2008's Biggest Stories #10: Busta Rhymes' "Arab Money" Controversy
the last eight years, Busta Rhymes has seen his fair share of
controversy. But not until this year was the drama tied directly to his
all started when Busta dropped the second single from his forthcoming
album B.O.M.B., due out in March 2009. The Hip-Hop vet, often regarded
as part of a lyrical elite, offered us the Autotune-infused "Arab
Money," complete with an accompanying dance. While most of us shook our
heads at the gimmicky song, we went along with the joke.
mainstream Hip-Hop fans couldn't begin to imagine the controversy that
would ensue. Many failed to realize that, while acceptable in the hood,
most people of Middle Eastern decent consider the mispronunciation of
the word Arab (Ay-rab) used in the song a racial slur. It didn't help
that the "Arabic" lyrics sung by producer Ron Browz on the hook
amounted to no more than gibberish. Needless to say, the Arab community
was not happy.
the time the video was released on December 2, the outrage grew to a
fever pitch. Award-winning British DJ Steve "Smooth" Sutherland was
suspended from his position at Galaxy Radio after listeners complained
about his decision to air the song on November 29.
that he felt the utmost respect for Arab culture, Busta Rhymes
dismissed the protests to the song, stating that he had no knowledge of
any complaints coming directly from the Arab community. Still, Busta
made efforts to rectify the situation. The video version of the song
included an accurate pronunciation of the word "Arab." As for the clip
itself, Busta recruited several rappers who practice the Muslim faith
including Akon, Swizz Beatz and DJ Khaled.
posse-cut remix featuring Diddy, Swizz, T-Pain, Akon and Lil Wayne took
things one step further, incorporating Arabic lyrics in the song.
despite Busta's best intentions, those efforts only made matters worse.
The Arabic lyrics added to the song included the Quranic verse which
opens the first Surah of the Holy Quran, making it not only culturally
offensive, but also religiously wrong. The Muslim faith prohibits
singing or citing a Quranic verse in music. It only stands to reason,
then, that many were even more outraged by the fact that artists who
identified themselves as Muslim would become involved.And
that's when the debate started. How would African-Americans feel if
someone of a different race made a "Negro Money" song, one blogger
asked. Iraqi rapper The Narcysist responded by creating the song "Real
Arab Money," in which he challenged the stereotypical view of his
culture presented in Busta's song and video.
learning of The Narcysist's song and complaints, Busta Rhymes reached
out to the young Arab rapper, a self-professed fan. The two discussed
the song's origin at length, and the fact that it had always been
Busta's intent to show his respect for Middle Eastern culture rather
than to mock it.
With an apology and a request that the song and video be pulled from rotation, Busta avoided a bigger backlash.