December 2nd, 2008

A3rab Money Refix?


would you prefer to listen while looking at an img of what may or may not be a swank Dubai livingroom?

You may have heard — or at least heard about — the above, a remix of Busta’s infamous “Arab Money,” featuring Lil Wayne, Akon, Diddy, Swizz Beatz, T-Pain, & of course, Ron Browz. There are some significant, remarkable differences between this version and the original, leading me to wonder — via Marisol LeBron, who alerted me to the diffs — whether this is as much a “refix” as a remix.

As Marisol noted, the offensive / willfully ignant pronunciation, “A-rab,” has been replaced — at least in the chorus (Weezy brings out the hard A at the end of his verse) — by a more accurate “A3rab” (if slightly caricatured with an extra roll of the r). Moreover, you might notice that Ron Browz’s faux-Arabic hook has been upgraded from pure gibberish to quasi-Arabic, employing syllabic strings that at least resemble certain Arabic words (e.g., “hamdulilla,” “bismillah” [pronounced “bishmillah”]).

Marisol wonders (via email) “whether Busta is responding to pressure from the Arab community or whether someone just corrected him and told him that A-rab is typically considered derogatory.” I’m quite curious myself. Maybe Diddly will vlog it?

If someone gets a chance to ask Busta about it, could they also find out why he thanks Spielberg-Lucas in the intro for “directing this movie”? I didn’t catch any references to Tatooine, d’you?

Update!

Marisol, who sez she’ll be posting about this tomorrow, writes —

There is totally arabic in the song BISMILLAH AL-RAHMAN AL-RAHEEM which is at the beginning of every verse. The phrase signifies “in the name of Allah, the most gracious, most merciful” it is the first verse of almost every chapter of the Qur’an and is typically associated with daily prayers. A few of the artists are Muslim and would know the significance of the phrase, so why include it in a song about stacking chips and getting ass? It’s kinda crazy! I’m actually posting on it tomorrow.

Interestingly, when I asked some of my Arabic fluent students about the song, they disagreed that it was actual Arabic, though they also agreed that the conflation between “Arab” and “Muslim” in the song is an unfortunate and all-too-typical one —

Lisa:

There may be some words in the “Arabic verse” that might come from Arabic, but its definitely not Arabic. i’d say they recite words that are directly taken from Islam (or Christianity, for the Arabic speaking Christians) like hamdulilla – thank god, or bismillah-(pronounced bishmililah in the song) in the name of god. So i’d say these words might be taken from Arabic, but they r not pronounced in an Arabic accent… it sounds much more like something of indian music to me.

Noam:

I join what Lisa wrote, and I’ll just add the word ignorance….because the “Arabic” (dangerous, terrorist) stereotype goes together with Islam, but the truth is, and most people are not aware of the fact that most Muslims in the world are NOT EVEN ARABS! and thanks to Busta now, no one will go search and find this out so the Muslim Arab stereotype is here to stay along with “Arab Money”

Mohammad:

i definitely agree with you guys. its a very sad example of how brainwashed a lot of artists are by the media, and then brainwash the people. they can’t really tell the different between Muslims vs Muslim Arabs vs Christian Arabs Muslims etc.. so we hear the terms “hamdulila’ ‘bismila’ ‘habibi’ i have to say that i have met a lot of people that associated me with this words.. so its very common stereotype..

And it’s important to remember, as Marisol notes, that guys like Busta, Akon, etc., are well acquainted with various Arabic words and phrases for various reasons: whether from their own participation in or acquaintance with (African-)American Islam (or Senegalese Islam in Akon’s case) — notably a lot of the comments on the YouTube videos debate which of these artists is actually Muslim — or the longstanding colloquial use among African-Americans of greetings like “salaam alaikum” (which Busta throws into the mix here).

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. carlos  |  December 2nd, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Ha– Cool that they did that. I guess I just don’t like how the song sounds…and I think this version actually sounds a bit worse than the original.

  • 2. rizzla  |  December 2nd, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    honestly, it sounds real dumb now. before at least it was a guilty pleasure, now it’s just acting guilty.

  • 3. wayneandwax  |  December 3rd, 2008 at 9:14 am

    good point, rizzla.

