By Michael Kane, GNN.tv
Politics in hip-hop is nothing new, and some argue it is the fifth, or sixth, element of hip-hop - depending on where you place the art of beat boxing. Whether it's the hard tones of Chuck D in Public Enemy, the streetwise prose of the Intelligent Hoodlum, the unapologetic words of N.W.A., or KRS 1's "edutainment," hip-hop has a long political tradition that is experiencing a revival from the bottom up. That revival has found a home in the self-described 9/11 Truth Movement.
The 9/11 Truth Movement started as an Internet-based research community documenting the inconsistencies in the official government version of what happened that day. As they gathered more evidence, some in the movement have taken the position that there were elements within the U.S. government and military complicit in the attacks. Others argue the government's official story as presented in the 9/11 commission report simply doesn't add up, and more investigation is needed before any conclusions can be made.
No element of the entertainment industry responded to the mass murders of 9/11 with an inquisitive mind and bold presence - except hip-hop. Because of this, Davey D's web site has been a significant, though unofficial, ally of the 9/11 Truth Movement, publishing articles directly related to 911 Activism.
While many icons in the so-called alternative media, such as Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, have shied about from meaningful investigation into the unanswered questions about the attacks, hip-hop responded first to the scene providing an alternative to the alternative. With the recent reporting that there is a "hip hop task force" in NYPD, it's no wonder why the hip-hop community didn't accept the official government version of 9/11 as gospel.
In spring of 2004, while being interviewed by Keidi Obi Awadu on LIBradio.com, this reporter spoke about the NYPD's harassment of NY911Truth and No Police State Coalition activists while in front of Ground Zero. Keidi's response was, "Hey, welcome to the club."
Politics in hip-hop rose to mainstream news in the build up to election 2004. The choir of voices in hip-hop against the Bush administration included Paris, Immortal Technique, and Dead Prez, as well as Jadakiss, and Eminem. Unique to the various approaches hip-hop took to the anti-Bush consensus was the willingness to take on the most taboo political topic of all.
These voices have added to the choir, whether intentionally or unintentionally, of the 9/11 Truth Movement. With the election having disappointed at least half of the country accompanied by charges of voter fraud on Nov. 2, interest is resurgent into what happened on 9/11. This is especially true in New York where many activists feel this is all they have left to obtain justice.
Yet it was the hip-hop community who stood alone in immediate response to what was really behind 9/11. Hip-hop wasn't afraid to ask the hard questions, make bold statements, and offer no apologies.
The first voice to speak truth to power regarding 9/11 was Paris on his release "Sonic Jihad." No stranger to political controversy, this hip-hop legend came out of retirement to confront the man whose Daddy he stalked a decade earlier on the cover of his 1992 release Sleeping with the Enemy.
Almost immediately after 9/11, Paris expressed his uncensored thoughts regarding 9/11. In his song, What Would You Do, Paris states:
Now ask yourself who's the one with the most to gain (Bush)
'Fore 911 motherfuckas couldn't stand his name (Bush)
A year after 9/11 Paris published an essay entitled The War on Terror, where he held forth on everything from the Patriot Act, to CIA drug operations, to who benefited from the crimes of 9/11, to his analysis of the term "conspiracy theory."
"Understand the label "conspiracy theory" is a tactic that the media often invokes to immediately discredit voices of dissent and people who seek truth," writes Paris.
"The first thing that you must do is ask yourself, over and over again, the following question: "Who benefits?’"
Paris narrated GNN.tv's documentary Aftermath, one of the first films to address the unanswered questions surrounding 9/11. He also teamed up with Dead Prez on his return release, "Sonic Jihad" on a song titled Tear Shit Up.
No one tackled the topic with more ferocity than Immortal Technique, the Harlem-based MC whose second release, "Revolutionary Vol. 2," opens with an introduction by Mumia Abu Jamal from death row. Nick Levis of 911Truth.org has said "Rev. 2" is "the official soundtrack of 911Truth.org" since it was all he listened to while writing the amended complaint to Elliot Spitzer's office calling for an independent grand jury trial investigation into the crimes of 9/11.
