War Child

The Oscar nominations were announced yesterday and I was pleased to see that both Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou received nods for Blood Diamond—the best film nobody has bothered to see. I actually only saw it myself last week, but I was so glad that I did. Not only did it deal with the issue of conflict diamonds, but it also shed light on the lives of kids that are recruited into wars.

When I was in South Africa at the African Hip-Hop Summit in 2005, I met a rapper named Emmanuel Jal (his track “Baii” is featured on the Blood Diamond soundtrack). Emmanuel told his story at the conference. I remember sitting in the packed auditorium—which was rendered completely silent—as he detailed the horrors he endured as a seven year-old boy in the Sudanese civil war. I looked around the audience and saw that everyone was crying. Emmanuel shared about the slow process of rejoining the land of the living, and of learning to love again. His story was, in the end, profoundly hopeful. His faith was a huge part of this journey, but so was music. “Music is just like love,” he recently told National Geographic. “You can’t stop it when it comes.” You can feel this sense of joy in all his tracks. Emmanuel is Christian, and a couple years ago he recorded a CD, “Ceasefire,” with a Muslim Sudanese musician Abdel Gadir Salim, bringing together both sides of the conflict. The music blends rap with African rhythms and instruments. My favorite song from the project is “Gua.” You really haven’t lived until you’ve heard Emmanuel perform it live in an open air arena in Johannesburg—the energy in the crowd was absolutely euphoric. Check it out on MySpace. And his new track “War Child” too.

Similarly, the New York Times Magazine published a cover story a week or two ago by former child soldier Ishmael Beah, whose book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Child Soldier will be released mid February. In the article, Beah writes of being at a rehabilitation center and how Run-DMC tapes helped him open up to a nurse about his trauma and start the healing process.

It got me thinking about the role that hip-hop plays in war zones. It’s mind-boggling to think of all of the different contexts that hip-hop is playing out in—and how people all around the world find solace in it. The anti-rap crusaders should remember this when they start trying to censor hip-hop.

  • che

    that nas track on the soundtrack is hot.

  • CHIZAMP

    Damn…nice post Tara…i’m going to check that movie out…been meaning to but i’ve been hella busy

  • Moe Real

    There are no conflict diamonds anymore… so it’s pretty frustrating to hear Kanye, DiCaprio et al. take up the cause now. Three years too late. But I guess the point of movies are not to take up causes, but to entertain.

    The only conflict diamonds now are in northern Ontario, where Native land is being pillaged for diamonds.

    Also: did you know Rob Base flipped the Edwin Starr song “War”? Awful.

  • EReal

    Ive felt the same way all my life. Im not going to even try to identify with what this man went through, but HipHop and Music has always helped me through life as well as helped me change it. To me he’s completely right, music is like love, in that it can be profoundly life changing and eye opening. Ive been through some really hard shite, and music was always there. It’s the one constant escape.
    This truly shows the power of HipHop across the world, not just in america, and I totally agree with you Tara-Squad. The censors and rap haters need to hear a story like this, even though they probably wouldnt appreciate it the way we hiphop heads do. I only think thats because this shows validation and vindication for us. This shite isnt a joke, we’re forreal and hiphop is here to stay.

    1 hunned.

  • http://whocareswhatpeoplethink thecollinb

    there are still conflict diamonds….don’t think that just because the United States and a few other “well to do” countries have publicly sworn off conflict diamonds that they no longer exist…the diamond game is still very much “who’s got it for cheap”
    ….and for the record Kanye is a tool

  • Karim J

    These stupid ass rappers should think about that too. Im 31 and i cant fucking take it anymore. EVERY freestyle and damn near song has some bitch nigguh busting, blastin, woppin knots, cappin, and causing someone to leak, lean, bleed, slump, scream, with their crew, posse, goons, soldiers, hood, mafia families, bithes and nigguhs, for dough, cash, guap, fetti, ice, shine, gleam, so on so on and so on, while they are all in it for the hood and they peoples and the fucking street. Whats images are they exactly supposed to be getting. I saw blood diamond and it was a great movie and i respect your opinion, But on the real. As much as our hip-hop, your hip-hop and mine and those run dmc tapes helped that man, if her had the new Dipset Tome, or whatever other bullshit crew of nigguhs callin themselves a movement’s fuckery im sure wouldnt have had the same story to tell
    One

  • The DJ Formerly Known as N-CREDIBLE

    i need my fix on some overthrow the government music…any suggestions…is paris any good…

  • EReal

    @N-Cred.

    Rage Against the Machine.

  • the truth

    The difference between Ms. Henley and lets say “others” on this site is that she clearly understands her purpose as a writer and/or featured blogger. When one has been blessed with the forum to reach and communicate as she has. The most important thing is to “say something”! A responsibilty she clearly covets. Tara completely shatters the assinine assumption that spewing pointless, sensationalist quips for the sake of controversy leads to some form of “cyber cred”. The sincerity in her work speaks volumes!

  • TSF

    Just saw “Blood Diamond” last weekend and I liked it more than I thought I would, it’s a surprisingly mature take on some of the problems facing Africa without making everything look black and white (no pun intended), worlds better than “Hotel Rwanda” and other sentimental garbage. As far as overthrow the government music goes, that Paris track “Bush Killa” is tight, otherwise The Coup is always hot, or you can ask noz…

  • TSF

    Oh, and btw Tara, on the Africa tip, did you read that Ryszard Kapucinski died today? Anyone interested in Africa should read “Shadows of the Sun.” Here’s the link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/6293005.stm

  • P-Matik

    Nobody saw “Blood Diamond”? It was good. I was digging it.

