–The Kite Runner
As the Taliban has captured Kabul and made its way across Afghanistan, taking control of its cities and people, new concerns come to light about the future of the United States and the citizens of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US is trying to focus its attention on bringing civilians to safety in the States, but the uncertainty and tensions are creating an unpredictable outcome. Although this may come as a surprise, Hip-Hop’s lyrical content spans far ignorant puns about Afghani Kush and being strapped like a militant. Some of the culture’s notoriously political emcees have been rapping about the war in Afghanistan for decades, calling attention to the United State’s role and motives in the political turmoil. Some argue that the US may not have always been so forthcoming about what they were truly doing in the Middle East and use politically fueled anthems criticizing the government to share their speculations. Unfortunately, a sad reality of this situation is that many feel as if the time, money, and lives spent in Afghanistan are now wasted, and the potential threat of another impending war is daunting. If you’d like to help the innocent people of Afghanistan, I encourage you to donate to the American Friends Service Committee. A friend of mine has been doing some of the most incredible work trying to help civilians with heart-breaking stories have a shot at a safe life by flying them to protection through this organization. The donations help fund the AFSC’s efforts with necessities such as evacuation costs, food, clothing, mental health and trauma counseling, and legal support. I will also be adding other fundraisers and resources to the end of this post. Regardless of what you think of this situation, there are millions of people whose lives are at risk, and even the smallest donation can help someone.
Lupe Fiasco is probably the most outspoken rapper when it comes to the conflict in the Middle East, so much so that he even got kicked off the stage at President Obama’s Inaugural party. In his track, “ITAL,” he even references some of the moments that received criticism, including calling the president a terrorist. He continues to say that his “tone was like an Afghani kid without a home, blew that bitch up with a drone. An Iraqi with no daddy, Palestinian throwing stones. The fuck you think they call him?” This lyric creates the idea that what Americans have done all these years when going to war with Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries wasn’t actually heroic or even still in response to 9/11. It became about power, and while Obama did scale back on how many troops were stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, he did substantially increase air wars. Unfortunately, air wars make it far more difficult to measure the civilian casualties, leaving families without homes and other members. As a result, Lupe questions what the people of these countries think of the presidents in charge of the drone strikes, speculating that they see the government as terrorists as well. He further questions the real reasons behind the war in his track, “BMF,” looping in how the war impacts the American people. He asks, “who use most the drugs? Americans. What’s in Afghanistan? Heroin. You think that’s by mistake? They can’t stop that.” By relating the war in Afghanistan to the war on drugs, Lupe argues that the poppy seed fields in Afghanistan are what the American government is after. By having access to the resources needed to make drugs, the government can then use them to control the American people by introducing the substances and getting them hooked.
In Run The Jewels’s “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck),” the duo enlists the help of frequent collaborator Zack De La Rocha to comment on the corruption and racism that occurs in the US, especially among the police force. Zack De La Rocha concludes his verse by rapping, “dump cases with face and the cop pleas when we seizing the pump, with reason to dump on you global grand dragons. Still piling fast, plus Afghani toe-taggin.” He equates the older white men who control the global financial markets to the KKK grand dragons, making it known the types of racist, money-hungry monsters that run the country. Unfortunately, a lot of them make obscene amounts of money during international crises such as the war with Afghanistan, which is just one more reason why it continued for so long. Killer Mike branches out to continue the conversation on his own in his song, “Reagan,” where he exposes the similarities between various presidents who have invaded the Middle East. He raps out his speculations by exclaiming, “if you don’t believe the theory, then argue with this logic. Why did Reagan and Obama both go after Qaddafi? We invaded sovereign soil, going after oil. Taking countries is a hobby paid for by the oil lobby. Same as in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Ahmadinejad say they coming for Iran.” All of the territories that Killer Mike lists are rich in oil, implying that the United States has been far more fixated on occupying these territories for that one sole resource. He also insinuates that all of these politicians, from Reagan to Obama, shared the same goals no matter how much time passed and no matter the repercussions, simply because they knew just how powerful oil could be for the United States.