This is one of those special moments in history where hip-hop fans are privileged to watch a truly unique talent at the beginning of his career. In this case, Tech's fierce independence makes the artist's future very dangerous to the status quo. "Rev. 2" has independently sold over 35,000 copies in an unadulterated critique of American culture & politics with a focus on 9/11.
On track #13, titled "The Cause of Death," Tech states:
I was watching the towers, and though I wasn't the closest,
I saw them crumble to the earth like they were full of explosives
"What's interesting about that song, and others like it, is that I see more people starting to not be afraid," said Immortal Technique in a phone interview. "I don't know where they were hiding their balls before. Now all of sudden I think everyone thinks its cool to be subversive because it sells records but, you know, I was rhymin’ and talkin’ about stuff like this before hand; I wasn't the only one."
I asked what inspired that line.
"The line about the explosives comes from actual interviews and comments from firemen about the way they saw the buildings collapse - some saying they heard "loud explosions" when the buildings were collapsing. Some people have speculated that it was simply each floor caving in, but that would sound different. These are professionals saying this."
Accounts from firefighters who were first responders at Ground Zero have raised questions into how the towers fell. A discussion recorded in an NYC fire department on 9/11 between Salvatore D’Agostino and two other firemen from America's Morning broadcast on CNN, supports Immortal Technique's reasoning for penning the explosive lyric. So did a report from Fire Engineering magazine saying that FEMA's investigation into what caused the towers to collapse was a "half baked farce." Others such as Kevin Ryan and Van Romero have added additional weight to Tech's line of logic.
Tech is insistent that America's historical support and sponsorship of terrorism needs to be exposed before one take seriously understand how and why 9/11 happened. This is a history that he says has been "whitewashed."
For example, it's widely known that fact that Osama bin Laden was a CIA asset when fighting in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union during the late 1980s. What's less known are the links between al Qaeda and al Qaeda-linked jihadists and U.S. intelligence that persisted throughout the 1990s.
In the Balkans, for instance, the U.S. aided the Muslim Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in its war against the Serbs. The KLA was widely known to be involved in drug smuggling and to have included mujahdeen fighters from across the Muslim world. A 1998 Senate Republican Policy Committee report noted that the KLA "is closely involved in terrorist organizations motivated by the ideology of radical Islam, including assets of Iran and the notorious Osama bin Laden."
In the late 90s, the U.S. government, and U.S. oil companies, played ball with Afghanistan's ruthless Taliban regime, over the complaints of human rights groups. The Taliban received much of its support from (some say it was a creation of) Pakistan's ISI (Pakistan's CIA). The ISI was the conduit by which much of the CIA's anti-Soviet operations were funneled, and the close relationship remained.
On 9/11, the Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad headed the ISI. An Indian intelligence report forwarded to Washington D.C. and cited by the Times of India and Agence France Press (AFP) revealed that Ahmed had authorized a $100,000 wire transfer to Mohammed Atta before 9/11. Atta was, of course, the alleged ringleader of the 9/11 attacks. ABC News had earlier reported FBI sources confirmed that such a transaction from a Pakistani bank to Atta occurred.
On 9/11 itself Mahmoud Ahmad was in Washington D.C. on an official visit having breakfast with then-Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and then-Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), heads of the Senate and House intelligence committees respectively. The congressional investigation into 9/11 - headed by these very men - never mentioned Mahmoud Ahmad, never mentioned the $100,000 wire transfer to Atta, and never mentioned that Graham and Goss were having breakfast with Ahmad as 9/11 unfolded.
In August 2004, Porter Goss was tapped by Bush to head the CIA.
Follow My Lead on a Journey
While Immortal Technique and Paris were first in hip-hop to respond to these realities, Jadakiss later penned the line, "Why did Bush knock down the towers" in his #1 hit single, "Why?" Billboard Magazine quoted Jadakiss as saying, "I just felt he (Bush) had something to do with it. That's why I put it in the song. A lot of my people felt he had something to do with it."
That seems to be the general vibe on the street, especially in New York where both Jadakiss and Immortal Technique are from. A recent Zogby poll commissioned by the 9/11 Truth movement found half of New York City residents believed the Bush administration had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks and "consciously failed" to act.
