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‘Contrary to our fight vs drugs’

Rap song won’t get high in PDEA charts

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is not feeling the hit from a Filipino rap song and wants it banned.

PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino on Thursday said “Amatz” by popular teenage rapper Shanti Dope promoted marijuana use.

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Aquino cited the chorus in the song, which goes: “Lakas ng amats ko, sobrang natural, walang halong kemikal. (I get a heavy hit, it’s so natural, no chemicals.)” Amats is Filipino slang for “tama,” or hit, typically referring to the effects of alcohol or drugs.

He also said a line in the song encouraged marijuana use: “Ito hinangad ko—lipadin ay mataas pa sa kayang ipadama sa ’yo ng gramo; di bale ng musika ikamatay kesa pera’t atraso, bala ng amo. (This is what I dream of—to soar higher than where a gram could take you. It’s better to die for music than from conflict or by the bullet.)”

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Letter to MTRCB

The song, Aquino said, was anathema to President Duterte’s war on drugs. But Duterte himself, in a speech on Dec. 3, said he used marijuana “to stay awake.”

In a letter dated May 20, 2019, Aquino asked the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM) and ABS-CBN Corp. to cease airing Amatz or promoting it around the country.

“We respect and appreciate our artists in the music industry,” Aquino said. “However, we strongly oppose the promotion of musical pieces or songs that encourage the recreational use of drugs like marijuana and  ‘shabu’ (crystal meth). It is contrary to our fight against illegal drugs.”

He said the song’s chorus referred to “the high effect of marijuana, being in its natural/organic state and not altered by any chemical compound.”

Dangerous precedent

The PDEA also recommended that “songs of similar forms should be banned from being aired.”

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In a statement on the rapper’s official Facebook page, the Shanti Dope Management urged Aquino to “listen to the whole song, and not just take a few lines out of context.”

It denied that the song promoted marijuana, saying that it stood against illegal drugs. It was clear, it said, that the singer was “flying” because of music, not narcotics.

“We also take offense at the manner in which this questionable interpretation of the song  ‘Amatz’ has been used to malign Shanti himself,” it said.

It warned that the ban would set a “dangerous precedent for creative and artistic freedom in the country when a drug enforcement agency can unilaterally decide on what a song is about.”

“This is a brazen use of power, and an affront to our right to think, write, create, and talk freely about the state of the nation,” it added.

Sotto proposal

There was no immediate comment from the MTRCB, OPM and ABS-CBN.

A similar proposal to ban a supposed drug-related song was made by Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, in 1995 on rock band Eraserheads’ hit “Alapaap.”

Sotto said a line in the song promoted the use of hallucinogenic drugs.

The band told the senator in a letter  that he had misinterpreted the lyrics, saying the song that was “our ‘ode to freedom’ as artists in our society, was dubbed as an ‘ode to drug abuse,’”

40 million plays

The 18-year-old Shanti Dope splashed onto the rap scene in 2017 with his first hit, “Nadarang,” which racked up more than 40 million plays on the music streaming app Spotify.

The official Amatz YouTube video had more than 3.7 million views while a live radio performance of the song gained more than 1.4 million views also on YouTube as of Wednesday.

In an interview with the Inquirer in April last year, Shanti Dope said he was aware that his music had raised eyebrows.

“There are still many people who question my message because they think I am still young and I do not know what I’m talking about,” he said.

“I have always been keen about my surroundings. When I sense something wrong that I cannot accept, I express it through my songs. I write my opinions about society,” said the rapper, who once dreamt of becoming a cook.

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TAGS: “Amatz”, PDEA, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino, rap song, Shanti Dope
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