Shanti Dope continues his narrative about his struggles in a drug-influenced society through his latest song ‘Amatz’. But PDEA thinks there’s more to read between the lines.

In the past few weeks, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has been on the tail of teenage rapper, Shanti Dope. After the rapper released his newest single, Amatz, it became controversial after PDEA tried to shut it’s airing time down in all radio and broadcasting stations. According to PDEA, Amatz might sound like a harmless video but it’s a complicated example of glamourizing drugs. And that we should ban it.

Sean Patrick Ramos, professionally known as Shanti Dope, is a rapper and songwriter. He started writing “verses” at the age of 13, heavily influenced by local rappers. Similar to his favorite rappers like Gloc 9, he uses songwriting as a way to tell the stories. Because of his talent in using the idea of storytelling through rap, he managed to open doors of opportunities to his impending rap career success.

Controversy with ‘Amatz’

“Together with the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency), the Commission strongly supports President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s fight against illegal drugs and as part of our commitment to this administration’s crusade, the KBP is hereby directed to enforce compliance with Article 15, Section 4 of the Broadcast Code regarding the song “Amatz” by Shanti Dope in all its member radio and TV stations,” 

And just like his other songs, ‘Amatz’ became successful as well. However, the controversy with PDEA overshadowed the song’s success. As a matter of fact, PDEA proposed to ban Amatz from being redistributed and aired. According to the agency, it allegedly promotes drug use. Specifically, marijuana or weed and it’s being a natural or organic recreational drug.

Because of this, PDEA requested the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit, and the ABS-CBN Corporation to prevent the song from airing and being promoted or distributed. At the same time, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered the Kapisanan ng mga Broadcaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) to adhere to PDEA’s request as well. Just like PDEA, they believe Amatz deviates from the government’s goal with the war against drugs.

Meaning behind ‘Amatz’

But Shanti Dope’s management believed that the song was taken out of context. ‘Amatz’ narrates Shanti Dope’s struggle in a drug-influenced society while growing up. And how music helped him survive. As a matter of fact, it’s more about Shanti Dope’s growth, not just a rapper but as a teenager in the lower rungs of society in the country. And that speaks a lot about him.

Indeed, the song, including the music video featured trippy effects that seems to impose being high. But on the contrary, it shows the artistic side of the rapper. That’s how he hooks his audience, with the trippy tunes, and lyrics that breathes about life. For them, Amatz intended to be a banger that everyone could vibe into as they feel the message of the song.

The verdict

It would be petty to ban a song to make a stand. It’s a song. It’s an artist creative outlet. A personal creative outlet. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not even a big fan of rappers. But I do listen from them from time to time. Understanding the goal of PDEA, they do have good intentions of banning the song. However, it undermines the rights of Shanti Dope, as an artist and a citizen of the country. That’s why we have something called “freedom of expression”. Sure, PDEA can argue that even with freedom of expression, we should be mindful of what are the impacts of our thoughts and actions could be. Since artists can’t control how people interpret the song.

But! The thing is, ‘Amatz’ means so much more. It’s about how a boy tried to turn his life around even though he lives in a drug-running neighborhood. And come to think of it, will regulating a song make that much big of an impact to the war on drugs? I mean, will it stop the production of drugs? I think not. True, Amatz might be misinterpreted but it won’t stop the problem of the war on drugs. If the government and PDEA would love to diminish drug presence in the society, what’s best than to kill the roots of the problem, right? Deal with the drug lords, dealers, pushers, and syndicates.

There are a lot of OPM songs that “deviates” the ideals of a lot of social problems. And that includes drugs, sex, and the likes. But did they make a move about it? No, they didn’t. You just can’t go on blaming one song for allegedly glamorizing drug use when there’s a lot of songs, both foreign and local, that does the same. It would be hypocritical to discriminate ‘Amatz’.

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