No love, born free, red dawn, all gone
On M.I.A.’s new video:
A cynic might say that the American people elect Republicans when they want to ignore domestic policy and Democrats when they want to ignore foreign policy. A new video for the song “Born Free” by the British singer and rapper M.I.A. brings attention to how far down the memory hole America’s purportedly Tolkienian crusade against tyranny and evil in the Middle East has fallen.
The nine-minute video, directed by filmmaker Romain Gavras, shows a squad of grim-faced American soldiers cruising in a Humvee through a deserted urban landscape. The skyline reads Los Angeles gone the way of Baghdad. The soldiers enter a slum tenement, kick in doors and brutalize the residents, including a couple having sex. Finally, the soldiers find what they are after: a redheaded young man in a track suit. He is loaded on a prison bus full of other redheaded children, and they are driven out to the desert. En route, a group of radicalized ginger Jihadi pelt the bus with rocks. A propaganda mural on a wall declares “Our day will come.”
In the desert, the youngest boy is shot point-blank in the head, and the rest of the gingers are forced to run through an active minefield. We watch in slow motion as a boy is literally blown to pieces.
The video first caught the attention of American entertainment blogs when it was thought that YouTube had banned it due to its graphic depictions of sex and violence. (Actually, YouTube just made it harder to find.) Strikingly, the initial reaction to the video seemed confused. One blogger tried to relate it to Arizona’s controversial immigration law. Another asked, “But does it mean anything?” Still another claimed the video’s political message was a “little obvious,” which was ironic since everybody was overlooking what was smacking them in the face.
What’s blatantly obvious is that Gavras’ ginger dystopia visually alludes to the news footage of occupied Iraq. Four years ago, this would have been as plain to everyone as George Bush’s stupidity. However, the gingers don’t represent Iraqis, at least not as the mass media portrays them. They’re not brown, faceless and indistinguishable. In fact, they stand out conspicuously from everybody around them. You are forced to see them individually. Even when they are amassed on the bus, you don’t see them as a naturally occurring crowd, but as a set of people who share the decidedly unnatural solidarity of the coerced and brutalized.
In other words, the gingers are universal proxies that oblige us to put ourselves in the shoes of any number people around the world who have been dehumanized by military conflict. They could be Iraqis, Palestinians or the Tamils of Sri Lanka. “Born Free” smuggles through the back door what mass media and political discourse locks out of our minds, namely, that the world is still full of wretched and war-torn people, some of whom we owe a great deal of responsibility. Unconsciously, we may believe that electing a president with a middle name of “Hussein” absolves us of it, but it doesn’t. (Jeff McCrory)
Technical difficulties, small crowds and sticky floors are all things the average local hip-hop follower has come to expect. Colbie Caillat covers and Adam Carolla diss songs, however, are not.
Saturday night at Capitol Garage started with a hard-hitting set by SkyNet, the combination of Task1ne, Mr. Lingo, Mad Flows and the Digital Martyrs. The five-man crew started the show on an energetic note and was easily the highlight of the night, despite technical difficulties.
Halfway through the Digital Martyrs set, Archetype launched into a song dissing radio personality Adam Carolla for statements he made about the Filipino community. As an old school Loveline fan and nonracist, this stirred up all kinds of mixed emotions (which I later wrote Dr. Drew about).
Another Rap Group went on next and then Live Manikins, who were drunk and got more drunk before flipping off the entirety of the crowd outside. What’s ironic is that the only real highlight of this part of the show actually took place outside in a freestyle cipher featuring Task1ne, Mad Flows and some random hippie on a guitar strumming Eminem’s “Just Lose It.”
The headliner was Oregon’s MC Cookbook, who rapped about how much he was blowing up to a dwindling crowd of 15 people before covering Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly.” The bad feeling started in the toes and made listeners wrinkle their noses, but not in a good way. (Andrew Bell)