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The Deal With "Arab Money"…

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-Busta Rhymes & Ron Browz “Arab Money”

So, Racialicious already got to the clearly problematic aspects of the on-the-radio-like-twice-an-hour Busta Rhymes single “Arab Money”, but despite Busta’s liberal use of Middle Eastern cliches and Orientalist signifiers, Ron Browz’s played-out kinda Eastern melodies, and a nonsense hook that’s intended to sound vaguely like Arabic, the song’s worth thinking about beyond that obvious offensive stuff.

“Arab Money” though incredibly provincial on one level, is also cognizant of the extreme wealth and power countries outside the Western world wield. And it turns this cognizance into a fun way to brag about money, and as silly as it all is, it’s on some Post-American World type shit which is more significant than saying some dumb shit about camels.

Much was made around the time of Kingdom Come’s first video “Blue Magic”, wherein Jay-Z’s shown stacking euros.It was an appeal to Jay’s global success, a game of one-upping goofball rappers that all wave fake or real bundles of $100s in their videos, and a smart, wordly comment on the ever-plummeting amount of the American dollar, something even more relevant a year later, with you know, this whole financial crisis we’re having. “Arab Money” goes further and just side-steps the American/European, fuck it-white standard/expectation of wealth and that’s pretty awesome. Who wants to be compared to the rich fucks of America in 2008?

It’s odd that the obvious Muslim connection between black Africans and African-Americans isn’t touched upon at all by Racialicious–Busta’s Muslim by the way–and the complex relationship that African-Americans and Arab-Americans/ Arab immigrants have in urban areas is kinda mocked when writer Fatemeh Fakhraie links this Ron Browz interview(“And if you want to know how much Ron Browz knows about Arabs…”). From the interview, it sounds like Browz interacts and talks to Arab’s every day and in that sense, his use of Middle Eastern influences however rudimentary, shouldn’t be seen as “appropriation” but inevitable, if Browz’s ears are open to the music around him. It’s a fascinating, if less than ideal example of how influences and culture mixes and matches within popular music.

Certainly, it isn’t the ideal way to imbibe outside influences, but “Arab Money” is a continuation of Timbaland’s uses of Eastern melodies and however goofy, is pretty much the only place you’ll hear something even approximating Middle Eastern music on American radio. Also responsible for “Pop Champagne” and of course, “Ether”, Ron Browz’s “Arab Money” beat is a strange slab of staccatto synths that everything on the radio has but squeezes a Middle Eastern melody out of it all too, combines singing that to dumb ears would sound as Arabic as real Arabic, and slaps some auto-tune over it, making the song up on both pop-rap trends and worldly concerns.

Written by Brandon

November 21st, 2008 at 5:02 am

Posted in Busta Rhymes, Ron Browz