Fighting Words

Via Green Cine: a link to Monica Davey’s New York Times article on the role of Gunner Palace in sparking the popularity of rap written and performed by US soldiers in Iraq. Davey writes:

If rock ‘n’ roll, the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and Creedence Clearwater Revival, was the music of American service members in Vietnam, rap may become the defining pulse for the war in Iraq. It has emerged as a rare realm where soldiers and marines, hardly known for talking about their feelings, are voicing the full range of their emotions and reactions to war. They rap about their resentment of the military hierarchy. But they also rap about their pride, their invincibility, their fallen brothers, their disdain for the enemy and their determination to succeed.

The article seems to emphasize the play of language, the “ambivalence” of the lyrics of much rap music, allowing the rappers to criticize the military hierarchy while at the same time conveying solidarity with their fellow soldiers. Gunner Palace director, Michael Tucker adds that rap is very much a part of the barracks culture in Iraq.

Davey addresses the relationship of hip-hop to the first Gulf War, noting that several prominent hip-hop artists, including Mystikal, served in that war, while Ice Cube played a significant role in David O. Russell’s Gulf War film, Three Kings. I’m about to set up my students’ film screening, so I don’t have time for a full analysis, but the article includes the text of several raps, all of which work through the ambiguities of the current war in Iraq (one soldier even jokes that they could rap to the rhythm of gunfire during some of the attacks). The article is also accompanied by some audio samples.

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