K’naan, Wavin’ Flag: Mitt Romney’s Offensive Use of Rap Song
Mitt Romney, the current frontrunner in the Republican’s endless — and endlessly nasty — presidential primary, has spent the past few months throwing red meat at the party base. One of America’s richest men, he’s been arguing for lower corporate taxes and more military spending while stoking anti-immigrant jingoism.
So it makes sense, then, that in his Florida primary victory, Romney’s people would blast the patriotic song ‘Wavin’ Flag.’ Except, of course, the patriot in question is Somali-Canadian rapper K’naan.
After Huffington Post reporter Jon Ward tweeted the song selection, the Toronto-based MC responded on Twitter: “Yo @mittromney I am K’naan Warsame and I do not endorse this message.” K’naan later threatened legal action — while pointedly saying he’d “happily grant Obama permission to use it without prejudice” — and Romney’s spokesperson agreed not to use it again out of “respect.”
But this musical gaffe goes much deeper than simply using a song without asking.
It was the second musical miscue for the Republicans this week, after the ’80s rock band Survivor announced they are suing Romney’s rival Newt Gingrich over his campaign use of their ‘Rocky III‘ theme ‘Eye of Tiger.’
But while Survivor may not agree with Newt’s politics, the song at least made political sense being a pro-violence anthem associated with a Cold War-era bruiser who beat a black man — Mr. T — to win the title fight.
But K’naan’s song promotes the polar opposite of Romney’s policies. Set in war-torn Mogadishu, the rapper recounts his youth in a “violent prone, poor people zone/ But it’s my home, all I have known.”
As he talks of his past personal suffering — “we struggling, fighting to eat and we wondering when we’ll be free” — the callousness of its use as a victory song by a natural-born billionaire who was just quoted saying “I’m not concerned about the very poor” becomes even more appalling.
Perhaps it was picked because Romney’s people googled the word “flag” and figured it must be about America. But ‘Wavin’ Flag’ became an international anthem when it was selected as a World Cup theme — psst Mitt, when they say football they mean soccer — and used for a Canadian all-star fundraising single to help Haiti in the aftermath of its earthquake.
But to be fair, ‘Wavin’ Flag’ does get very appropriate towards the end, when the refugee rap song reminds us what a Romney presidency might look like:
“So many wars, settling scores/ Bringing us promises, leaving us poor/ Look how they treat us, make us believers/ We fight their battles, then they deceive us.”