MANSOUR: Al-Qaida lyricist?
As part of a new "media blitz" -- news organizations are creepily yet accurately using some marketing lingo to describe this -- the al-Qaida-linked group Al-Shabab has released a new video featuring "Abu Mansour the American," who speaks in English to fellow muhjahadeen in Somalia. He's accompanied by an original English-language soundtrack that's part spoken word and part hip-hop verse; it's likely that Mansour is the vocalist, but no one really knows. It's being described as a "rap" song, although few people who listen to the genre today will identify it as such.
The terrorist group and its offshoot Shabab are clearly trying to hip themselves up to attract the youth. Hip-hop fans will probably recognize the style of the boastful voiceover in the beginning of the video, declaring it as a product of an indistinguishable production company and then saying the title "Blow by Blow" as quick-cuts of fighters flash by in a stylized way that seems intended to make it look like a music video. The track even has rhyming verses and a sung chorus, aping a little bit of the song structure used in plenty of hits over the past few years.
Here's a sampling of the lyrics, courtesy of the National Post:
"Bomb by bomb, blast by blast, only gonna bring back the glorious past."
"The American dream has fallen, Bush is going down like Stalin, the economy is crawlin', the widows are bawlin', you dead you be haulin', while our takbeers (chants of Allah is Great) keep callin'."
I can't really imagine how people like Afrika Bambaataa and other hip-hop pioneers would feel about this, although it's safe to say that kids are making hotter tracks with stock samples in "GarageBand" as we speak. Still, the globalization of musical styles and the trans-cultural appeal of hip-hop is a fascinating, and, in this case, horrifying thing. Experts on the genre and musical anthropologists will have a lot to chew on here.
You can hear snippets from the recruitment song in the excellent segment from "The World" on NPR that's linked below, or you can search for "Shabaab al Mujahideen" on YouTube and skip to the 5:15 mark to hear the whole thing for yourself.