Immortal Technique is another artist who has no problem with calling out particular politicians and how they handled the conflict in the Middle East. In his track, “The Cause of Death,” the rapper suggests that Bush played a role in 9/11 when he raps, “my words’ll expose George Bush and Bin Laden, as two separate parts of the same seven-headed dragon.” The rest of the song expands on that conspiracy theory, also hinting that Bush made a large payment to the al-Qaeda from 1989 to 1992, stating that it wouldn’t be beneath the United States to blow up two of their buildings when they have no problem dropping bombs that hurt children. He additionally raps that Bush couldn’t have done this all on his own because he doesn’t have the brainpower to do so, mentioning other key players such as, “Dick Cheney, you fuckin’ leech, tell them your plans about building your pipelines through Afghanistan.” At the same time that he held the position of vice president, Cheney was the CEO of a corporation known for building oil and gas pipelines. The company had its eye on Afghanistan, positioning it as the only route they could take. He continues his criticism of Bush in his track, “Impeach The President.” He revisits the war and his theory surrounding the relationship between Afghanistan and the US, rapping, “Al-Qaeda and America been doin’ business well. They’re tighter than Interscope and XXL. From the patriot act to rape in Iraq to Russia’s war with Afghanistan taking it back to Texas, Governor, your state is the most polluted.” Essentially, he’s telling the president to focus on his home state of Texas rather than focusing on foreign affairs because, under his four years, Texas was ranked the highest state in several environmental concerns, demonstrating his disregard for his own people.
In Jay Electronica’s “Dimethyltryptamine,” he highlights the people sent overseas and stationed in Afghanistan. To paint the picture, he raps, “the levee monster sucked up New Orleans while they was playin’ man vs. man in Afghanistan, with they mind on Iran, Iraq, and Sudan. Let him recruit you, he will try to use his powers to seduce you. Just let him think that the feeling is mutual.” According to Jay, those efforts could once again have been focused domestically, helping to take care of the US after the destruction hit during Hurricane Katrina. Instead, soldiers were killing one another, slowly becoming less humane and more trigger happy as the terrors of war wore them down. He also explains that there’s no end in sight because although they were currently focused on Afghanistan, they already had their next plans for Iran, Iraq, and Sudan. Once again, big players in the oil world. While the soldiers were recruited under the mission of preventing terrorism and helping innocent people, the United States Government always had a very different idea of why the violence was necessary, and it was going to be carried out regardless of who enlisted.
The last example comes from a slightly different perspective, although the sentiment is still very similar. In “Question Time,” UK rapper Dave created a 7-minute track to draw attention to important political questions that hold the Prime Minister accountable. The issues mentioned relate not only to British politics but American politics as well. He begins the song by asking, “how are you so wasteful when people are dying in Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya? The irony is we have no business in Syria, but kids are getting killed for all the business in Syria. And then they try and tell you it’s ISIS/in their attempts at killing it, how many civilians died, so what’s the difference between us and them? When you got drones killing kids just touching ten, then when a bomb goes off, every politician’s lost, like that last strike didn’t kill a hundred men. You ain’t the same as them. But all that fuel for the fire is what you gave to them, and what you take from them.” He first starts by addressing the violence in these countries and acknowledging the degree of privilege that we have to be where we are. His question is directed at the Prime Minister, making her responsible for the violence that’s occurring in the Middle East simply for personal gain. As a result, young, innocent children become casualties when they aren’t even old enough to comprehend what’s going on. And while we try to blame terrorist organizations like ISIS or the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, the British and American governments are terrorists as well for their drone strikes that kill civilians. He concludes his verse by discussing fuel and how it seems to be a large motivator for the violence. Instead of going about the transactions through peaceful negotiations, the big countries use force to extract it and establish their dominance, hurting innocent people along the way.
As always, I’ve included the songs mentioned throughout the post in the playlist below. Unfortunately, a lot of these songs are not available on streaming services for a variety of reasons, so they aren’t all included. Please make sure to subscribe below, and if possible, visit the resources to learn about how you can get involved the help the innocent Afghani people. I’ll admit that I was a lot less informed on this topic than I would have liked to think, and I realize now just how little we talked about these topics in school as they were actively playing out in real time. My heart goes out to the people of Afghanistan and all of those who are helping them. You are doing amazing work, and I can only imagine the emotional toll that this is taking. In some more positive news, it is exciting to know that here in Philly, our Philadelphia International Airport is one of the few selected to help bring the Afghani refugees to safety. I’m sure the city will welcome them with open arms.
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Hip-Hop with an Unlikely Perspective