September 11: Rap’s Response

Jadakiss performs at the MTV Video Music Awards Block Party, Miami, FL, August 2004. Photo: Jason Squires/WireImage

The rap world’s most memorable response to September 11th came from an unexpected source: previously apolitical NY street rapper Jadakiss. In “Why,” his first (and, thankfully, only) bid to be taken seriously as a conscious rapper, he asked offhandedly, “Why did Bush knock down the towers?” This earned him a good 15 minutes as a Fox News talking point, and forever ingratiated him to truthers. He later backtracked, clarifying that the line was merely a metaphor for Bush’s failed response to the attacks. Still, one such truther, Immortal Technique, took it to heart, expanding the line into a full song, and mostly negating guest Mos Def‘s semi-salient point that “Bin Laden didn’t blow up the ghetto,” by summarizing Farenheit 9/11 in the angriest way possible. Predictably, the track didn’t resonate much further than the converted niche to which he already preaches.

But beyond that, the September 11 attacks mostly manifested in the rap world as the subject of semi-tasteless metaphorical boasts: Lil Wayne, in bragging about his sexual prowess: “Fireman to her rescue like 9/11″; Jay-Z, in bragging about his 9/11 album release: “Rumor has it The Blueprint classic / couldn’t even be stopped by Bin Laden”; Three 6 Mafia bragging about a “Bin Laden” strain of marijuana; Rick Ross bragging about his “Bin Laden beard.” Maybe this is how hip-hop artists digest tragedy, by funneling their frustration through loosely associated battle raps. Or, more likely, September 11 was the topic of the moment and so all of the topical rappers worked it into their topical raps because that’s what they do. Either way, they managed to say very little in talking about it so much.

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