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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Rapper says Arab Money track was as a 'compliment'

Lyrics of hit song were "misunderstood", says Ron Browz ahead of his Dubai concert.

DUBAI // A producer and rapper who contributed to the controversial Busta Rhymes track Arab Money said ahead of his Dubai concert that he had intended the song to compliment Arab culture, not insult it. 

Arab Money, which topped the charts in 2008 and 2009, focuses on Middle Eastern wealth, particularly in Dubai, and also mentions Yasser Arafat and Prince Al Waleed bin Talal. Its release in November 2008 stirred controversy, but Rondell Turner, who performs as Ron Browz, said the track had been misunderstood.

"For us, having 'Arab money' is a compliment understood like having 'Oprah money' or 'Tiger Woods money' - it's just street slang, and we were appreciating the amazing wonders that have been created here," Browz said. In 2009 the National Media Council banned the sale of the Busta Rhymes album, B.O.M.B, citing controversial content. 

The Iraqi rapper The Narcicyst released a response track, which was broadcast across radio stations in the UAE, Middle East and New York's Hot97 FM, pushing the rapper Busta Ryhmes to issue an apology.

According to the National Media Council, "The lyrics of Arab Money were considered to be offensive to Arabs and to Islam, and [permission] for distribution was therefore denied." Browz said that he had produced the track in a moment of inspiration while experimenting in his studio. "Growing up in Harlem I was always surrounded by Arabs and Muslims, we embraced their culture and they embraced ours and we always joked with each other," he said.

According to Browz, six months after recording the backing samples for the song, he was contacted by Busta Rhymes and asked to contribute to his album. "When I listed the tracks for Busta, I didn't even expect him to notice this one - it was number six on the CD," he said. 

"I got a call back and he loved it. He told me that I was to fly to LA the next day to start recording it." The song was a success. It made the Billboard top 100 pop songs and top 100 rap songs, peaking at number nine.

"I never anticipated such a backlash, and didn't know about it until Busta called me," said Browz. "I understand that since 9/11 Arabs and Muslims have been targeted with certain stereotypes but I never judge everybody in a certain situation and put the blame on them. 

"This is my first time in the Middle East and I cannot even express my feelings for this part of the world, it's amazing." 

amustafa@thenational.ae