Music Is A Weapon: K’Naan, The Somalia Story & HIP-HOP’s Legacy As The Voice of The People

The festering & expected tragedy of famine in Somalia that has now captured the world’s attention & caused the United Nations to declare a famine in two areas of southern Somalia as the region suffers the worst drought in more than half a century has brought me to think about Hip-Hop’s global legacy in world affairs & in being the voice of the people, since many in the Hip-Hop generation only know of Somalia because of global hip-hop artist K’naan & the world attention on its pirates or freedom fighters -depending on who is telling the story.

We have world aid organizations, celebrities & everyday people once again all pleading for money from governments & everyday people since the last famine hit Somalia in 1992, just to once again allegedly throw money at the problem without addressing the roots of the ever evolving problem with the world’s African Foreign Policy.

Somalia has lurched from crisis to crisis since 1991, when the central government imploded. In 1992, the same elements of drought and war set off a famine that killed hundreds of thousands of people and started a cycle of international intervention that, despite billions of dollars and more than a dozen transitional governments, has yet to stabilize the country.” READ MORE

The UK Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, said the response by many European and developed countries to the crisis in the Horn of Africa had been “derisory and dangerously inadequate”…”The fact that a famine has been declared shows just how grave the situation has become. It is time for the world to help,” he said. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that Washington would provide an extra $28m in emergency aid to counter the famine. She said the US had already provided $431m this year in emergency aid to the Horn of Africa, but that was “not enough“…READ MORE

With famine driving more Somalis to Kenyan refugee camps, social media users rally to financially support victims. But, are the donations really benefiting those in need?The Stream spoke to The Nation’s National Security Reporter Jeremy Scahill about the current situation and the possibility of alleged mismanagement within aide organisations. Almost 380,000 refugees have sought shelter in camps created to house 90,000 people. Those who are not admitted build huts with sticks and plastic bags in shanties outside the camps. Rioting and rape are common within the camps, and Scahill says some Somali refugees are starting to consider their famine-struck homeland safer than the refugee camps which he described as “abominitions.” On Tuesday’s episode of The Stream, we ask: How are organisations using foreign donations, and are Somali refugees seeing tangible evidence of aide?” READ MORE

If we are truly tired of seeing these images, then we need to attack the real problem of the slow genocide of people who have not been allowed to use their own waters/resources to make a living & to feed themselves because of corporate interests/profits & international governments whose so called aid comes with life & death sentences in deciding whether to do as they say or demand freedom to do as Somalis wish. Mother nature is not eating her young-the lack of humanity in humans are! If we want to help Somalia then we must give our voices in attacking the root issues because money can’t buy freedom & Somalia deserves its freedom out of sanctioned enslavement in their own land, just as much as Northern Sudan & all the African nations refighting for their Uhuru-Freedom! We all need to follow the money trail because our few donations will not stop these images of skeletal children that we constantly come together to fight for, but our voices might just give the future generation of Somalis a fighting chance. The Horn of Africa is blowing, who will finally listen?

Freedom is not something that one people can bestow on another as a gift. Thy claim it as their own and none can keep it from them. We face neither East nor West: We Face Forward” Dr. Nkrumah

As artists from Africa, the Middle East & all points in between like K’NaanShadia MansourFemi & Seun Kuti, Wanlov the Kubolor, The NarcicystSeu Jorge, Nneka, Morgan Heritage, Blitz The Ambassador, & Emmanuel Jal-a war child of Sudan who lived to bare witness to South Sudan being the newly minted 193rd country in a new world , along with so many other global hip-hop artists become the voice for the people of their nation, who often never get a chance to be heard on an international stage; America- the birthplace of the Hip-Hop we know today globally- is a divided nation with growing poverty, broken education system, police brutality & high unemployment most adversely effecting the Americans who birthed Hip-Hop,  yet all we seem to be doing is celebrating your favorite rapper & his favorite rapper- all talking about how gangsta they are, how much swag they have, how hip-hop’s survival depends on whether they decide to take the mic or not, how well they lay the pipe, how much money & material possessions they have, how they have 99 problems but a bitch ain’t 1, money pussy weed and how great they are at all that they do from the point of view of two hip-hop generations.  Yes, this maybe an element of hip-hop’s many evolutions & not all hip-hop from its inception had or has to have a political bend to it; However the legacy of hip-hop that captured the world is that it was the voice of the impoverished & disenfranchised people when they needed it the most. As the late great Fela Anikulapo Kuti said : “Art is what is happening at the particular time of the people’s development or underdevelopment…people don’t have to smile in bad conditions…Music Is A Weapon!”

