If there’s a main point you should take away from Malitia Malimob’s music, it’s to look deeper than appearances. The duo of Chino’o Capo Gaddafi (Guled Diriye) and J Krown (Mohamed Jurato), who were part of our 2016 Best New Music issue, have been rhyming about their lives as Somali Americans for years; their last album, 2015’s ISIS, leveled-up the entire concept of gangster rap, describing the brutal civil war they escaped, a type of all-encompassing violence even the most broken American cities will never know. The duo’s penchant for inflammatory titles and hardcore lyrics belies their mission of unity and understanding, a mission forged by surviving some truly harrowing experiences and finding refuge within the thriving immigrant community of South Seattle.
Behind the name of their album and the name of their group is a powerful, positive intention from a point of view we seldom hear. It’s rare insight, so pay attention. Listen closer. Don’t settle on the surface.
When Diriye raps about the 45th U.S. President in Malimob’s new song “Dum Dum,” it’s less an act of aggression than of solidarity: This is the man driving us apart as a nation, as human beings; his are the poisonous ideas we will not tolerate. He puts it plainly in the song: “Stand together as foreigners/Back to back when they corner us/Help each other to victory, brotherly love the formula/Africans, Asians, Persians and Mexicans are my brothers.”
You’ll notice the video for “Dum Dum,” which we’re proud to premiere today, is heavily censored. The initial filming caused a stir in Hillman City, where residents called the police because they were alarmed by the Trump effigy Diriye and director Harry Clean had strung from a traffic post. Weeks later, the incident led to two Secret Service agents visiting Diriye’s mom’s house in Kent. Diriye says that the agents pressed his mother until she assented to them searching her home; they left her and Diriye’s entire family rattled. Though images and videos of Presidential effigies abound in the real world and on the internet—including the famous Obama and Hillary shooting-range targets—Diriye was one of the few people singled out for a visit from the Secret Service. Why?
“I hate to use that card, but I’m a young, Black Muslim man,” Diriye says. “And I’m also from one of the ‘shitty’ countries he’s talking about.” Diriye says that as an artist speaking his truth, he knew what he signed up for. “If I was afraid of them I’d rap about what everyone else is rapping about.” To drive home the point, the song samples Ishmael Butler’s Grammy acceptance speech from 1994: “We’d like to say to the universal Black family that one day we’re gonna recognize our true enemy and we’re gonna stop attacking each other and maybe then we’ll get some changes going on.”
After consulting with a lawyer—and in order to avoid a potential five-year sentence in federal prison—Diriye and the Malimob crew are releasing an altered version of the video. They overlaid the effigy with the number of the rather subjective U.S. statute that makes it illegal to “knowingly and willingly” make “any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States.” In the years since USC 18 871 was enacted in 1917, it’s been enforced by various agencies and overturned by various courts many times, the question always being what constitutes a real threat versus free speech.
Before you decide where Malitia Malimob falls on that scale, watch the video. And keep in mind where they’re coming from, literally.