Two days ago Prince George’s County, Maryland rapper 30 Glizzy released a new single, ”Isis,” to promote his upcoming untitled solo mixtape. “Isis” was produced by 30’s frequent collaborator Young Clip and featured less-known Glizzy Gang member Sant. The song has 30’s signature catchy bars and Clip’s classic take on the Trap sound. Unlike 30, who was prominent on this year’s Be Careful mixtape, Sant is relatively new to public releases, although he has been behind the scenes for a long time. It’s unclear whether “Isis” was simply an ill-timed release, or an attempt at buzz that’s in bad taste. The song itself wasn’t very offensive, the only reference to the “Islamic State” (aside from the cover) is in the chorus: “They wanna indict us/We the new ISIS.” But comparisons to the notorious terrorist group linked to the Paris attacks last week, the downing of a Russian jet in weeks prior and (of course), the murder of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq and Syria are insensitive, to say the least.
The concept behind “Isis” is part of a bigger trend in Street Rap, going back decades. Rap has always had braggadocious elements and Street Rap focused on those elements more than other sub genres of Hip-Hop. Artists compare themselves to famous drug dealers, “street legends,” and politicians, as well as terrorists, war criminals and dictators. These comparisons show their ruthlessness, wealth, or how much the government hates them, etc. Usually the songs become popular but generate controversy, depending on who they’re talking about (Rick Ross’ “B.M.F.” comes to mind.) These comparisons are rarely strong. When an artist calls themselves something like “Osama Bin Guapo” (for example) it’s rare that they actually condone the practices of the people they’re talking about. Usually, they seem to lack the understanding as to why some of these comparisons are offensive. When Jose Guapo was interviewed by Watch Loud about his controversial mixtape and art showing the World Trade Center in flames, he bristled at criticism. In an interview with Watch Loud, Guapo explained that he got the “Osama” nickname after wearing scarves and said “I knew it (the mixtape) was gonna catch a lot of eyes and people gonna have whatever they want to say about it, you know?” But drawing these parallels show a lack of worldliness, and compassion, especially when the comparisons are to people that are very much alive or known for recent, heinous acts.
Unlike when a lot of these questionable comparisons occur, 30 and Sant do know people who have been directly affected by Isis. On October 30th, Shy Glizzy and Brodinski released their collaborative single “Woah” alongside footage of them recording the song earlier that month. 30 Glizzy is visible in the background of the session at Hyattsville’s House Studio, alongside Shy, Brodinski and co-producer Myd of Club cheval. Sant also would have been aware of the song, if he wasn’t also there himself. Although residing in Los Angeles, Brodinski and his label “Bromance” are partially based in Paris, which Glizzy Gang also seemed to know. Part of Brodinski’s charm is that he is quintessentially French, noticeable even more so because his music is so Rap-tinged. The accent, the style and the background in Techno and “French Touch” make the DJ stand out in the Southern Rap world he has become a part of.
So, within the course of a month, Shy releases a song with a Paris-based producer, then terrorists attack Paris, killing over a hundred and wounding hundreds. Less than a week later, Glizzy Gang members 30 and Sant release a song comparing themselves to the group claiming responsibility for the attacks. Talk about bad timing. Shy is usually very involved with releases from artists in Glizzy Gang releases, so it seems strange that he hasn’t tweeted about 30’s new song a day after it’s release. Most other members of Glizzy Gang have promoted the song on Instagram or Twitter. “Isis” received a warm response from Twitter when it was released , but most of the comments on Spinrilla yesterday seemed to be negative.
Will the song “Isis” stand the test of time and go down without further controversy? Or will we hear about how Glizzy Gang “hates America” on Fox News tomorrow? Should we expect compassion from “Gangster Rap” in 2015? No matter what the answers are, we live in a world that is increasingly more connected, more global. No one puts it better than Brodinski himself; “I come from a village next to Reims…this has never been before…because we’re in 2015, I’m in Washington, making rap.” It is easy for artists, so caught up in creating, to lose sight of the outside world. “They wanna indict us. We the new ISIS” was probably just a line that sounded good to a small group of people late at night. Maybe they decided that it would catch people’s attention, given the events in Paris. If either of those scenarios is true, they were right. “Isis” is a catchy song with a title that people will pay attention to, but not for the reasons these artists want. It’s 2015, and Rap is worldly, or at least it should be. Glizzy Gang’s Be Careful project was enjoyed by fans around everywhere. As Shy Glizzy’s cohorts (or Jose Guapo) enjoy international success, they have to understand that it comes with a price. These wild comparisons to international terrorists group aren’t going to fly in a hyper-connected world. Frankly, they shouldn’t be acceptable anyways. If you’re interested, 30 Glizzy has his own explanation below.
I'm not glorifying #Isis Same thing they trying to do to USA which is extortion n etc !! Is what happens 5 min from the White House Fr !
— 30GLIZZY (@30Glizzy) November 19, 2015