Music is the Weapon
DUST editor-at-large, Eli Tetteh, puts together the perfect playlist to demonstrate that politics is about more than politicians and their parties: it’s about the things that affect us all.
With so many things to separate us, it’s easy to forget the many motivations we have for uniting. In that patented laid-back baritone, M-Dot-ti-Dot steps into the next man’s chalewote and jogs our memory. “Junkfood manics, economics is a bluffer / Need to go organic or my health might suffer,” he says, skipping between health hindrances and lamentations about love. No matter what’s eating you, M.anifest has a slice of commiseration to make you feel less alone. “There’s something unusual and beautifully strange about pain / Tell me, what’s sun without rain?” Thanks for the reminder, M-Dot.
Common: “Between Me, You & Liberation”
I grew up listening to the Common, the battle-rapper who dropped punchlines like “in a circle of f*ggots, your name is mentioned”. To see him mature to a point of critiquing his own homophobia is nothing short of breath-taking. “My whole life it was instilled / This ain’t the way that men feel” he admits, offering up the inner monologue of a “coming out” conversation he had with a long-time friend. As our own society answers questions of tolerance and human rights, Common reminds us that religious or cultural beliefs need never blot out our compassion. “How could I judge him? / Had to accept him if I truly loved him.” Indeed, Rashid.
Tumi (of Tumi and the Volume): “Powa”
This scathing remix almost makes me forget Kanye ever did a song of the same name: so powerful is Tumi’s militant feminist sentiment. The vulnerability of the opening bars alone is a Molotov cocktail to misogyny: “To every girl I cheated on, disrespected, beat on / Called a whore, peed on, had sex with illegal,” he confesses, framing the tirade as a collective apology letter. Using hip-hop, traditionally a vehicle for male aggression, Tumi skewers men for their poor stewardship of the young girls in our societies, laying culpability for generations of chauvinism at the feet of his counterparts. “Lady, that’s not your shame / That there is ours…” Could there possibly be a more powerful use for privilege?
Lauryn Hill: “I Find It Hard To Say (Rebel)”
L. Boogie’s Unplugged is viewed by many fans the same way some perceive the World Trade Centre: a memorial to madness, the spot where it all went wrong. Dig deep enough, however, and you’ll uncover gems like this soft-spoken call to arms. “You think our lives are cheap and easy to be wasted / As history repeats, so foul you can taste it,” Lauryn sings, indicting the elite for their callous disregard for the underclass. After witnessing the UK’s recent riots, it’s hard not to be chilled by Ms. Hill’s hoarse voice singing: “My own eyes can see through all your false pretenses / But what you fail to see is all the consequences…”
M3NSA/Wanlov: “Tenk U”
Amongst an endless roll call of black revolutionaries – Patrice Lumumba, Imhotep, Yaa Asentewaa and more – the FOKN Bois evoke the ancestral spirits of the past and empower us in the present. “I still be very inspired, even though oppressors screw up / We all fi do something if one person fi do am,” Wanlov spits. In an age when day-old tweets are stale and our most concrete connection to yesterday seems to be the browser history we just erased, “Tenk U” confirms that the past is not only relevant, but sacred.
Asa: “Preacher Man”
Asa lays bare the fragility of the human soul in this modern-day psalm. Whilst Africans have long possessed a dignified appreciation for the divine, it is often obscured today by proselytizing zeal or puritanical arrogance. “Oh, Lord, I’ve been very greedy / I worshipped money, I wouldn’t help the needy,” Asa sings, reminding us that there is more to spirituality than judgmental finger wagging. Few things are more delicate than matters of faith and belief. However, rarely are other subjects discussed with such a paucity of nuance. The picture Asa paints – of spirituality as vulnerability – does just that.
Stephen Marley ft. Wale: “Made In Africa”
The disembodied vocal sample that this track opens with drops more than a few jewels: “Africans were the first builders of civilization; they discovered mathematics, invented writing, developed science, engineering, medicine, religion, fine art & built the great pyramids.” With those words, the Marley son lays the foundation for this soulful ode to our luminous continent. By the time the Nigerian-bred rapper Wale drops by to discourse on Mama Africa’s dignity, the cipher is complete: “I can never be ashamed of her / I got my features and my name from her.” What inferiority complex, I hear you ask? Exactly.
Jay-Z/Kanye West: “Murder to Excellence”
In their latest video, Ye and Jay carve up a Maybach with a chainsaw and do “atswitswi” in the parking lot whilst pearly-toothed models hang onto the car frame for dear life. Out of touch, right? Perhaps. But here messieurs Carter and West show that they haven’t lost touch with the calamities of the common man. “Is it genocide? Cause I can still hear his Momma cry / Know the family traumatized, shots left holes in his face about piranha size,” Kanye eulogizes. Whilst the two may have risen to lofty upper class heights, they locate their success within the larger black struggle. Nkrumah told us that “the greatest wrong which the departing colonialists inflicted on us… was to leave us divided.” Without knowing it, Jay echoes the same unifying truth: “Power to the people / When you see me, see you.”
Femi Kuti: “Oyimbo”
Scholars and laymen alike have, for decades, ruminated on who’s to the blame for the laundry list of problems many African countries have wrestled with since their independence. Femi’s answer is two-fold: the Western world and its exploitive tendencies, combined with our own willingness to sell ourselves short. “Salvation comes from within,” he says, subtly suggesting that the way out of our troubles lies not in the benevolent hand of the IMF, World Bank or even foreign NGOs, but rather in our own clutched fists. “Oyimbo done kill Africa finish.” Yes, but if you look closely, you can see the hint of a resurrection on the horizon…