  • 4. wayneandwax  |  December 3rd, 2008 at 9:46 am

    marisol’s post is up, FYI —
    http://postpomonuyorican.blogspot.com/2008/12/rab-remixed.html

    a commenter @marisol’s points to some sort of official video for the track, which suggests — or is this a generous reading? — that the whole thing’s a mirage!
    http://vodpod.com/watch/1203462-video-busta-rhymes-arab-money

  • 5. wayneandwax  |  December 3rd, 2008 at 11:13 am

    further (via lonewolf) —

    ?uestlove wonders whether the song is an Iovine diss?
    http://twitter.com/qoolquest/status/1035725756

    This behind-the-scenes video perhaps explains the Speilberg-Lucas reference, with Diddy calling Rik Cordero “the next Steven Spielberg” and Busta using “Spielberg” loosely to refer to the director(s) of the video —
    http://videos.onsmash.com/v/4cEJqjp3YHJybyiW

  • 6. wayneandwax  |  December 3rd, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    it’s a bit old now, but THT has a good take on the song and roundup of links —
    http://thehairdryertreatment.tumblr.com/post/52531022/busta-rhymes-arab-money-woo-ha-so-busta

    & i look fwd to hearing how the song’s being received in dearbornistan!
    http://thehairdryertreatment.tumblr.com/post/62855026/busta-rhymes-arab-money-video-i-just-have-to

    also, i just want to highlight (and appropriate!) part of THT’s comment over @ Marisol’s —

    busta gave this ‘interview’ to bossip today about the song and some of his rationales:

    http://bossip.com/60615/bossip-exclusive-busta-to-americans-get-like-the-arabs/

    regardless of his defense of the track, i still think dude is missing the big point that most arabs are living in poverty, trying to cope with rising food prices, and being subjected to wars and military occupations- not popping bottles and stacking chips in dubai.

    matt: i guess it is better than an entire epic posse cut about arabs being bloodthirsty terrorists, but the conflation of arabs with material security living some kind of perpetual gulf oil-fueled high life also dangerously masks the very real problems in the arab world.

  • 7. wayneandwax  |  December 3rd, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    more interesting developments (via THT):
    “DJ Suspended Over Busta’s ‘Arab Money'; Busta Replies To Critics”
    http://allhiphop.com/stories/news/archive/2008/12/03/20733780.aspx#

    fascinating conversation on that article, including this bit — a recurring critique I’ve seen, noting that to fetishize “arab money” as busta does (fingering the neoliberal paradise of dubai, mostly) is to present a pretty distorted picture of arab reality — though i have to admit that these averages look a little funny to me (what, no citation, shani?):

    shani said:

    AVERAGE PER CAPITA INCOME OF THE ARAB WORLD about $2100-2300

    UNITED STATES PER CAPITA INCOME $50,233
    excluding wealthy = $38,611

    SAUDI ARABIA PER CAPITA INCOME $20,000 excluding wealthy about $10,000

    (2003) In a country like Egypt, the income inequality numbers look fairly good until you really think about them. A huge majority of the people in Egypt are scraping by in grinding economic circumstances. When one takes away the income of the wealthy (1-2% of the population) and the middle class (maybe 3-4% of the population), one could conclude that the average income of Egyptians is under $1000 per year—even if the data shows the average GDP per capita to be about $1300. Middle class in many Arab countries means making between $600 and $2000 per year. Middle class income in a country like Yemen, a country with about $350 per capita GDP, would be the equivalent of a monthly car payment in the United States. Algeria may be one of the most unequal countries in the region, as would be Mauritania. Both are fairly poor by western standards. Algeria has a per capita income of about $2300. Mauritania’s is about $400-450. Small wealthy cliques pretty much run the economies of these two countries.

  • 8. THT  |  December 9th, 2008 at 10:06 am

    some rather interesting developments on this…

    from the narcicyst’s blog:

    “AFTER POSTING UP MY SONG ARAB MONEY ON ALLHIPHOP.COM, I WAS CONTACTED DIRECTLY BY JOHN MONOPOLY AND BUSTA RHYMES. I SPOKE WITH MR. RHYMES FOR 40 MINUTES ABOUT HIS INTENT, HIS MESSAGE AND HIS PERSONAL BEING AND HOW HE CONDUCTS HIMSELF AS A MAN. I MUST SAY, BUSTA RHYMES IS AN INCREDIBLY HUMBLE GENTLEMAN TO HAVE CALLED ME AND SPOKE TO ME DIRECTLY ABOUT HIS FEELINGS AND HOW HE FEELS ABOUT THE FALL OUT OF ARAB MONEY. HE TOLD ME HE HAS RETRACTED THE REMIX FROM ALL RADIO STATIONS AND HAS PULLED THE VIDEO FROM ALL VIDEO OUTLETS UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE AND IS SORRY FOR ANY DISRESPECT OR NEGATIVE OUTCOME TO THE PRODUCTION OF THIS SONG.”

    http://illuminarcy.blogspot.com/2008/12/arab-money-fallout-and-respect-dues-to.html

    since the remix and the original video have already gone viral, i’m not too sure how much ‘retracting’ busta can do at this point. perhaps a little opportunism on the narcicyst’s part as well, just b/c busta reached out to him does not quite mean everything is cool with the community. i for one, will still not be rushing out to buy (or download) busta’s new album.

  • 9. w&w  |  December 9th, 2008 at 11:53 am

    wow. thx for the update, THT. and on and on we go. what a saga! lucas-spielberg indeed.

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Wayne&Wax

I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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