Protesting Iraq with Animation And Hip-Hop

Sorrow of the Soldier

“Sorrow of the Soldier” is a one-off animated music video released on the Internet today. The video, which protests the US occupation of Iraq, is a collaboration between a global roster of hip-hop artists from the US, UK, Japan and Europe. The animation by UK artist James Harvey achieves a striking look through mixing an illustrative style with bold graphic symbols, all in black-and-white with well-employed spots of color. The video’s website features multiple remix versions—streaming on YouTube and available for hi-res download. Here’s more about the project from its press release:

The track, ‘Sorrow of the Soldier’ by US Rapper Mark Prysler, tells the story of Lucas, a working-class man who runs out of options in his own life and sees the army as an attractive means of escape. Upon deployment he finds the reality of the Iraq war is far removed from the fantasy sold to him by the Bush administration. The story is an analog for the experiences of many young men and women fighting in Iraq today and the lyrics call for direct action from the government.

Uniquely, the video has been simultaneously released in several different versions, each with a separate audio track by a different global collaborator. Each remix artist was asked to choose a ‘flavour’ to represent themselves on the website. The standout ‘mint’ version features production from Holland’s DJ Donor, who has remixed artists such as Pharrell Williams, while ‘Cheese’ flavour is remixed by Takashi Otagiri, the president of Tokyo Fun Party, a Japan-based dance music collective. More remixes are to be added to the website over the coming month from hip-hop artists from France, Germany, and both east and west coast America.

Sorrow of the Soldier


  • http://www.sadiethepilot.com Kellie Strøm

    Legally speaking, the occupation ended on June 28, 2004.

  • James Harvey

    The troops are still there, though, and people are still dying because of it.

  • Ed Kirk

    Oh dear, we’ve gone over to a student politics style web site have we?

    Come back Bugs Bunny, all is forgiven!!

  • Thorton La Reve

    Yeah, that usually happens in wars. People die…

  • Matt Sullivan

    Wonderful animation. I can’t help but think this is just another example of America-bashing…the new world sport, but i don’t think it goes that far. I was against the war from the start but I’m getting really irritated at how Europeans in particular are lumping all of us into the new “bad guy”

  • http://octop.com Aleksandar Vujovic

    Good idea, but I’d say it’s not too well constructed. As for the animation, there are a few cool bits but the fact it’s all so plain gives it a very unfinished look which ceases to pull me into the project’s innuendo.

    And as for the rap, well, I wish that’d just stop.

    Sounds like anything any of the kids at my school call music. Phat beats.

  • Chuck R.

    Yay, more proof that the music industry needs an enema. This video is one-stop shopping for worn-out music industry cliches:
    White hip-hop artist (are we really ready for the next Vanilla Ice?), anti-war message, pretentious title. Add animated surrealistic war imagery ala Gerald Scarfe, and we-can’t-decide-which-way-is-best flavors ala early 90′s i-Mac.

    Oh, the message. Another get-out-of-Iraq screed —how original. Of course bitching about Iraq (rather than, say Third World debt) will ensure media coverage from everything from Rolling Stone to Bill O’Reilly. (add Cartoon Brew to the list.) and if this kid knew anything about the ‘hood or about Iraq, he’d know that it’s much safer living in Iraq. But who cares? If the record executives time this right, he’ll end up with an Oscar and a Nobel prize before anyone finds that out.

    The record industry has only one job —find musical talent. Yet all they seem to be capable of is plucking pretty faces out of the burbs and repackaging them with mod-looking graphic imagery.

    To Amid’s credit, if there’s any hint of talent on display here, it’s James Harvey’s moving drawings. He’s earned his 1,000 dollars (don’t spend that all in one place) artists-protest-occupation-of-iraq-with-animated-music-video.html And we can only hope that as the rap laureate’s visualist, he’ll get some residuals when the song is played at the Democratic National Convention later this summer.

    Or maybe not.

  • robiscus

    yeah, i was a bit underwhelmed by the animation in this.

  • Paul N

    I jumped out before it was done. Just didn’t find it that compelling.

  • http://www.spiteyourface.com Tim Drage

    Hip Hop and anti-war certainly is a double whammy of outrage-fodder for the animation blog commenting community. :-S

  • red pill junkie

    The Mint mix was the best, Banana the worst, IMO.

  • http://timrauch.blogspot.com Tim Rauch

    I’d just like to chime in on the side of Mr. Harvey. To those of you who find it “trite” or part of a “cliche”, I want to ask you to think again about the very real questions it presents. Sure, these questions have been asked before, sure they are often asked by the younger generation, but didn’t those kinds of questions help get us out of Vietnam? I love the United States, but we should realize what we’re doing to ourselves as a nation when we go to war.

  • http://Incoherent-thought.blogspot.com Vincent

    Safer in Iraq than the hood.
    As someone who makes frequent runs into the hood to get my Church’s chicken fix…I Don’t Think so.

    When is the last time you heard of a car bomb killing 120 people in the hood? Yes that’s right never. How many times has that happened in Bagdad?

  • Thorton La Reve

    Please Tim…

    Illuminate for us “what we are doing to ourselves as a nation”…

    I’m listening

  • http://timrauch.blogspot.com Tim Rauch

    Well, Thornton, I would start with our responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis by setting this terrible machine into motion. I don’t question the high ideals of those who serve in the military or the high ideals we supposedly fought to establish, nor would I pretend to think every death that has happened is truly blood on our hands. But we did start this war, it was an offensive, NOT a defensive, action, it is ours to deal with and ours to contemplate. What I would question is the motives of those who emphasis unilateral action over diplomacy and send my generation off to fight a losing battle. Every time I see, read or hear about another young man or woman whose life has ended or been irreparably altered because of this thing, it raises my disgust for the half-truths of our president and the naivety of our media. We can do better. This piece should be appreciated as an attempt to make us conscious of those sacrifices and their cause and I can think of no reason to deride that effort.

