Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Thematic Dissection of Busta Rhymes' 'Arab Money,' the Most Ridiculous, Hilarious, Offensive, Catchiest Song of the Last Five Years...

Damn you, Pay Tray, and damn you, Busta Rhymes. Because of the two of you, I've been spending my day off work dancing around the house doing the "Arab Money" dance like a complete retard. I even showed it to a few of the ladies at work, who couldn't decide whether to gape wide-mouthed in horror or fall down laughing.

"Arab Money," the new single off Bussa Buss's newest disc, is hands down the most ridiculous, hilarious, offensive, catchiest song I've heard in the last five years. So let's take a line-by-line look at the single that could set Arab/American relations back even further:

0:00 - Here we see Busta along with his mainest man and erstwhile weed carrier Spliff "I Look All Crazy and Shit in the Fisheye Lens But Really Never Had a Good Verse, Ever" Star are wandering aimlessly through the Arabian desert (in black hoodies and Tims, possibly a small bit of political commentary on Middle Eastern burkha culture [it's not going to get any less sarcastic as we go along...]). The Ron Browz beat kicks in, and it's a completely generic Mid-East pentatonic synth melody, but I won't deny it's hypnotic in a "Nothing" sort of way. 

Spying a light atop a large sand dune, Busta and Spliff come upon a desert estate and head inside...

0:40 - We get the first appearance of what I consider to be the best use of Auto-Tune technology so far. The Middle-Eastern chant that forms the main hook is eerie, futuristic, foreign and otherworldly all at once. This is followed by possibly the most cringeworthy chorus since "Put It In Your Mouth":
We gettin' Arab money.
First off, in the video, they're singing "Arrrrrab money." To get the full-on Ugly American Version, seek out the original single MP3, which uses the West Texas version, "A-Rab."

The most obvious interpretation for this is that Busta's boasting he's got as much cash as the richest of Middle-Eastern sheiks, and enjoys the same lifestyle excesses, from Dubai villas to oil money. However, many of the images in the video offer a gloriously-ignorant and more-sinister interpretation.

1:18 - "I step up in the club and then these other n*ggas mad as shit/The way I make the people go and sing the hook in Arabic." - This is the lead-in to the first chorus, and I'm not sure about the particular demographic he's referring to, but I imagine that yes, the crowd whose panties were interminably bunched over Rachael Ray rocking the keffiyah will not be pleased with this video. On the other side of the street, I suspect many a Muslim and/or Arab will not be happy when we get to...

1:28 - which point Busta and his crew begin performing the worst and (somehow, at the same time) greatest dance I've seen since an Elks Club full of quinceƱera chicas started doing the Soulja Boy dance to 'Crank Dat' and made me go "What is this shocking, amazing new retardedness?" (full disclosure: I've been walking around for like the last 12 hours DOING this fucking dance, which is a testament to how dumb-catchy the song is)

It's a mutant combination of the P. Diddy Shoulder-Shimmy, Seth Rogen's "Dice Roll" from Knocked Up and a stereotypical Bollywood/belly-dancing move (I suppose it's futile to point out the obvious contradiction of the dance having an Indian dance element in this Arabic-themed song... let's just move on). 

1:30 - DJ Khaled steps in to co-sign the myopic cultural ignorance to come and save Busta's ass from wholesale hatred and possibly a fatwa (...or does that make DJ Khaled the new Salman Rushdie?)

1:34 - Here is where the "Arab money" metaphor begins to take a strange, Hopefully-I-Don't-Realize-What-the-Fuck-I'm-Doing turn. Every popular rapper and their brother is in this video at some point, and the one on the far left is rocking what I can only refer to as an "East Brooklyn Yasser Arafat Look," consisting of his red ballcap pulled down over a red keffiyah...  you know, the kind that you see on folks who are shooting at helicopters and Israelis. Now, this in itself is not really that noteworthy. Dudes have been putting Gatorade towels under their Yankee caps for years now, and in a perverse way, it makes sense, thematically, for the video. 

1:51 - "Women walkin' round while/Security on camel-back" ... priceless, particularly as it's followed by: "Sittin' in casinos now/I'm gamblin' with Arafat." Now we've gone straight into a video where the basic concept is Busta Rhymes is not just having money LIKE a rich Arab, he's getting money FROM rich Arabs, particularly Yasser Arafat, whose spectral ghost makes a brief appearance in the video, a moment even more strange than the somehow-sympathetic portrayal of Saddam Hussein in Scarface's newest video.

I suppose you could make the argument that, since they're gambling, he's TAKING the money of a man who was responsible for a whole lot of terrorism and violence. 

2:01 - "Y'all already know I got the streets buzzin'/While I make 'em bow down and make salat like a Muslim" - If I'm a Muslim, this is probably the line that offends me the most, a reference to people bowing down and worshipping Busta Rhymes as though he were Allah.

2:14 - Some Anonymous Rapper is doing his version of the dance on the chorus, and listen, I realize that I'm reading far, far too much into this song, but it's hard to see the Arafat stuff and then interpret this as anything other than "the Gaza Strip RPG Dance."

2:29 - "See now I take trips to Baghdad, dummy/And I'm used to stackin' chips, countin' A-rab money" - I'd like to think that this is a Blackwater/Halliburton reference. 

2:42 - "They respect the value of my worth in Maui, Malaysia/Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia!" - Maui? What?? Maybe he said "Mali"... no, he said "Maui."

"Arab Money" is the equivalent of a multiple-fatality truck crash, except that the driver is unhurt and the truck is full of chickens (I've actually seen this happen, in Delaware. All of the chickens are in little mesh cages, so there are decapitated, dismembered, bloody chicken corpses everywhere and a few lives ones running for their lives). It's horrifying, yet you can't look away. 

It's kind of like that. 'Scuse me, gotta run... "Shla-la-la-hilli-da-ha-lo, Hilli-ba-la-hey-hilli-ah-yo!" 

I'm gettin' Arab money. Are you?

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