I’ll get right to discussing Obama’s Afghanistan speech at West Point. But first, the pressing issue of rap in Central Asia. How is hip-hop doing? What is it doing? What does the thug life look like on the ground? What are the population-centric COIN implications? Yes, all of that.
My introduction to the hip-hop scene in Central Asia was the use of Tajikistan’s Dr. Emfir in my Tajiki language class. Like Dr. Dre, Dr. Emfir has no medical degree. But unlike Dr. Dre, Dr. Emfir did “come up” the hard way, as dodging skinheads while a labor migrant in Russia is no easy task.
Of course, once on the ground you find out what the kids actually listen to. I was walking through a neighborhood in Tajikistan and I came across this:
However, I was surprised to see this graffiti despite the high profile of the “beef” in the hip-hop world. Why? I couldn’t actually find any kids who listened to The Game, let alone to Jay Z (who is pretty huge in case you didn’t know). By far the most popular in my part of southern Tajikistan was 50 Cent. And it’s not even close. Eminem and Akon are in a distant 2nd and 3rd. And God’s gift to humanity? Kanye West is somewhat of an unknown.
So why? The best I can come up with is that the kids here love hooks and dance beats. 50 Cent has club friendly tracks. Kanye West and Jay Z do not. You just can’t dance to Kanye. However, Central Asia is a diverse place and I’m sure my experience is not universal. How’s about elsewhere? Well, in Kazakhstan where there is a lot more money to throw at production value you have…
…well, you just have to watch it in all its violent, homoerotic, militaristic bling glory. The name of the track is “Біздің Жігіттер.” My two years of learning Kazakh at Indiana University tells me that this means “Our Boys.” The rest of the song is the usual wannabe thug stuff, complete with shout outs to various cities in Kazakhstan. And bonus: the military lets them use their toys for the video. H/T (or fist shake) to Polar Bear Colony for the vid.
Well… hmm. The dombra solo did rock.
But wait, it starts to really go downhill now.
How far down the hill?
Would you like to know who the hegemon in Tajikistan is?
Here you go… I was in the mountains north of Dushanbe and our taxi driver decided rear view mirrors were redundant. And…
The giggling innuendo interpreter did manage to nail the Britney translation for me.
Oh look! I’ve run out of space. I guess I’ll have to skip the full discussion of Obama’s Afghanistan strategy. So, uh…AfPak, Population-Centric COIN, Al Qaeda, something, something, something…