2008's Biggest Stories #10: Busta Rhymes' "Arab Money" Controversy

AllHipHop Staff


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.