  • James Harvey

    Chuck R, I must contest three points in your post:

    1.) The laptop cost $1000, that’s not the budget for the video. Everyone worked for free on this.

    2.) Since Mark is unsigned, this doesn’t really reflect ‘the music industry’.

    3.)get yourself an http://www.okcupid.com profile, because you need to get laid, for everyone’s sake. Tip: Don’t write ‘I’m an angry misanthropic dork who misses the point’ in your profile.

    Thanks everyone for your feedback!

  • http://vincemusacchia.blogspot.com Vince Musacchia

    It’s nice to see that the youth of today don’t buy into war as an answer any more than my generation did during the Vietnam era. When all is said and done it’s the young who do all of the fighting and dying in times like these.
    As far as rap being the voice of protest goes, it makes sense, reminds me of Dylan, The Beatles and the Stones, etc…
    Keep the flame burning young ones, fight the power.

    Imagine… Peace.

  • Altred Ego

    Young people using Animation to express THEIR feelings is a good thing. Period. You may agree or disagree, both are your right. But the fact that this is *NOT* anime is something I consider praiseworthy. They could have made “America is always Right” movies and avoided most of the venom. But instead they made work from their heart. It was made freely and enjoyed freely.

    What’s the problem?

    I fail to find a single convincing reason why this endeavour is not a great thing. We always gripe about the corporate-stranglehold on animation. We talk about why animated films are often filled to overflowing with pointless filler material that passes for ‘comedy’ and has no sincerity or heart.

    Then when people make animation because they are passionate about saying something and choose animation as their medium, people *still* find something to gripe about.

    For me, non-corporate art = THE WIN. Every single time. I may agree, I may disagree but god bless people who still believe in the power of their OWN voice.

    So to the creators, I say, Bravo!

  • http://www.spiteyourface.com Tim Drage

    But the fact that this is *NOT* anime is something I consider praiseworthy.
    Of course it’s not anime, it’s not Japanese.

  • Oluseyi

    30 seconds and done. Didn’t like the musical production, didn’t like the rapper’s voice, diction or flow (or, properly, lack thereof), didn’t like the animation (what was up with those pupils jittering all over the place?!)

    Write a poem, homie.

  • Joel

    It would have been a lot more “independent” and “creative” if they had told the story of the soldiers who keep re-enlisting because they actually see the difference they’ve made in Iraq.

    You have to be pretty hardcore to think Hollywood hasn’t tried hard enough to perpetuate the myth that people only join the military because their circumstances give them no choice. I’m cool with anti-war messages. I just prefer them not to be ridiculously cliche.

    But hey, imagine… peace (and nothing will change).

  • http://www.sadiethepilot.com Kellie Strøm

    James, I’d like to question your view in the second comment, that “the troops are still there, though, and people are still dying because of it.” How does this fit with the increase in troops in the last year being followed by a decrease in violence?

    The coalition troops currently in Iraq are operating under a UN Security Council mandate in support of the democratically elected government of Iraq. Whatever one’s views on the legality or wisdom of the invasion, to call for withdrawal now is to call for the US to abandon commitments to a nascent democracy and to the UN.

    For anyone seriously interested in an alternative to war, by the way, can I recommend Discovering the obvious by the late Quaker peace campaigner John Runnings.

  • Nick

    I’m from Germany – and everyone knows how they felt about Iraq.
    My problem with this kind of art is, that it is not challengeing or smart. It takes a very “safe” standpoint. You can’t go wrong presenting an “anti-war” “anti-iraq” piece. But art means “raising ones voice” – but why would you “take a stand” for something that is so extensively covered and has so many critics already. It seems, like the artist is not questioning anything but uses the anti-war hype to look morally superior. And that’s just wrong. There different angles to explore , instead … “Anti-War” killed millions in Germany – meaning that if the countries had intercepted earlier, many people would have survived … same is true with many other conflicts in the world.

  • barney dillweed

    Rap music,traditionally known for songs about gang banging and killing each other. now protesting war….irony.

  • http://stephansolarchive.blogspot.com Stephan

    The animation feels so “politically correct”. It’s like you cannot disagree with it, and that makes it annoying to watch.
    As far a the rap goes, it doesn’t have the same impact that REAL rap has from the getto’s. Real rap is personal and about real suffering, not some kid who’s rappin away on a war he saw on TV. Rap is only used here because it’s such a popular “medium” these days.
    And the animation? It’s O-K but not as good as it should be.

    A better animation would be:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avHPWiwMpR8

  • Dale

    Actually, Barney, if you’d take the time to look at rap music through something other than 1990′s Saturday night skits, Bill O’Reilly’s rantings, and your own limited exposure, you’ll see that it is “traditionally” about the reportage of circumstances in those poverty-stricken and crime-ridden areas that do not get sufficient and/or truthful coverage in the ‘traditional’ media. Using this same artform to try and address the situation in another area of the world where death is also a daily occurrence (as is poverty) would seem to me to be anything but ironic.

  • red pill junkie

    That same “Men in Black” short had been reviewed here at the Brew last year, Stephan. Pretty good in my opinion, and much better as far as animation goes, I agree.

    Steven Fenton says “Except for ending slavery, fascism, Nazism and communism. WAR HAS NEVER SOLVED ANYTHING!”

    Huh… Steve-O, Who ever said those things ENDED?… :-(

  • hip hop lover

    Man, I can’t wait till this war is over so I can go back to listening to Hip Hop and naming myself flavors.