Last week in Toronto, the Iraqi-Canadian rapper Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman joined Jeremy Scahill, Desmond Cole, and Naomi Klein for a live taping of Intercepted at the Hot Docs Podcast Festival, where he performed his new spoken word poem, “We Are on the Verge.” The last time Narcy joined Intercepted, it was to premiere the song, “Fake News,” in which Steve Bannon’s Muslim ban was rapped about in auto-tune.
The instant accessibility to the constant news-cycle anxiety hit a breaking point for Narcy during the few weeks in September when Hurricanes Irma, Maria, and Jose decimated many island nations, including Puerto Rico, after which Trump importantly explained that aid to Puerto Rico is difficult because “an island” is “in the middle of an ocean.” In response to Trump, Narcy writes he “direct quoted from assholes” for the opening line of “Verge.” He continued, “I think it flew over people’s heads, which was good — it was subtle.”
“Verge” lyrics nod to the unimaginable horrors in the decimation-by-bombing campaigns in Yemen, the appalling ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and how collectively we escape into our panacea of screens and Netflix. The piece resonates as a personal catharsis of not being able to consume as much news as is accessible, and feeling overwhelmed. Narcy says conversations with friends lead to being on the verge of something: “Being on the verge of the world ending, entire planetary natural disaster, and a political meltdown all over the world,” Yet, Narcy sees hope in this crescendo of panic. “This could be an opportunity to use this moment of a breaking point to use it in a positive way, as opposed to feeling like it could destroy us.”
“‘Free’ is the what if,” Narcy says. “If we were to deal with all these issues in a positive and organic way, then maybe we could look at each other as finally being free of any the shackles that hold us back in society. That’s why I did those two songs on the show.”
Narcy ended his performance with a track tentatively titled, “I Know” which we can expect on his next album to be released early next year. The album will have more of a pop structure, he says, while maintaining his hard-hitting political lyrics. “I want people to relate to this record. I have a song about my children. I have a song about enemies. I have a song about friends. It’s the spectrum of love and hate. It’s dance-y. It’s a little more love-y.”
When asked for closing comments on the Intercepted live show, Narcy said:
“What we’re all realizing is that we view nations as separate histories and nations get deleted as though their history is being deleted, and not ours. But really, whether you take the example of Iraq or any other country, it’s world history that has been deleted and our children will inevitably suffer from that. And I think what’s happening now in the world and the way power is being exercised and called out and — they’re just afraid because the so-called minority is now the majority and they can’t win. We’re bigger than everybody.”
His message echoes the mission statement of The Medium, a multimedia artist collective he co-founded and runs while performing, recording, and teaching part-time at Concordia University where he has a class called “Beats, Rhymes, and Life.” In the last year, Narcy released a self-directed video for Chobi Bryant and was approached by Talib Kweli to direct two upcoming music videos after the success of his directorial debut, “R.E.D.” from A Tribe Called Red ft. Yasiin Bey, which won the 2017 “Video of the Year” Juno award.
Listen to Narcy’s performance and interview on Intercepted: Live in Toronto and read the transcript for “Verge” below:
We Are on the Verge.
In the middle of the ocean,
Hurricanes and trumpets
It blew away the masters
Sipping tea with their subjects.
Human kind by design
What a natural disaster
Asked the Queen on my bill,
Could we end this any faster?
The internet and their profits vs.
So-called ignorance of our prophets
Live climate algorithm
An Al Gore rhythm, couldn’t stop it.
No matter what you say,
Couldn’t top it with a toupee
Or how big a circle crop is
Agent Orange is in office.
As Colin took a knee
Men strapped our sons with explosives
Sent our children to the seas.
Floating to the shore to be free.
How are we raising our children?
White sheets should never tell anyone how to be.
A Saudi Arabian woman should do as she please
Skrrrrt to the promised land my Gs.
I am on the Verge.
People will love to hate.
Record executives told me to be safe.
Educational institutions try to put me in my place.
Corporations keep telling me I’m late.
Creepy rich white men in power keep getting caught on tape.
Too many officers kill black men and beat the case.
Rappers and politicians keep lying and escape.
Fuck guns, what happened to throwing a pie in your face?
What is it about power: the high or the chase?
Here’s my direct message:
All of these screens,
Have us distracted from our being
And the scene of the crime.
How many times can I stream so many people dying?
In Yemen, I’m trying hard, to keep my composure, but Myanmar, my God.
I’m watching Netflix and kill,
Jets and weapons on some next shit.
I need a worldwide exit no Brexit
I’ve been here for each omen before text and the tech shift.
You know what I meme?
DM you: This is the end
Where have you been?
Reply: On the Verge.
You ain’t never lied
I haven’t felt the same about America since
The terror instilled in little Arabic kids by menaces like Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Saddam, and Erik Prince.
While Trudeau nice socks it to ‘em,
I wonder why a nations interest is rarely genuine.
No innuendos when war is still on the menu and the U.N. is filled with men
Who pretend to mend new ends to be friends, but really
Just serve the purpose to end humans. sheesh.
So much to say but I am speechless.
Who in this room can we hire for a world impeachment?
A faith too high to reach it.
A spirit too stubborn to teach with.
For the love of our peace kid.
We Are on the Verge.
Of being free.