x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Busta Rhymes album banned over track that quotes Quran

The UAE has banned the sale of the US hip hop artist Busta Rhymes' latest album, Back on my BS, citing controversial content.

Busta Rhymes in New York in February.
Busta Rhymes in New York in February.

ABU DHABI // The UAE has banned the sale of the US hip hop artist Busta Rhymes' latest album, Back on my BS, citing controversial content. The 14-track disc was released internationally last week, but because of one song, Arab Money, it will not be available to buy as a CD here. According to the National Media Council, "The lyrics were considered to be offensive to Arabs and to Islam, and [permission] for distribution was therefore denied."

Some DJs, artists and fans have lambasted the track, saying it portrayed Arabs in a stereotypical way. A remix of the song by Rhymes, who is Muslim, and fellow hip hoppers Akon and Diddy contains verses from the Quran. Mehdi Cherif, the international music buyer for Virgin Megastores in the Middle East, confirmed the song sank the album. "The album is banned because of the song which is called Arab Money," said Mr Cherif, who is based in Dubai. "There were also some Quran verses used on a follow-up song, and this was the main reason. Any product that we want to sell, we have to send a copy to the National Media Council so it can approve the lyrics and the artwork."

There are ways around the ban, however: the album can still be purchased via Apple's iTunes service. "The UAE usually approves about 99 per cent of what is released," Mr Cherif added. "Kuwait is a major problem for us, where about 80 per cent of products are banned. They have banned, for instance, an Usher and a Prince CD in the past. Sometimes it's because of the track listings. Here in the UAE, in the past, the Katy Perry song I Kissed a Girl was banned. Even compilation albums that contained the song were rejected."

In November, when Arab Money was released as a single, DJ Dany Neville and the Iraqi rapper The Narcicyst were so offended by the Rhymes song that they recorded a reply. Rhymes later apologised for causing any upset. DJs in the country said they had not received an order banning the record from being spun in nightclubs, and they had mixed feelings on whether the record was offensive or not. "I don't play Arab Money because it's disrespectful on Arabs," said DJ Saif of Dubai. "I don't think there is a ban on playing it in clubs, but many here don't play it anyway."

The Emirati DJ Bliss, who has his own show on Radio 1 in Dubai, also says he no longer plays Arab Money. "I used to play the original version in the club, but out of respect for the laws here in my country, I haven't played it since," he said. @Email:asafdar@thenational.ae