Wednesday, July 27, 2005
hip-hop, conflict diamonds, rings

It's been out for awhile, but I feel the new Kanye West song "Diamonds Are Forever" deserves a mention. It's good to see that he's continuing his trend of making social conscious music, this time focusing on the subject of conflict diamonds and one of the poorest countries in the world, Sierra Leone.

As I'm fond of interpreting hip-hop lyrics, let me break down his verse from the remix in a scholarly fashion...

[Kanye West]
Good Morning, this ain't Vietnam still
People lose hands, legs, arms for real
Little was known of Sierra Leone
And how it connect to the diamonds we own

Greetings. Though the US-Vietnam conflict has been over, the reality is that war still claims a visible physical cost on human life. In fact, people are ignorant of the country of Sierra Leone and its link to the diamonds we possess.

When I speak of diamonds in this song
I ain't talkin bout the ones that be glown
I'm talkin bout Rocafella, my home, my chain
These ain't conflict diamonds,is they Jacob? don't lie to me man

The diamonds I discuss in this song are not commercially successful songs I've made. I refer instead to my record label and material possessions such as my house and my jewelry. Jacob, please verify without falsehood that these diamonds in the jewelry I possess are not conflict diamonds!

See, a part of me sayin' keep shinin',
How? when I know of the blood diamonds
Though it's thousands of miles away
Sierra Leone connect to what we go through today
Over here, its a drug trade, we die from drugs
Over there, they die from what we buy from drugs
The diamonds, the chains, the bracelets, the charmses
I thought my Jesus Piece was so harmless
'til I seen a picture of a shorty armless

A part of me would like to continue to indulge in a flagrant display of wealth, but my conscience is struck by the awareness of conflict diamonds. Sierra Leone lies a considerable distance from my present location, but is still linked to the life we experience here in North America. At our location, the trafficking in illegal narcotics is a cause of death. In Sierra Leone, the cause of death can be attributed to the diamonds purchased from wealth generated by illegal narcotics. I believed that diamonds, necklaces, bracelets, charms, and even the Christian crucifix I own were inconsequential until I viewed a photograph of a young child without arms.

And here's the conflict
It's in a black person's soul to rock that gold
Spend ya whole life trying to get that ice
On a Polo rugby it look so nice
How could somethin' so wrong make me feel so right, right?
'fore I beat myself up like Ike
You could still throw ya Rocafella diamond tonight, 'cause...

This is my dilemma - there seems to be a intrinsic desire inside of many black people to attain a material symbol of weath. People devote their entire existence struggling to obtain diamonds that fashionably compliment a designer Polo t-shirt. How is it possible that such a morally flawed object gives me a positive emotional response? Before I wrack myself with guilt in a manner similar to the physical abuse of Ike Turner, it's possible for you to appreciate this song.

(Kanye West - "Diamonds Are Forever Remix")

You can download a sample of the song right here. (right click + "save as")


Though a number of my friends and family have gotten engaged / married the past few years, I don't think I've ever heard of anyone discussing the issue of diamonds in our culture and the relationship to conflicts in Africa, such as Sierra Leone. If I'm ever able to afford a engagement ring, I don't think my conscience would let me buy a diamond unless I knew with a strong degree of confidence that it wasn't a conflict diamond.

Unfortunately, this can be very difficult to determine.

One of the reasons for the growing success of the artificial diamond industry (besides making more natural stones) is that an artificially made diamond is 100% guaranteed to not be a conflict diamond from Africa and not connected to atrocities like child soldiers.

Or the latest inovation in rings: biojewellery! Rings are 'grown' from a sample of bone taken from their partner and combined with precious metals. Fascinating idea.


cool. i never knew or i guess listened closely enough to know that song was about conflict diamonds. i gotta hear it again.

"Jacob" also sounds like a reference to the prevalence of Jewish people that have historically been involved in the African diamond trade.
dks - Jacob is a reference to Jacob Arabo, AKA "Jacob the Jeweler" whose jewelry is popular among the ridiculously rich.

But yeah, Jewish diamond dealers? wassup with that? Makes me think of 'Snatch'...
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in?scrip?tion (n-skrip-shun)n.
1. The act or an instance of inscribing.
2. Something, such as the wording on a coin, medal, monument, or seal, that is inscribed.
3. A short, signed message in a book or on a photograph given as a gift.
4. The usually informal dedication of an artistic work.
5. Jeremiah 31:33

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