Complex: In the Middle East and North Africa, music, especially rap music, has been used to voice the discontent of the people. As an artist, what are your thoughts?
Khaled M.: In Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya the whole message was anti-establishment. When you are going against the establishment it is hard to have your voice be hard by traditional media. The people learned how to gather, organize, and get information out using social media to circumvent the system. Music especially throughout North Africa has always been popular and accepted by the people because they are used to dealing with oppressive regimes. There are other artist like, Ibn Thabit, whose identity is unknown. He never shows his face in videos for security purposes, but he sends out strong messages about what’s going on in Libya. I think hip-hop is an avenue to inform people who normally would not be in tune with the situation.

When asking about their role as musicians in spreading a message, Dr. Das responded, “For us music has always been a potential vehicle for commentary, for criticism, for spreading information. It’s like broadcasting except we’re funkier than CNN. If you’re making some funky sounds, it’s a great opportunity to spread a little bit of information. And then it’s up to people, whether they take it further, whether they research it, whether they sign any petitions, whether they go on a march, or whether they just start talking.  ADF has definitely used their success as a platform for speaking up on issues that affect them and their surrounding communities. As stated by Pandit G., “You use your profile as a platform. We were on the Voice of America in Washington, D.C. You had to go in and it was like going to the airport security. They x-ray everything and check everything. But, to get on that to talk about Mumia and to talk about Satpal on the Voice of America, the leading propaganda organization of this country, I mean you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to do it, but you can’t substitute yourself for real campaigns that are happening. We’ve got a given opportunity to be able to do this and that’s what we use profile for.Read More

The new Jay & Ye song “Otis “, which samples Otis Reddening’s “try a little tenderness” & Kelly Roland’s “Motivation”  featuring Lil Wayne songs are all I seem to hear about these days & as much as I may love & appreciate them on a strictly musical groove basis, I just can’t help but to look around me & have the desire  for an elevation in music that actually reflects the true soul & life of the fruits of Hip-Hop’s Roots. As Lauryn Hill said you can get the money u can get the power, keep your eyes on the final hour.

Come on baby, light my fire
Everything you drop is so tired
Music is supposed to inspire
How come we ain’t getting no higher? Now tell me your philosophy On exactly what an artist should be,Should they be someone with prosperity, And no concept of reality? Now, who you know without any flaws. That lives above the spiritual laws, And does anything they feel just because There’s always someone there who’ll applaud.
.” Lauryn Hill -Superstar

A snippet of Redding’s 1966 soul classic “Try a Little Tenderness” kicks it off and Jay-Z and West then get busy trading verses about how incredibly large they’re living. “I invented swag, poppin’ bottles, puttin’ supermodels in a cab,” Jay-Z declares. “I guess I got my swagga back.”..West scores points for dropping in a reference to Greek mythology (or is he nodding to the French design house?): “Luxury rap/The Hermes of verses/Sophisticated ignorance/Write my curses in cursive.”…But the references to luxury cars and private jets quickly lose their escapist luster, grossly out of step with a summer in which joblessness and foreclosure are becoming all too common for many Americans…” READ MORE

Otis Redding was one of the great American soul singers, who, although only enjoying a short career due to his early death in a plane crash at the age of 26, has been described as the embodiment of soul and one of the most important cultural icons of the civil rights movement. Before his death in 1967, Redding released 40 singles including: “These Arms of Mine” (1962), “Respect” (1965), “Try a Little Tenderness” (1966), and his only number one hit, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” released posthumously in 1968. In addition he would release 14 albums, among them “Otis Blue” (1965), “The Soul Man” (1966), and “The Dock of the Bay” (1968). Although Redding earned over $600,000 in the last year of his life and owned a 300 acre ranch in central Georgia and a private plane, he remained connected with his Southern roots, helping to establish local scholarship funds and participating actively in the Stax “Stay in School” project.READ MORE