"New Yorkers can smell bullshit," said Immortal Technique. "Everyday in New York there's some bullshit, some hustle. Someone's trying to sell you a phone that doesn't work, a fake Movado. New Yorkers aren't gullible - you can't charge somebody with a crime without a motive. New Yorkers look at the crime (of 9/11) and they see a motive - (the Bush administration's) motivation is money & power.
But Jadakiss later backed away from his original position in an interview with the Washington Post. This was after Bill O'Reilly had called the song an "atrocity" and Jadakiss a "smear merchant."
"It's just a metaphor," Jadakiss told the Washington Post.
Reliable sources say Jadakiss changed his tune because he didn't know the facts surrounding 9/11 to properly respond and make his case. In his interview with the Post, Jadakiss referenced Fahrenheit 9/11 for much of his information. According to Immortal Technique, Moore's documentary is "just scratching the surface."
9/11 Truth activists were very excited by the buzz hip-hop created by hip-hop around the entire issue, but no one expected what was to come next. Eminem teamed up with GNN's Ian Inaba to produce Mosh, which opens up with a re-enactment of Bush in Booker Elementary School continuing to read about a pet goat while America was under attack on 9/11.
The groundwork had been laid in 2002 when GNN.tv produced White America with Eminem, a politically charged video that was banned from MTV. But the second time around went way beyond all expectations, even reaching #1 on MTV's TRL.
"The most disgraceful thing that takes away from everything we are trying to do to expose truth and find out who the terrorists are and who wants to hurt America," says Tech, "is I don't think we’re doing enough to show the American public whose benefiting from those trying to hurt America."
Tech spells it out whose benefiting in The Cause of Death:
And just so conservatives don't take it to heart
I don't think Bush did it, cause he isn't that smart
He's just a stupid puppet taking orders on his cell phone
From the same people that sabotaged Senator Wellstone
bq. The Military Industry, has got it poppin’ and lockin’
Looking for a way to justify the Wolfowitz doctrine
And as a mater of fact Rumsfeld, now that I think back,
Without 9/11, you couldn't have a war in Iraq
Or a defense budget of world conquest proportion,
Kill freedom of speech, and revoke the right to abortion
Tax cut extortion, a blessing to the wealthy and wicked,
But you still have to answer to the Armageddon you’ve scripted
And Dick Cheney you fuckin’ leach, tell 'em your plan
About building your pipe-line, through Afghanistan
Tech's latest release has brought another hip-hop icon into the fold of 9/11 Truth - Mos Def. The song titled, Bin Laden, was featured on a mix-tape from DJ Green Lantern titled Shade 45: Sirius Bizness_. The song features Mos Def on the chorus saying:
Bin Laden didn't blow up the projects. It was you n*gga, tell the truth n*gga
This is reminiscent of the message from Dead Prez in their song Know Your Enemy, where Stickman says Bin Laden wasn't targeting his community:
They wasn't aimin’ at us. Not in my house!
They hit the World Trade, the Pentagon and almost got the Whitehouse
The chorus states, "George Bush is way worse than Bin Laden is."
But in the song, "Bin Laden," Mos Def is followed by a sample of the controversial Jadakiss line from "Why?" saying Bush knocked Down the Towers. At the end of the song Eminem is sampled:
Fuck money, I don't rhyme for dead presidents,
I'd rather see the president dead, it's never been said,
But I set precedents.
This line caused Em to be investigated by the Secret Service, though they determined he was "no threat" to the president. "Bin Laden" ends with a final word from Eminem:
Shady Records was 80 seconds away from the towers,
Some cowards fucked with the wrong buildings, they meant to hit ours.
Eminem is launching a new Sirius digital satellite radio channel called Shade 45. Let's hope it will be a safehaven for revolutionary music for years to come. Eminem boasts that he will use the station to launch "exclusive and uncensored hip-hop."
Michael Kane is a freelance journalist who fronts Clarity, the group who released the song buddy buddy in 2002 that detailed U.S. Air Force response on 9/11. They've just released a 2nd edition to their 2nd CD, titled THIS IS NOT A TEST, featuring the song Seven which focuses on the still unexplained implosion of WTC 7.