I haven’t had alot of time to listen to Kanye West’s much anticipated sophomore album, Late Registration, but I have been intrigued by the remix of the song “Diamonds from Sierra Leone.” In the first half of the song, West makes very astute observations about the relationship between “bling” in America and the trade in “conflict diamonds” in parts of Africa, including Angola and Sierra Leone. Although it was five years ago that the U.N. adopted a resolution condemning the role of diamonds in fueling these brutal wars, it took West’s song to bring the issue to the attention of large segments of the American public.

My problem with the song is not West’s part but Jay-Z’s. The second half of the song is an extended cameo by Jay-Z, who raps about nothing relevant to the first part. Sample lyric:

Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week
I do this in my sleep,
I sold kilos of coke, I’m guessin’ I can sell CDs
I’m not a businessman I’m a business, man
Let me handle my buisness, damn!

Jay-Z’s considerable talent is evident on the song. He can flow and he is funny, but why has he never said anything socially relevant in a song? Or maybe he has? Am I missing something here? I mean, he doesn’t have to be Chuck D, but it seems he has wasted his talent in part by not pushing himself more. “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” is a perfect case in point.

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