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Hip-Hop's Words of War

By Errol Nazareth,

The war drums are beating louder and some hip-hop artists are finally voicing their opposition to a possible military attack on Iraq. Sure, the usual progenitors of conscious rap are speaking out, but where are the voices of hip-hop's commercial elite?

In a surprising move last week, Busta Rhymes, Capone & Noreaga, Missy Elliott, Fat Joe, Mobb Deep, Outkast, Pharoahe Monch, Bubba Sparxx, Jay-Z and Nas all spoke out against an imminent war. They were among 42 artists listed under the headline "War on Iraq is Wrong and We Know It," an ad credited to Musicians United to Win Without War that ran in the Feb. 26 issue of the New York Times.

And in an interview with MTV News, Fat Joe said, "It's all over oil. The president comes from an oil-driven family, [and Saddam Hussein] is the same guy who [his father] tried to kill when he was president. We entrust our president to not be biased and ... not [have] personal beef. I think this is personal beef."

"I'm opposed to the war because it's a murder-for-profit power grab," notoriously outspoken agit-rapper Paris says from his home in Oakland, California. "Many people will die needlessly. There will be huge civilian casualties in Iraq and many US military losses as well. And why? Certainly not because the US is in any great danger. There's been no conclusive evidence presented that Iraq has the weapons the US claims it has. Both Hans Blix and former US Chief Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter have said on numerous occasions that there is no evidence of weapons of mass destruction and that inspectors need more time. The impending war over there is an extension of the US government's manufactured enemy-creation and the war on terror."

One hip-hop crew who aren't afraid to cut through the US BS is Toronto's Dope Poet Society, who target Son of a Bush and his war on civil rights -- oops, war on terror -- on their just-released single, "War of Terrorism."

"It's not a war on terrorism it's a war of terrorism / The old imperialism / You know that money is the reason / America is killing for oil, not for freedom," goes the chorus.

While the music doesn't rock my world, I applaud the local crew for cutting the single and for participating in the anti-war rally here last month. Not only are they bringing revolutionary anger back to hip-hop, but they're reminding us that not all rappers are about living the bling-bling dream.

When asked if he's aware of any big hip-hop acts chanting down the war, Paris says, "Dead Prez, Michael Franti, and PE come to mind, but most either don't know or are uncomfortable with jeopardizing their current status. The sad fact is I've seen more instances of people doing pro-war songs who have become victims of the propaganda being fed to us than those who think objectively."

Which brings me to this revolting line from has-been rapper Canibus' single, "Draft Me." "Lurkin', to leave y'all with bloody red turbans / Screamin' 'Jihad!' while y'all pray to a false god / We ready for all-out war, it's time to settle the score."

Canibus just might get his wish. Some politicians in the US are proposing legislation to reinstate the draft, a bill would compel males between 18 and 25 to be enlisted in the US armed forces. Considering many hip-hop artists fall under this demographic, their lack of opposition to the imminent war seems even more curious.

"Although I disagree with a draft, the rationale given made sense because minorities make up a disproportionately large number of military enlistees -- far more than children of affluent families," Paris says. "In other words, the poor do the work fighting rich, white wars. A draft would supposedly require all who are eligible to enlist. However, I disagree with it all because war is not a solution."

This is the sentiment of Spearhead's single, "Bomb Da World," which Michael Franti wrote after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"You can chase down all your enemies, bring them to their knees," goes a line from the song. "You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace."

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