Emmanuel Jal

Posted on August 6, 2009 by


Emmanuel Jal is a former child soldier and current musician from Sudan. Jal became a soldier for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) after his father joined the SPLA and his mother was killed by government soldiers. He was liberated from his SPLA days by Emma McCune, who adopted him and took him to Kenya. While in Nairobi he found music and used it as a way to release all the suffering he had seen and experienced.

He listened to a lot of American Hip Hop, but ended up creating music that was completely his own. His sound is unquestionably African and his lyrics don’t compete with the lyrically word play we see from the other (mostly American) artists we typically feature on DaWh@t. Yet, there’s still something really powerful about Jal’s music and his story.

Jal has a recently released documentary about him called War Child and is working to create a school for children in Sudan to be called Emma Academy, in honor of the late McCune. His latest album, also called War Child, was released last year and features this song titled 50 Cent. The track goes along with Jal’s disappointment in American Hip Hop, which he feels glamorizes issues that hurt children, rather than help them rise above them. In particular, it is a criticism of 50 Cent’s 2005 video game 50 Cent: Bulletproof which featured him and the G-Unit possee out to seek vengence against those who tried to murder him.

The chorus tells Curtis, “50 Cent, I aint hatin’ on ya” though the whole song is clearly a major jab at his principles. Didn’t stop Curtis though, who released a sequel to the game last February entitled 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand.

Like I said, his sound is so unique and so African that I doubt he will ever really catch on any American Hip Hop scene–be it mainstream or underground–but he is definitely talented, and an amazing story. While you may have never heard of him he has gotten a good amount of attention on the world music scene. He’s also clearly an activist, and a speaker for the Make Poverty History campaign.