While drug lords roam free, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)’s top brass are concerned about a hip-hop song.
Earlier this week, Director General Aaron Aquino, head of the country’s agency tasked to enforce laws against drugs, called for a ban on local rapper Shanti Dope’s song entitled “Amatz,” which debuted two months ago. “Amatz” means “hit” or “high,” usually on alcohol or drugs.
Aquino wrote a letter to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (Organisation of Filipino Singers), and media and entertainment company ABS-CBN and said “this kind of music should not be allowed and we shouldn’t patronize these kinds of artists.”
According to Aquino, the PDEA is concerned with the chorus of the song, which has the lines “Lakas ng amats ko, sobrang natural, walang halong kemikal,” which roughly translates to “I’m so high, it’s so natural, and with no chemicals.” Aquino also mentioned another line in the song that, according to him, directly references marijuana.
“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,” he said in his statement.
Shanti Dope’s management finally replied yesterday, denying PDEA’s allegations in a statement released via social media. In the statement, Shanti Dope’s management clarified that the song does not promote marijuana use. The rapper said that the song title is a play on words, referring to “the music through which the persona found his identity — not any form of drugs, but the natural high of creativity and knowing he is the only one who knows to do what he does.”
The statement condoned the ban because of its questionable interpretation, and pointed out that it would set a dangerous precedent for creative and artistic freedom in the Philippines. "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,” the statement ended.
The Concerned Artists of the Philippines also issued a public statement, which said that while everyone is free to interpret the song, it is not PDEA’s job to be a music critic.
Social media users cheekily responded to the PDEA’s statement with a call to stream “Amatz.”
Speaking of which, here’s the music video for “Amatz.”