It took only a few ambushes, roadside bombs and corpses for Neal Saunders to know what he had to do: turn the streets of Baghdad into rap music. So the First Cavalry sergeant, then newly arrived for a year of duty in Sadr City, began hoarding his monthly paychecks and seeking out a U.S. supplier willing to ship a keyboard, digital mixer, cable, microphones and headphones to an overseas military address. He hammered together a plywood shack, tacked up some cheap mattress pads for soundproofing and invited other Task Force 112 members to join him in his jerry-built studio. They call themselves "4th25"-pronounced fourth quarter, like the final do-or-die minutes of a game-and their album is "Live From Iraq." The sound may be raw, even by rap standards, but it expresses things that soldiers usually keep bottled up. "You can't call home and tell your mom your door got blown off by an IED," says Saunders. "No one talks about what we're going through. Sure, there are generals on the TV, but they're not speaking for us. We're venting for everybody."Read the story, but here's some of the lyrics:
One of their most popular numbers starts in a hushed tone, almost a whisper:
"There's a place in this world you've never seen before / A place called streets and a place called war / Most of you wanksters ain't never seen the fleet / You talk about war and you've only seen the street." ("the fleet" is what Marines call the Fleet Marine Force, the combat arms - Ed.)
Last month Snap learned that an explosion had killed a good friend in Iraq. "It just makes me want to be here more, knowing that people want to hurt us," he says. He and Ten Gram rap on: "I'm a pit bull at night, I'm out to gitcha / Devil Dog mentality bitin' whoever's witcha / I taste blood, I'm tired of marchin' in the mud / I throw down my 9 and now I'm pumpin' slugs." Refusing to give in is what the music is all about.If you would like to hear or download some of Snap and Ten Gram's stuff, go to 4th25.