybug Mecca Peanut Butter Wolf Jazzy Jeff Osunlade Maceo Parker Dwele Amiri Baraka Clifton Joseph Mood Ruff De La Soul Foxxy Brown Poor Righteous Teachers Lil Jon Bedouin Soundclash Death From Above 1979 Kanye West Colin Munroe Ludacris The Pocket Dwellers Empirical Dennis Rollins Mulatu Astatke Stepchyle Omar 88 Keys Rich Medina Grandmaster Flash
“It’s really not so good to have time. Rush, scramble, desperation, this missed, that left behind, those others too big to fit into such a small space—that’s the way life was meant to be. You’re supposed to be too late for some things. Don’t worry about it.”— The Last Unicorn