From the confines of controversy, Shanti Dope raps his way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the latest episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.
“Do we want to live in a world full of people like the Red Skull? That is why were going to Madripoor,” asks Baron Zemo in his tense return to the Marvel narrative in the latest episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.
Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes want answers. However, not only do they not know how to get from point A to point B just yet, they are left without a choice but to hunker down and seek out all means necessary to solve the mystery looming over their heads. This means having to navigate through their relationship as “co-workers,” a world without Steve Rogers (as well as of the shield being turned over to a new Captain America), and the alarming replication of the super soldier serum months after the life-changing events of Avengers: Endgame, they find themselves led to the obscure island nation in the Indonesian archipelago.
What once was a pirate sanctuary back in the 1800s has kept its lawless ways it seems, remaining to be a safe haven for criminals, and even becoming a top business and entertainment capital in Southeast Asia. (In the comics, Magneto and Mystique were known to have bases here, as well as Wolverine co-owning The Princess Bar.) It sure does look like how it is alluded to in between the lines—dubious, dingy, and deceptive. Here, the unlikely trio pulls up to the gritty labyrinth of sneers, neon lights, and acid reeking even from afar.
But what really completed the visceral context was the surprise lashing of a fiery Filipino rap by Shanti Dope that deepened the introduction from mere background in passing to what Marvel head honcho, Kevin Feige, claims to be an Easter egg in and of itself in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.
Shanti Dope Spits Bars In Madripoor
“Lakas ng amats ko / Sobrang natural / Walang halong kemikal,” spits Shanti Dope in the featured verse of the rap, Amatz. “Sumabay o makimasa, panadero din naman ako / Sa kada kaibigan ang kasama, sumagad.” An assertive and aggressive assemblage of bars, the rap challenges the hyper-focused notions of amats, which is slang for being drunk, buzzed, or high, by essaying the all too familiar realities in the Philippines. Catchy as it is, the Filipino rap gained notoriety prior to its musical cameo in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, following a controversial move by the Philippine Druge Enforcement Agency to ban the rap for its alleged promotion of marijuana, which is still illegal to use in the country.
“We respect and appreciate our artists in the music industry, however, we strongly oppose the promotion of musical pieces or songs that encourage the recreational use of drugs like marijuana and shabu. It is contrary to our fight against illegal drugs,” Director General Aaron Aquino said in a statement in 2019.“The airing of the song that features the use of illegal drugs as harmless may mislead the vulnerable youth in their perception that it is all right to use illegal drugs.”
Shanti Dope and his management have since refuted the claims saying, “While anyone is welcome to interpret a song or any cultural text, it is also clear that for an interpretation to be valid, it needs to have basis, and must be within the context of the cultural text as a whole.” Shanti Dope and company stood firm in their defense, clarifying that the rap was about the high of music, furthering, “This is a brazen use of power, and an affront to our right to think, write, create, and talk freely about the state of the nation.”
Today, Falcon And The Winter Soldier. Tomorrow, The World
Despite all that controversy, the song has long held a reverence from followers of Shanti Dope, and being featured on the soundtrack of the Marvel hit series on Disney+ (which will be available on Marvel Music as per the end credits) only cements its now growing cult status on a worldwide plane.
It may have only been a snippet in the overview of what Madripoor could potentially be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the inclusion of Amatz by Shanti Dope in the score of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is a delight in itself for Filipino fans. Seeing and hearing something familiar is always cool. It is a big enough deal, too, because even in just that moment, the colorful, charismatic, and complex corner of Filipino rap stood tall for all the world to listen to. Who knows, this could very well open more doors for the likes of Shanti Dope and even more rap artists to get noticed beyond the confines of controversy and to tell truths and stories as it is.