The List

9 Disturbingly Good Jihadi Raps

OK, maybe not so "good."

In the spirit of Ben Smith's "11 BuzzFeed Lists That Explain the World" for the May/June 2013 issue of Foreign Policy, the FP staff decided to look at the world through BuzzFeed's eyes for a day. For more, check out 14 Hairless Cats That Look Like Vladimir Putin, 7 Things North Korea Is Really Good At, 36 Mustaches That Explain Why There's No Peace in the Middle East, and 1 Pentagon Weapons System That Was on Time and Under Budget.


1. "Dirty Kuffar" - By Sheikh Terra, feat. Soul Salah Crew

Definitely the flashiest of the independent English-language jihadi rap videos, "Dirty Kuffar" (shown above) was released by a British extremist site in 2004. The rap -- which Wikipedia notes samples Lumidee's 2003 single "Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh)" -- has "a reggae/rap hybrid style in the mold of popular artist Sean Paul," according to a review by counterterrorism expert Daveed Gartenstein-Ross. The song singles out Western leaders as non-believers to be targeted, with lyrics such as:

The Ronald Reagan was a dirty kuffar.
The Mr. Tony Blair is a dirty kuffar.
The one Mr. Bush is a dirty kuffar....
Throw them in the fire.


2. "Blow By Blow" - Abu Mansoor al-Amriki (Omar Hammami)

Omar Hammami, who goes by the stage name Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, is, as his nom de guerre suggests, an American -- a 28-year-old Alabaman who traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabab in 2006. His breakout hit, "Blow by Blow," which dropped online in 2009, featured the lyrics:

Bomb by bomb,
blast by blast,
only going to bring back the glorious past.


3. "Amir of the Ansar" - Asadaullah Alshishani

Danger Room's Adam Rawnsley reviewed this gem when it came out in 2010:

Kanye. Ke$ha. Al Qaeda. History's greatest monsters all have something in common - beyond their insatiable appetites for human blood. They've all used the "autotune" voice-shaping software to make their otherwise sucky voices sound all cool and computer-y....

Alshishani even asks forgiveness for "its poor quality."  With lyrical gems like "Amir of the Ansaar/How beautiful you are!/Your sword gleams in the sun/Like a shining star" the apology is much needed.

The song was recorded on May 15 while Alshishani was, as he describes, "high on a mountain top."  It's unclear at press time whether that description applied to his physical or mental altitude.

Danger Room is like the Pitchfork of jihadi rap.


4. "Make Jihad with Me" - Abu Mansoor al-Amriki (Omar Hammami)

With only a friend for accompaniment, Hammami's tracks sound thin, but his delivery doesn't help. Despite being an internationally wanted terrorist, Hammami spits rhymes with all the confidence of a karaoke night first-timer. On "Make Jihad with Me," Hammami gets a little carried away with the voice manipulation on lines like:

Attack America now, martyrdom or victory.
We're taking Nairobi to Addis,
Paradise inside,
come on, Muslim brother, bring your money or your life.


5. "Gun Fire Sound" - M-Team (not available for listening online, but it's on iTunes)

M-Team, the sanitized name of the rapping duo formerly known as Mujahideen Team, isn't generally out to make war on the West, and their song "The Conquest of Self" (featuring Amir Sulaiman) is all about setting violent jihad aside ("It's the conquest of self/put the guns up on the shelf/that's bad for your health and your wealth/live, conquer the inner/God bless the child/God save the sinner"). But "Gun Fire Sound," off their first album, "Clash of Civilizations" (yes, they read their Samuel Huntington), imagines fighting the non-believers:

We need a strong iman,
I pull the trigger calm,
the land of Babylon.
Come hear me one time,
we on the front line.
These kaffirs want mine,
these kaffirs hunt mine.
We don't want no war,
all we want is peace.
Gunfire sounds fire round
and we never cease.