  • My Effin’ Opinion

    the truth Says:

    January 24th, 2007 at 11:36 am
    The difference between Ms. Henley and lets say “others” on this site is that she clearly understands her purpose as a writer and/or featured blogger. When one has been blessed with the forum to reach and communicate as she has. The most important thing is to “say something”! A responsibilty she clearly covets. Tara completely shatters the assinine assumption that spewing pointless, sensationalist quips for the sake of controversy leads to some form of “cyber cred”. The sincerity in her work speaks volumes!

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Co-Sign!

  • http://www.annansichronicles.com Annansi Chronicles

    For the record, there certainly ARE conflict diamonds. Just because nobody is chopping off hands does not negate the fact that diamonds are still being mined in countries which are at war and smuggled through countries like Zimbabwe and Ghana. Even the Kimberley Process people (supported by the diamond industry) have claimed that some of these countries are not adhereing to the rules to track diamonds.

    Get familiar – http://www.BlingIsDead.com

  • jacquez
  • derfla the hus’la

    I’ve seen the movie and it was really nice very sad how these rebels treat people like animals and that shit is to the point nothing made up so you guys thinking you had it hard in the getho or the projects thats child play to them.

  • Belize

    Nice post..ill have to check this dude out..no homo gay tour

  • NoMamesBuey

    good post Tara

    speaking of African rap, Nigerian Wale Oyejide had one of my favorite 06 albums with the rap & afro-beat fusion album “Africahot”. One of yall XXLers might could (should) review it

  • Da B

    kooo nice post

  • NoMamesBuey

    Tara, stories like those you describe here make me amazed that some of my fellow Americans are dumb enough to believe Gee Dubbz assertion that “America attacked Iraq to free the Iraqis from Sadamm Hussein”.

    Really? There’s a current genocide in Sudan & no one – USA, Euro Union, United Nations, other African countries – seem to really care.

  • J.R.O.

    Real T., Tara.

  • http://www.xxlmag.com chillywilly da3rd

    damn it tara you really understand our pain

  • E AKA THE REAL NORIEAGA

    @ N Cred

    Rage Against The Machine
    Immortal Technique

  • Hurricane Game

    EReal Says:

    January 24th, 2007 at 10:00 am
    Ive felt the same way all my life. Im not going to even try to identify with what this man went through, but HipHop and Music has always helped me through life as well as helped me change it. To me he’s completely right, music is like love, in that it can be profoundly life changing and eye opening. Ive been through some really hard shite, and music was always there. It’s the one constant escape.
    This truly shows the power of HipHop across the world, not just in america, and I totally agree with you Tara-Squad. The censors and rap haters need to hear a story like this, even though they probably wouldnt appreciate it the way we hiphop heads do. I only think thats because this shows validation and vindication for us. This shite isnt a joke, we’re forreal and hiphop is here to stay.

    1 hunned.
    —————————————-Ah Congrads to Relating to Hip Hop.
    Immortal Technique straight Anti Government. His shit gangsta.

  • http://ALLHIPHOP REGION HATERS HATER

    good post, no region hatin

  • thatdukeSuave

    My Effin’ Opinion Says:

    January 24th, 2007 at 12:56 pm
    the truth Says:

    January 24th, 2007 at 11:36 am
    The difference between Ms. Henley and lets say “others” on this site is that she clearly understands her purpose as a writer and/or featured blogger. When one has been blessed with the forum to reach and communicate as she has. The most important thing is to “say something”! A responsibilty she clearly covets. Tara completely shatters the assinine assumption that spewing pointless, sensationalist quips for the sake of controversy leads to some form of “cyber cred”. The sincerity in her work speaks volumes!

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Co-Sign!

    And I Co-sign the co-sign!

    Tara always bringin that truth on a plate, get a fork! Thx for being a constant constant!

  • Whiteman

    Wait does anyone care??? UMMmmmmm no… Listen your hot so thats one thing u hav going for you but i still think you should get bol to write your posts cuz urs blow.

  • Fernando

    Whatever happened to the rapper Paris????

    Anyhoo, good post Tara. The Juxtaposition of Bol’s ignorant (yet hilarious) racism with your social issue posts is amusing. The new guy Sunday is pretty good too. Whoever the jackass is that said there are no more blood diamonds in Africa is a retard. 1/2 the continent is in civil war, battling plague like epidemics of AIDS, and in an economic rut that seems impossible to right. I GUARANTEE THERE IS SOME FAULTY SH*T GOING ON IN THE DIAMOND TRADE OVER THERE.

    Im interested in the African Rap though. I bet they have some sick beats & crazy rhymes. And if any of you dont dig international rap because of “Street Cred”, listening to some African Sh*t should be no problem since a majority of those people have been through gullier situations than any of you will ever see. Murking people @ age 7???? I say GODDAMN!

  • Cuban Link

    Blood Diamond was good, but one movie noone bothered to see that was mad good was the Last King of Scotland.It has a homo name, but that movie is hot!

  • NickeNitro

    Hey, my post from yesterday never posted!