The answer is: no. Ron Artest has less than zero rapping skills. However, the LA Lakers forward deserves props for having the right intention—albeit lyrically misdirected—for trying to shed light on the issue of domestic abuse (and an unnatural attraction to little girls) by the men in their community. It’s disgusting, really. According to nongovernmental organizations in-country, 90 percent of Afghan women are being abused.
In his music video Afghan Girl, Artest is moved to fuse his love of hip-hop music by rapping over images of abused women, courtesy RAWA.org. There’s something viscerally disturbing about watching him rap in a wife-beater. But what’s even more unsettling is how he seems to be yearning in the video, cheesetastic r&b hooks and all. Lyrics like: “I wish I was there so you could feel me, feel me/run my fingers through your hair through your hair/caress your face to show you that I care, that i care…” at 1:17-1:26 is just plain-old weird.
Back in the day, I think anyone of these verses may have worked, in a quirky way, on a remix for A Tribe Called Quest’s Bonita Applebum. In a good way, Artest’s flow on this track is mellow, laid-back, in an off-beat sort of way. And Tribe is so musically deft, even by today’s standards, that it could have carried the kind of almost schoolboy parlance Artest kicks on this track. Now, Artest as a voice for pandemic gender violence against women in Afghanistan? Not so much.
On Afghan Girl, Ron Artest would have benefited greatly by working with someone who had the sense to tell him, “No Ron, this ain’t working.”