Hip-hop meets the Middle East

By: Mohamed Kadry / The Arab American News

San Diego — As the war in Iraq burrows deeper into an abyss of utter catastrophe and the world continues to echo the removal of American presence in the region, George W. seems to be standing alone, defiant right to the very end of his presidency. Throughout the last four years Arab Americans have been, for the most part, shunned from mainstream media for their anti-war stance.

But rap artist Tommy Hanna — stage name Timz — has refueled the war debate that has been dwindling in recent months with the release of a fiery anthem that has both provoked controversy and garnered international support.

Tommy Hanna, 22, is an Iraqi American of Chaldean descent born in California to parents who left Baghdad in the 1970s. He has gained global exposure, and a fair degree of notoriety, with his song aptly named, “Iraq.” Interviewed by all the major news networks including Fox News and Al Jazeera, Hanna has found himself the collective voice of a movement to end the war that he feels is destroying his homeland.

“A lot of people hear my lyrics and hear the anti-Bush, antiwar lyrics and assume that I’m a terrorist or I hate the country,” says Timz. “That’s not the case. I was born here in San Diego, but my parents were born in Baghdad.”

In the song “Iraq” off his album “Open for Business,” Hanna poetically vents the frustration of Iraqis specifically from a Chaldean point of view, but claims to proudly represent all ethnicities from his native land. What’s most fitting in the song is that it is ingeniously dubbed to an old Um Khalthoum record, in a way merely recycling nationalistic feelings throughout the torn region, specifically on the part of Western Arabs.

“My parents are from Iraq but I was born in the United States. I feel like I’m able to connect to both sides of this war a little more than the average person. That’s why I wrote the song the way I did; the first verse is written from the perspective of an Iraqi while the second verse is written from the perspective of an American. The third verse is a history lesson…”

In the song’s first verse he sings, “They look and feel sorry for us, can you believe it? The great Iraq, as if we need it! And look what they decide to give us, blood from the world to fill up our rivers…and what, I’m supposed to be thankful? You kill my family and I should say thank you?”

Hanna has been attacked from many on the political right who claim that his song sends an unpatriotic message against American troops who are still embattled in the region, but he has refuted these accusations in both interview and song. When interviewed by Chuck Norris on Fox News, Hanna was asked, “Would you have liked to live in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was ruling that country and killing thousands upon thousands of you fellow countrymen?” His reply stumped Norris when he answered, “When I was in Iraq it was during the reign of Saddam Hussein and I believe that the country, the state that it’s in now, is actually more dangerous than when Saddam Hussein was in power…at least people could walk down the street without being afraid of their neighbor killing them…Being Christian, he looked after us…”

Hanna’s song and video play out like a direct letter to the President. Images of maimed children, Abu Ghraib prisoners, Hiroshima nuclear explosions, and many of the faces of the current administration can all be seen flashed along melodically.

In the songs final verses Timz sings, “Dear Mr. George Bush, why do you insist to make a fool of us? For over 200 years, we stood for what’s good, now we’re despised by our peers. This ain’t gonna last for long, your wish is dead George, your only wish is gone. And what do you do, but add fuel to the fire and send in more troops…Oh the troops, God save the troops, it wasn’t their war, their lies, their fault…America the beautiful, what did they do to you, they use you, its so indisputable…George I don’t really know who sent ya, but don’t let karma come get ya.”