6. "First Stop Addis" - Abu Mansoor al-Amriki (Omar Hammami)

A bad song among bad songs, "First Stop Addis" contains such dated lyrics as:

From Mogadishu, first stop Addis,
gonna knock America down to her knees.
Better call Zenawi, Bush, and Condoleez,
Marines, Army, Navy, and the police.


7. "Day of Retribution" - M-Team (feat. Amir Sulaiman)

Also from their "Clash of Civilizations" album, the track "Day of Retribution" fantasizes about a violent uprising against oppressors.

SPOKEN: Today is the day of retribution!
Today is the day of jihad!
Today is the day of victory or martyrdom,
so all you who believe, raise your hand and ready your weapons...

SUNG: Bust your weapons, take off oppression,
take their lives and right-hand possessions,
snatch a politician out the election,
give him injections, lethal infections...
The revolution, kaffir execution,
the true solution, the day of retribution!


8. "Motive Transportation" - Sons of Hagar

Another group singled out by Gartenstein-Ross in his review of "Dirty Kuffar," the Sons of Hagar are a Washington state-based duo who specialize in anti-government conspiracy theories, anti-Israel tracts, and violent fantasies like this one:

9/11, who paid the price?
System got a Muslim trippin' and torn into the justice system,
its lack of precision and a horrible condition.
So with my sword I slice and I bring justice back with appetite.
End of time, Armageddon,
leaving enemies with clenching fists and sliced necks,
heads with faceless expressions.
So where's your weapons?


9. "Sheikh Usama" - Abou Maleeq (Denis Mamadou Cuspert)

The "rapping jihadist of the West" trope isn't unique to English-speaking rappers. In Germany, Denis Mamadou Cuspert, who for a time was the rapper Deso Dogg, gave up his career as a popular artist to try his hand at bad jihadi rap under the name Abou Maleeq. His first attempt, an ode to "Sheikh Usama," didn't do so well, and seems to have been heavily influenced by the less-is-less stylings of Hammami.

The List

Cities on a Hill

Today's most intriguing utopias.

Almost since humankind was booted from the Garden of Eden, dreamers and visionaries have been imagining or trying to create perfect worlds, whether in Plato's Republic or Thomas More's Utopia, 19th-century socialist experiments or 1960s hippie enclaves. The fall of the Berlin Wall may have given grand visions of the "radiant future" a bad name and science fiction has taken a decided turn for the dystopian in recent decades, but there are still those who dream of an idealized planet -- and they're not just worshippers at the altar of techno-utopianism. From seafaring libertarians to a free-market city-state in the Detroit River, here's a sampling of the future-perfect still pulsing in 2013.

SimCity's Magnasanti
In the open-ended, alternately maddening and addictive world of SimCity, computer gamers create their own metropolises from scratch, designing systems for zoning, infrastructure, taxation, transportation, leisure, even sewage. But no one has quite mastered the art like Vincent Ocasla, an architecture student in the Philippines who spent nearly four years planning, building, and perfecting Magnasanti, his "optimum population" city of 6 million inhabitants, with "geometry inspired by the [Buddhist] wheel of life and death." And his virtual citizens approve, sort of: With zero congestion, zero water pollution, and zero crime, "they don't rebel or cause revolutions and social chaos," Ocasla told Vice magazine. (He did, however, admit that "they have all been successfully dumbed down, sickened with poor health, enslaved, and mind-controlled just enough to keep this system going for thousands of years.") A new version of SimCity has just been released and sold more than 1 million copies in its first two weeks on the market. The game has come a long way since its Atari days in the 1980s, when its rather unassuming working title was "Micropolis."


Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Sometimes it seems like the tiny, oil-rich United Arab Emirates has more money than sense, but with one of the world's highest per capita carbon-emission rates, it's planning to go green in a very big way. First announced in 2006, the government-backed Masdar eco-city, a 1-square-mile virtual postage stamp just outside the capital, Abu Dhabi, aims to be a low-carbon, low-waste oasis powered by the largest solar photovoltaic plant in the Middle East; the city itself will be raised 23 feet to capture desert breezes. Intended to house 40,000 residents and some 50,000 commuters, Masdar has faced setbacks in its scheme to become "The Global Center of Future Energy." Officials pushed the completion date from 2016 to 2025 and slashed the original $22 billion budget by 15 percent amid the financial downturn, forcing some compromises: A plan for electric, driverless cars may be restricted to only part of the city, while sandstorms and high prices could curb the use of solar panels. Masdar's backers aren't abandoning their eco-sanctuary. The site already hosts an MIT-affiliated, graduate-level computer science and engineering institute and aims to be a hub for clean-tech companies. "It is easier to build the perfect city," writes architect Norman Foster, whose firm is designing the project, "if you start with a blank canvas like the desert of Abu Dhabi and have oil money to finance it."


Seasteading Institute, San Francisco, California
A group of 21st-century utopians of the libertarian persuasion wants to permanently escape the heavy hand of government (that is, taxes) through "seasteading." The idea: floating communities, whether cruise ships or artificial islands, that lie in international waters, outside the purview of any particular country's laws. The concept's biggest backer, the Seasteading Institute, was co-founded in 2008 by software engineer Patri Friedman -- the grandson of the Nobel Prize-winning free market economist Milton -- and billionaire PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who has contributed more than $1 million to the project. The idea of finding freedom at sea isn't new: In 1964, Ernest Hemingway's younger brother, Leicester, launched the island nation of "New Atlantis" on an 8-by-30-foot bamboo raft off the coast of Jamaica. (It lasted a few years, until a storm destroyed it.) More successful has been the Principality of Sealand, an abandoned World War II-era sea fort seven miles off the coast of southeastern England, declared a sovereign nation (complete with coins and passports) in 1967 by Roy Bates, a British Army major turned disk jockey.

Seasteading Institute


The Citadel, Benewah County, Idaho
For a reminder that not everyone has the same definition of utopia, consider the proposed survivalist fortress dubbed the Citadel. "Marxists, Socialists, Liberals, and Establishment Republicans may find that living within our Citadel Community is incompatible with their existing ideology and preferred lifestyles," its website warns. The community -- which has purchased 20 acres of land in Benewah County, Idaho, and intends to expand to house as many as 7,000 families of "patriotic Americans" -- has a pretty limited view of the government's role in defending individual freedom. Construction has not yet begun, and the group, led by a convicted felon who spent 30 months in prison for extortion and illegal possession of a firearm, gives no estimated opening date. Still, the Citadel's website claims it will boast towers and gates to protect residents, as well as a farmers' market, post office, library, and retirement facility. Applicants (the group already claims several hundred) must sign a "Patriot Agreement" requiring that every able-bodied member maintain a rifle, at least five magazines, and 1,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as a stash of food and water. There will even be a weapons factory on-site -- the III Arms Company, which this year was granted a license by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

Jeff T. Green/Getty Images


Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan
A month before the state of Michigan announced earlier this year that it was sending an emergency manager to rescue financially troubled Detroit, real estate developer Rodney Lockwood Jr. published Belle Isle: Detroit's Game Changer. Part novel, part development proposal, the book takes place 30 years in the future, imagining real-life Belle Isle Park -- an uninhabited, city-owned, 983-acre island in the Detroit River -- as a prosperous, self-governing city-state of 35,000 people. In Lockwood's narrative, a group of investors plunks down $1 billion to buy the island, which attracts global entrepreneurs who develop the plot as a free market U.S. commonwealth, complete with its own laws and currency (called the "rand," presumably in homage to Ayn). It's not entirely ridiculous: New York University economist Paul Romer has long championed the idea of foreign-run "charter cities" like Hong Kong, though his project to found a new-economy bastion in Honduras recently ran aground. Consider Lockwood's dream something like Michigan's own Singapore (just with lousy weather).