Alltruisms “Clusterbombs Laos/Me Mix” (Influenza)
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Influenza, Music.
Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artists. Here in the final episode featuring Chicago’s Alltruisms the emcee discusses the powerful inspiration behind “Clustbombs Laos.” His travels overseas brought him new experiences as well as new a new understanding of some global tragedies. Comparing the bombs to emcees Alltruisms then digresses and focuses on another meaning of the term.
On “Clusterbombs Laos/Me Mix”:
I entered and exited Laos on the Mekong River. The two day boat trip downriver from the Thai border ends in the town of Luang Prabang. Me and my friends from the boat capped off the evening with, of course, karaoke, and by then it was coming up on midnight and the start of my birthday. I looked in the song book for a long time, and I finally found The Animals’ “The House of the Rising Sun”. So I’m psyched and I go up on the stage, which is huge, bigger than the stages at most venues I’ve rapped at. I start singing, and after about thirty seconds the music stops. While I’m asking myself ‘WTF,’ my friends jump on stage and start singing Happy Birthday, complete with karaoke background.
The next day, having yet to learn my lesson about the virtues of slow travel, I took a bus eight hours to a high plains town called Phonsavan. People go there to see an archaeological site called the Plain of Jars, which are fields with hundreds of giant stone jars, 1500-2000 years old, exact use unknown, possibly urns. The area also has a ton of unexploded ordinance (UXO’s), cluster bombs that the U.S. dropped in its “secret war” in Laos. We dropped the equivalent of one planeload of bombs on Laos every eight minutes for nine years, making Laos still the most-bombed country ever. Sometimes we targeted Viet Cong supply lines in Laos, sometimes bombing missions into Vietnam failed for whatever reason, and the pilots had to drop the bombs somewhere because it was too risky to land the planes with bombs on board. These cluster bombs, there were hundreds in each bombshell, and they’re supposed to drop out of the bombshell, spin in the air, and explode as they hit the ground. But about forty percent don’t explode, so they litter the fields, millions of them, and a kid will pick one up and get blown up, or a farmer will hit one while planting his land.
In Phonsavan I stayed at Kong Keo’s guest house. Kong Keo is a local in his thirties who’s traveled in Europe, speaks good English, and has some wild wild stories. He took us to some UXO fields, pointing out the bombs four feet away, “don’t step there.” The fields had craters made by past explosions, and we sat in one to rest for a bit. Seeing the UXO’s, I thought about the metaphor between cluster bombs and rappers, how we “drop”, we need “spins,” we want to “blow” right away but some don’t, they sit there for years and decades, and no one ever knows how close they are to finally blowing. So I wrote “Clusterbombs Laos” in this bomb crater. Later on back in the U.S., when I decided Clusterbombs would be the album title, I wrote a remix to the song, over the same K-Kruz beat. I used the same structure and rhyme patterns on the remix, but while the original talks about Laos specifically, the remix talks about pop culture being exported worldwide, and how it’s a different kind of war weapon.