“Who have we become/how will I ever return to where I am from/where it is ruled by the gun,” raps Montreal-based Iraqi-Canadian hip hop artist Narcy in “Tourist,” a song off his latest record, World War Free Now. The artist is a native of Iraq, a country that has been occupied by Western forces for decades. As a result of this background, Narcy does not shy away from using his work to comment on imperialism and violence in Iraq and abroad. A main theme of this record is survival: those subjected to injustices like targeted violence and inequality not only survive, but also triumph over their hardships. More than just upbeat tempos and clever rhymes, World War Free Now‘s consciousness illuminates the lived experience of a part of the world, namely the Middle East, which is rarely discussed in mainstream hip hop.
Despite the heavy content discussed in the tracks, the record educates without overwhelming the listener. “Free (One Day)” paints a picture of a utopian world without war or violence. The hypnotizing beat and smooth flow arguably make it one of the strongest songs on the record. Narcy raps, “We live in hell or we live in heaven/honestly I can’t even tell you the difference/we are the cause/we are effect/we are the blessed/and I also believe that we could be the best,” expressing hope in one day seeing a world free from unnecessary hardships caused by humankind.
More than just upbeat tempos and clever rhymes, World War Free Now‘s consciousness illuminates the lived experience of a part of the world, namely the Middle East, which is rarely discussed in mainstream hip hop.
World War Free Now blends Middle Eastern sounds with hip hop’s turntablism – pushing the boundaries of the genre. In “Love Me (Hate Me),” Narcy samples “Do You Love Me?” – a popular Lebanese song from the 1970s performed in English by the Bendaly Family. “Love Me (Hate Me)” retains the familiar Middle Eastern sounds of the durbakke and tambourine over a hip hop beat, adding a twist to the Western hip hop aesthetic. The track “Makoo,” gives a glimpse into the sounds of Narcy’s native Iraq. The title roughly translates into “there isn’t” in Iraqi Arabic, and is repeated throughout the chorus, along with several other lines that are sung in Iraqi dialect.
Narcy fuses these sounds and political messages to create a perfect mix of Arabic and hip hop music that has rarely been produced. World War Free Now stands out as a unique piece of media that adds another component to hip hop culture. After having shared the stage at Osheaga with hip hop legend Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), there is no doubt that we will be hearing a lot more of Narcy in the near future.