From a young age Ishmael Beah has loved rap music. Ishmael has a “soundtrack” to his life. His life is heavily influenced by rap music, and shows parallels to rapper’s. In the novel “A Long Way Gone” by Ishmael Beah, he leaves his family and village at age 12, he goes looking for work. After a long journey with some boys he meets on the way, he is recruited by the army to fight the rebels of Sierra Leone. Ishmael shows parallels in his life with the rap music that he listens to when he does drugs, is involved with violence and talks about his family.
Ishmael life shows significant similarities with the life of a rapper because of the drugs he does. For example, when Ishmael is recruited into the army the officers give all the boys these white tablets. They say it will help them “be more energized” but it really makes them easier to control and more violent and fierce. Ishmael says, “a young boy soldier came by with a plastic bag full of some kind of tablets. They looked like capsules, but they were plain white. He handed them to each of us with a cup of water, the corporal said it would “boost our energy” with a secretive smile”(Beah 116). This shows parallels to the life of a rapper because they do drugs as well. Another quote from Ishmael when he is hit with the aftermath of the drug is, “I was sweating, and they threw water on my face and gave me a few more of the white capsules. I stayed up all night and couldn’t sleep for a week. We went out two more times that week and I had no problem shooting my gun” (Beah 120). He can’t take the effects and is sweating, the officers give him more tablets to calm him down. Ishmael’s life is quickly consumed by drugs. He says, “ I took turns at the guarding posts around the village, smoking marijuana and sniffing “brown brown”, cocaine mixed with gunpowder, which was always spread out on the table, and of course taking more of the white capsules, as I had become addicted to them. They gave me a lot of energy. The first time I took all these drugs at the same time, I began to perspire so much that I took off all my clothes. My body shook, my sight became blurred, and I lost my hearing for several minutes” (Beah 121). He has become addicted to the white capsules. He would go into withdrawals if he did not take them. Even though Ishmaels life related to drugs is not perfectly parallel with the life of a rapper they still are similar.
Ishmael’s life is taken over by violence at a very young age, most rappers lives are as well. For example Ishmael is explaining what a body looks life in the beginning of the novel when he says, “One of the messengers was a young man. They had carved their initials, RUF, on his body with a hot bayonet and chopped off all his fingers with the exception of his thumbs. The rebels called this mutilation ‘one love.’ Before the war, people raised a thumb to say ‘One love’ to each other, an expression popularized by the love and influence of reggae music” (Beah 21). This is something Ishmael sees often and is desensitized to. It shows how messed up and violent his life is just like a rapper who most likely has experienced truly horrible things in his or her life. Another quote that shows Ishmaels life had been taken over by violence is when he says, “My face, my hands, my shirt and gun were covered with blood. I raised my gun and pulled the trigger, and I killed a man. Suddenly, as if someone was shooting them inside my brain, all the massacres I had seen since the day I was touched by war began flashing in my head. Every time I stopped shooting to change magazines and saw my two young lifeless friends, I angrily pointed my gun into the swamp and killed more people”(Beah 119). Ishmael is now just another mindless killer for the army and consumed by violence. A third quote that shows how Ishmaels life has been taken over by violence is, “my rule was to kill or be killed. The extent of my thoughts didn’t go much beyond that. We had been fighting for over two years, and killing had become a daily activity. I felt no pity for anyone” (Beah 126). He now has no sense of morality to those that he kills. It has become a daily occurrence like drinking water to him. Both rappers that have come up from bad things and Ishmael have most likely seen some things they would like to unsee.
One last way Ishmael’s life connects with a rapper’s life is that his family life is awful and he relies on his friends. One quote that shows this is, “Your parents and brothers will be happy to see you. They have been talking about you every day and praying for your safety. Your mother cries every day, begging the gods and ancestors to return you to her. Your older brother left to look for you, but he returned about a week ago. His face was sad when he returned. I think he blames himself for losing you” (Beah 92). This quote shows that Ishmael’s family still does care about him. Another quote about family that shows parallels between Ishmael’s life and that of a rapper’s is, “My squad was my family, my gun was my provider and protector, and my rule was to kill or be killed” (Beah 126). This shows that Ishmael views his friends and squad is his new family, he sees them more than his family. One last quote that provides evidence to my claim is when Ishmael states, “I feel as if there is nothing left for me to be alive for,’ I said slowly. ‘I have no family, it is just me. No one will be able to tell stories about my childhood” (Beah 167). Ishmael feels empty, he doesn’t have a family connection so he does not feels like anybody in the world cares about him. Rappers claim all the time that their families don’t care about them and how they are on their own.
To summarize throughout the novel, Ishmael shows parallels to the life of a rapper when, he takes drugs in the army and becomes addicted. When he starts to fight for the army and become a mindless killing machine that does not have any form of morality for other human life. And finally when he realizes that he means nothing to anyone because he has no family connection. It’s ironic how much Ishmael loves rap music and the life of a rapper, he doesn’t realize how similar of lives they live.