Damien Steffan, AFP, July 21, 1986
London — With a title like “All Is War (The Benefits of G-Had)” and a song about a suicide bomber, a new album by British Muslim rapper Aki Nawaz has raised eyebrows before its release, even at his own record label.
The Pakistan-born rapper’s group Fun-Da-Mental were set to put the new disc on sale July 17, 10 days after the first anniversary of the London bombings.
But its words and themes — another predicting US decline at the hands of Muslims — caused two directors at Nation Records to threaten to quit if “All Is War” hit the shops.
“I know what I’m doing, everything I did was intentional,” a determined Nawaz told AFP.
The release was held off, but Nation now says the album will come out online on August 7, then go on sale in stores on either August 14 or 21.
Nawaz named the two who threatened to resign as Andrew Heath and Martin Mills, silent partners at Nation. A spokesperson for Mills’s separate record label, Beggars Banquet, however said they would make no comment “at all” on the matter.
For a group that has not tasted mainstream success, Fun-Da-Mental’s new album has generated plenty of media coverage.
On the track list are titles like “I Reject”, “Electro G-Had” and “Cookbook DIY”, the last the voice of a suicide bomber that — given the timing — brings to mind the four, home-grown bombers who killed 56 people and wounded about 700 more in last July’s attacks on the London transport network.
“Elements everyday chemicals at my reach;
Household bleach to extract the potassium;
Chlorate boiling on a hotplate with hate;
recipe for disaster plastic bomb blaster . . .
I’m strapped up cross my chest bomb belt attached;
deeply satisfied with the plan I hatched.”
In a twist, the ambiguous rap ends by referring to a government-paid scientist with a “private room in the White House suite”.
Another song, “786 All is War”, predicts the downfall of the United States at the hands of its citizens who call in Muslims to liberate the country.
One track compares the speeches of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara and Osama bin Laden, head of the Al-Qaeda terror network, attempting to show the two shared a similar drive to resist imperialism.
Nawaz stressed that the Bin Laden speeches he used dated from before Al-Qaeda’s September 2001 attacks on the United States.
The rapper, in his early forties with flowing black hair, hails from Bradford in northern England, an industrial town with a significant Muslim population which witnessed race riots between whites and South Asians in 2001.
He simply claims a right to challenge mainstream beliefs and establishment propaganda.
The New Musical Express weekly once dubbed Nawaz as less like a Pakistani version of Johnny Rotten, the guitarist for the iconic punk group Sex Pistols, and more like Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, the unhinged rogue in the 1979 film “Apocalypse Now”.
“I believe that my whole purpose is to stop the nonsense that is going on and create the right debate within the limits of art. I have the right to speak up and speak loud about injustices everywhere,” Nawaz told AFP.
“We see people writing books about the global conflicts, we see films, documentaries, everybody’s on about the issues so why can’t I sing about them?
“Harold Pinter (the 2005 Nobel literature prize winner), he said (British Prime Minister)
Tony Blair is a war criminal and should be tried in a criminal court.
“That’s all I am saying because I think he’s a war criminal with blood on his hands.
“But people are saying to me, ‘everybody else is allowed to say what they wish but Muslims are not allowed to say what they want because they face being arrested’.
Defiantly, he asks: “This is a democracy — is it such just for white folks, and fascism for everybody else?”
Nawaz said he is primed for accusations of inciting violence and to see himself branded an apologist for Islamist militants.
But he insisted that the only thing he was inciting was for people to question Western society around them.
“This is something that the West has to deal with. People say: ‘If the Holocaust came now we’d never allow it’, but it’s happening in front of our eyes. People are locked away, are being unjustifiably demonised and no-one’s speaking out.
“By speaking out, we’re not supporting any form of terrorism — and that includes state terrorism,” Nawaz said.
Fun-Da-Mental had suggested it was ready to bring “All Is War” out under another label if its release would cause Nation Records’ collapse, and thus hurt other artists with Nation.
But Nawaz never considered scotching the album.
“I’m determined to bring it out. I think it’s a work of passion,” he said.
“It’s a soundtrack to what is going on around us, the reality that everyone knows about — there’s nothing in there that the common man doesn’t know.”