If you didn’t know, then now you know – IRAQ-A-FELLA, the highly anticipated album by Iraqi-rapper Narcy, is on its way, starting with its first single of the same name. Released on March 18th, the track is a 3-minute-and-31-seconds explosion of pure bars dripping with political and pop-culture references, delivered in notorious Narcy-style: high energy and effortless cool.
The track was produced by legendary hip-hop producer ‘Nottz’, whose discography includes credits like ‘Dangerous MCs’ by The Notorious B.I.G., featuring Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, and Mark Curry; and ‘Thicker Than Blood’ by Fat Joe featuring Terror Squad.
‘IRAQ-A-FELLA’, as the name would suggest, is an appealing union between East and West, both instrumentally and lyrically. Nottz fuses the vibes of classic old-school boom-bap with Middle Eastern undertones with the tambourine. Lyrically, Narcy’s pen-game is undefeated. In fact, for this review, we’re sharing a #NoiseBreakdown (our interpretation) of the song’s official lyrics.
But first, listen to the track on Anghami here:
I don’t speak for Iraqis
Just because he’s Iraqi, doesn’t mean he speaks for the entire Iraqi population. This is a message for both minorities & the oppressive West. To his people, he doesn’t claim to be their messiah, and his intention is not to be ‘their leader’. He is simply sharing his personal experience as an Iraqi, Iraqi-Canadian migrant, and Iraqi rapper. As he’s said before on ‘Revolutionary Suicide’, there’s no “Iraqi-rapper handbook.” To the West, this line reads differently – it can be interpreted as a note to not homogenize an entire nation of people simply for their shared nationality.
Before the East was so rocky
I would reach like a proxy
‘Proxy’ is defined as ‘a person authorized to act on behalf of another’, or ‘a figure that can be used to represent the value of something in a calculation’. The term ‘proxy’ is also often used politically in the context of ‘proxy wars’, which is ‘a war instigated by a major power which does not itself become involved’.
Here, Narcy could be telling listeners that perhaps before the Middle East became war-torn due to outside political influences, he may have felt more comfortable taking on that role. Now, however, he may be attempting to share a disclaimer to his stance and views. This interpretation may be supported by the following few bars:
I do this for my culture
My speech is an offering
If the food is bad - the people are toxic
It also seems as though Narcy is taking a dig at Western oppressors, especially those in White America who are looked down upon for lacking culture, demonstrated through their often bland food.
Steez Annunaki, Plisse Issey Miyake
Please speak to me as
Hova is American rapper Jay-Z’s nickname - Narcy wants to be addressed as the Arab Jay-Z, essentially meaning he wants to be viewed with the same level of respect for his MCing.
Supernova - Casanova always lacked a Yoda
All my words have to go past the quota
I’m caught between rubber bullets and Hockey Pucks
Between 'it was written' and reading my coffee cup
The last two bars allude to the Catch 22 the artist finds himself in – rubber bullets and hockey pucks could refer to coming from a country torn in turmoil and violence, and living in Canada where the most famous sport is hockey. Visually, the comparison is interesting because both ‘fly’ – metaphorically, it denotes a much deeper dissonance between having to exist in a land that, in this generation, will never know the same violence as the artist’s home country.
Narcy shares a similar interesting contradiction with ‘Between ‘it was written’ and reading my coffee cup’, perhaps pointing out a hypocrisy in Arab culture that both puts religion first while culturally indulging in ‘pagan’ traditions like magic and fortune telling.
Will you walk with us or only follow
All I see is Faces and Masks like Eduardo Galeano
There is no man on earth who is strong enough
To think he’s stopping us
‘Faces and Masks’ is a book by Uruguayan journalist, writer and novelist Eduardo Galeano, known as one of the most prolific literaries of the Latin-American left. This could be a nod to what Galeano stands for – but it’s most certainly in reference to the pandemic that shook the world, where the entire population was, for a long period of time, forced to wear masks.
Free the People Pro Human Ex Machina
The human virus inside us, it’s time to cough it up
It’s 2022 - we the future
Human Ex Machina is a concept that belies many high-concept philosophical beliefs – the most important of these being empathy. With these lines it seems as though Narcy is trying to say that the real disease, aside from the pandemic he referred to in the last couple of bars, is the evil at the heart of human society. This is what we must cure, more than anything.
World Star you’re nobody till somebody shoot ya
With a camera, vaccine or a drones’ impunity
In true MC fashion, Narcy pays homage to The Notorious B.I.G., who once said “You’re nobody ‘till somebody kills you”. This may also be in homage to the ‘IRAQ-A-FELLA’S’’ producer Nottz, who once produced a track for the iconic rapper.
