Mr. O’s Obangam: A Powerful and Lyrically Impressive Critique of Western Interference and Racial Abuse

Mr. O is a rapper from Equatorial Guinea who seems to currently be residing in Spain. 

Mr. O

Obangam, which means “togetherness,” is a powerful example of combat music, speaking to the masses and calling for action to be taken against racial abuses in Spain. 

The video starts with a clip of right-wing Spanish nationalists chanting “negros no” which translates to “no Black people,” likely in regard to African immigrants. This relates to the history of Equatorial Guinea, which used to be a Spanish colony and province until 1968. 

Spanish right wing protests. The man’s shirt reads “proud to be Spanish”

Mr. O starts the song by saying “Integration? No, I like who I am. Visibility? Neither. My presence in my community is enough.” In other words, Mr. O refuses to be pressured into abandoning his culture just because he’s now in Spain. Mr. O also rejects materialism and instead takes a more conscientious approach to his music. He has knowledge of self and doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not. His style and demeanor remind me of Mos Def in many ways. 

Mr. O goes on to criticize multinational corporations who exploit Africa’s resources, such as Shell, as Equatorial Guinea has large oil reserves. He also calls out Western powers for planting military bases in Africa for conflicts they’ve provoked. The African people, Mr. O says, see no benefit from this supposed “development.”

Screenshot from the music video

Mr. O doesn’t limit his attacks to the West and also targets African leaders. Using an impressive rhyme scheme, Mr. O says:

No son líderes nuestros, sino sicarios de tu elite

Que aniquilan a cualquiera que quiera librarnos del Occidente

Translation: “They are not our leaders, but rather criminals of the elite, who annihilate whoever seeks to liberate us from the West.”

In other words, Mr. O recognizes that African leaders are complicit in the pillaging of the continent by Western governments and corporations. 

He also goes on to criticize the authoritarian nature of several African countries, with this line seeming to allude more toward his home of Equatorial Guinea. “If they control your ideas, your destiny is in their hands. If they control your economy, they decide your future,” Mr. O says.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been the dictator of Equatorial Guinea since 1979. His predecessor and uncle Francisco Macias Nguema, who he killed in a military coup, was one of the most brutal and disturbing dictators of the 20th century.

As Mr. O criticizes the West for “cutting and pasting” presidents (regime change) instead of attacking fundamental issues, pictures of the EU flash on the screen. 

Next, Mr. O moves on to addressing the immigrant experience in Spain, with disturbing images depicting racially-motivated attacks popping up. He criticizes the Spanish government for hating immigration but having no problem causing the problems that lead to that immigration. “Quiero tu petróleo pero no a ti,” he says, or “I want your oil but not you.”

Mr. O especially addresses the racial nature of Spanish anti-immigration. He tells his audience that in the eyes of the Spanish far-right, the problem is their skin color. Calling for action in the form of self-defense, he continues, “Ya pasó antes y paro porque les pusimos a recoger sus dientes.” In English: “this (racial abuse) happened before and it only stopped because we made them pick up their teeth.”

Mr. O also criticizes the growth of Vox, a Spanish far right party that has advocated for anti-immigration.

Mr. O continues on this combative note, saying “organizate negro…si tocan a uno tocan a todos” (organize yourself Black…if they touch one of us they touch all of us). This line is a perfect example of why the song is called “togetherness.” Mr. O is calling on Black people to stand together and resist racial oppression. 

Throughout the song, Mr. O also repeats the phrase “Abre tu mente y no tu culo, autodefensa no es racismo protegen lo tuyo.” This translates to “open your mind and not your ass, self defense is not racism, protect yourself.” In other words, Mr. O is calling on people to not submit to racial abuse and to instead fight back. It is important to clarify that Mr. O is not promoting violence or aggression or revenge. Rather, he is simply calling for people to defend themselves against the aggressors, which can be understood to be the Spanish far-right. 

Overall, Obangam is a powerful combat song that addresses issues faced by the African diaspora in a holistic way. The song looks at the problem from several angles: the Western interference and domestic government incompetence that caused immigration waves in the first place, as well as racial abuse in the new country and steps that can be taken to combat it.

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