If we want to celebrate Otis Redding’s legacy through hip-hop, then let’s stop sitting at the dock of the bay wasting time & try a little tenderness because we have dreams to remember as we watch the throne. All the bravado in the world means nothing if a warrior does not move his nation forward. Otis Redding was amongst the influential artists of the civil rights era. A time when the children of Plessy vs. Ferguson inherited Jim Crow‘s “separate but equal”  & has become our modern day no child left behind, charter schools pinned against disastrous public schools in specific areas of the nation, mom’s getting arrested for taking a by any means necessary approach in giving their children a fighting chance with the tools of a stellar education -which is not granted in the separated districts where they live, questionable direction in education systems that deny education & even a seat on a airplane to young people because of their hair styles & fashion choices, a heightened time where police brutality is expected with a home trained right of passage as to how to handle it when it is your turn, a time where many would rather take their own lives than face deterioration under abject poverty &  unemployment, a time when the fear of what is to come and hopelessness in the lack of freedom is coupled with a racially polarized political climate dividing & hurting the people of the nation with a national election up ahead, a time reflective of our history & legacy past, when the people needed the music to give them a voice, hope & motivation & the artists whose legacies remain for a lifetime delivered.

People define themselves by a region with which they connect. But, does the region to which they were born define each person? Not necessarily; this connection can be made through birth in a certain geographical region, but it is also more than that. It is finding commonalities in the values, lifestyle, image, and in regards to music, sound of that region. Otis Redding defined himself by the South. Redding identified himself as Southern not just for his geographical birth, but also by connecting with the many characteristics of the South, including the ever-growing Southern sound. He became a symbol of the South, being a role model for its values, aiding in the uniting of whites and blacks, and influencing numerous artists over the years. The South, often known as Dixie, is characterized by a history of racial tensions. From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, one could identify two Souths, white and black. Together, white and black Southerners developed their own culture, valuing religion, music, and food, as well as having a strong pride of place. However, when it came to the history of the South, whites and blacks didn’t see eye to eye. White Southerners were making their own history. Black Southerners were forced to follow the lead of their white counterparts. Because of its adherence to segregation, the South was often ridiculed for being racist, uneducated, and lazy. The 1960’s, however, marked a big change in the South. The beginning of the Civil Rights Movement and the passing of the Civil Rights Act occurred during this time. Southern music began its journey to desegregation as well. The distinct sounds of the South and the story-telling lyrics that joined served as a voice for the feelings and thoughts of individuals during the change occurring throughout the South in the 1960’s. To endure these changing times, black Southerners turned to the music of the South. As music itself started the desegregation process, white Southerners also found themselves drawn to this Southern sound. The bluesy and deep soul searching sound the South was known for provided an outlet for racial tension and a connection to one’s inner feelings. The music of Otis Redding fulfilled those very needs, as he was known as one who “exemplified to many listeners the power of Southern ‘deep soul…”This is a power that touched its listener’s core, setting aside issues of race and emphasizing Southern culture. ” READ MORE

Born in Macon, Georgia, Otis began singing as a youth when he kept winning local talent competitions. It was a time when racial segregation was strictly enforced, so white people were not allowed to attend. But unbeknownst to Otis, he had two white fans who parked their cars outside the theater and tuned in on their car radios. They later became his managers. They were spurned by the white community as “N-Lovers,” while the blacks accused Otis of being a “White Man’s N.”
Otis tragically died at 26 when his private jet crashed into a Wisconsin lake. He had just recorded his famous Dock of the Bay which was released after his death. I’m sorry Otis Redding died so young. And I’m sorry he did not live to see the changes the Civil Rights Movement brought. But he left behind a legacy of beautiful, haunting songs. And he sang those songs with feeling and passion from deep within his soul
.” Read More

Music is Art…Courage is the most important of all the virtues, Without Courage u can’t practice any other virtues constantly…You can Be anything Erratically…It’s been my blessing to have had some impact -Dr. Maya Angelou/Godmother of American Hip-Hop-Bridging the Gap/ Building the Future! Still We Rise!


We are living today, in a truly intense time in human history because people have become so exposed to what the world is & how the world works…this means that now people see clearly & vividly all of the tragedies of the world…none of us can hide from knowing the world’s pain as a result more than ever we need real reasons for hope…The Closer We stand 2 one another.. the more we r able 2 realize…that all of our separate individual struggles…in fact belongs 2 1 Singular Struggle !