However, also in true Narcy fashion, the artist puts a twist on the line. “World Star, you’re nobody till somebody shoot ya with a camera” is a multi-dimensional lyric. World Star is a platform that notoriously gained its fame for posting videos of people fighting. This has been said to popularize the practice of filming even in the midst of conflict or tragedy, thereby commodifying pain. To reference World Star is both a nod to the violence implied in the word ‘shoot’, while also referring to how you ‘shoot’ with a camera to film. In the same breath, Narcy comments brilliantly on the generation of the internet, and how people have risen to fame for simply being in front of a camera.
Narcy’s bending of the word ‘shoot’ doesn’t end there – going back to the pandemic reference, he mentions ‘vaccines’, which are administered with a ‘shot’.
From a computer to a community - we lack immunity
What are the symptoms that we are showing
It seems the American Dream has sucked the soul out of beings like Lyor Cohen
All praises due to the all knowing
Narcy continues to comment on the lack of empathy in society, using the pandemic as a metaphorical reference with words like ‘immunity’ and ‘symptoms’. The artist also alludes to the idea that these social issues relate to the large-scale disease of ‘capitalism’ when he mentions the ‘american dream’. In the same breath, he calls out American music exec Lyor Cohen, who once led Def Jam. Narcy then pays tribute to who the real Supreme Leader is – God.
If you didn’t know then now you know
You can hear it all around the globe
I was gone but now I’m back for more
The hook is a catchy refrain of the song’s title and the artist’s overarching brand, ‘IRAQ-A-FELLA’ – a play on the word ‘ROCK-A-FELLA’, Jay-Z’s famous record label ‘ROCK-A-FELLA Records’.
IRAQ-A-FELLA ain’t an army its a message and code
A word to the wise from the flesh of a goat
Here the artist shares his personal meaning behind the brand’s name – it’s not to be associated with war or violence, it’s no army. To Narcy, the word represents a message, an effort to deliver some truth to those who listen. Of course, ‘flesh of a goat’ is a nod to the well-known pop-culture term ‘G.O.A.T’, or ‘Greatest Of All Time’.
My people back-peddling drenched on a boat
I’m just trying to keep the culture afloat
A word to the immigrants who often have to cross ocean waters to reach their destination. ‘Trying to keep the culture afloat’ is a clever punchline to his efforts in trying to keep the culture of his people alive, as well as perhaps the culture of hip-hop alive.
You over stand I had to underhand
It took our fathers many years to see their motherlands
I’m like a dog, I don’t speak but I understand
Who creates the enemy by funding them
(Wait a minute!)
Using wordplay, Narcy strikes listeners with a heavy truth that is often hidden behind closed doors. It is, in fact, public knowledge that fundamentalist groups like ‘Al-Qaeda’ and ‘ISIS’ were in fact created and funded by the US government.
So If I ever say go
You see my logo on your plain clothes
(And everything I sell ya)
To those who slept you should’ve stayed woke
Till they blow them horns like Masego
(And we all end up in hell ahhhh!)
Narcy starts the bridge with ‘So if I ever say go’, implying that those who listen to him should pursue the truth as he does. Again with wordplay, the ‘go’ is transferred to ‘logo’ and then again to ‘Masego’ – which sonically sounds like ‘say go’. Masego is an artist known for his musicianship, particularly with the saxophone and trumpet, both horn instruments.
Damon dishdasha energy better cut me a chèque
I never gave a fuck about a record exec
They done sold more souls than Kanye West
The lesson that I learned, do more say less
Narcy has a long-standing history with the music industry – particularly with record executives who have often brought the artist down and shadow-banned him from the industry for his strong political views.
Stay Blessed, we all die holmes!
In this world it’s an eye for an iPhone
However, Narcy doesn’t let the corruption of the music industry bring him down – in the end, everyone dies, and everyone leaves their own legacy behind. Good, or bad. Narcy’s skill in wordplay is also apparent in the bar ‘An eye for an iPhone,’ perhaps a nod to the theme of society and its need to constantly record or be recorded.
You either get a record like a vinyl
Or get checked in your hood like a gyno
Perhaps we’re reaching, but, RECORDing with an iPhone…you either get a ‘RECORD’ like a vinyl? Aside from this, the artist is also known for his satirical approach to lyricism – ‘get checked in your hood like a gyno’ is classic humorous Narcy.
I know I don’t mean to impose
But I’d like to deliver a toast
Took me a minute to finish the flows
I almost didn’t make it to dinner with Hov
The track ends with another reference to Jay-Z and a skit of the rapper arriving late to a Jay-Z dinner. All in all, ‘IRAQ-A-FELLA’ is a display of Narcy at his best. The flow and pen of a true MC. Stay tuned for the full album, coming soon.