Article

The influence of the nation of Islam on African American singers

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Abstract

This article explores the responses of African American musicians to the strictures placed on the production and circulation of information following the war on terror post 9/11. This date marks the intensification of the challenging of ‘war on terror’ ideology by black artists. 9/11 also ushered in a new morality in terms of which artists and democratic voices are subjected to extreme control by the government. Most black popular musicians, though American by citizenship, do not feel included in the American nation. There are noticeable and differentiable tendencies among musicians who adopt strategies of resistance to the American state, which the artists view as practising terrorism on its own people. The lyrics of Public Enemy and Talib Kweli are most trenchant in their critiques of American domestic and foreign policy in the period both before and after 9/11. A textual analysis of the music can help uncover the extent of social ideology in the music, which not only proclaims itself a crusade against American ‘war on terror’ ideology, but sometimes openly identifies its inspiration as deriving from Islam. While selected lyrics demonstrate a quest for the liberation of black Americans from the perceived injustices perpetrated by America on its black people and the Arabs in general, the singers articulate their visions from the contradictory ideological ground of being American, victim, and visionary artist for a better society.

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