Album Auto-nalysis: Snotnoze Saleem’s ‘Intifada’

Written by Travis Shosa

After struggling to sell his idiosyncratic beats under his producer moniker Hyperlink!, Orlando-based Palestinian rapper Snotnoze Saleem took matters into his own hands when he released his debut tape Type Shit on the Illuminated Paths label this past February. Abrasive and bold, it teemed with a frenzied punk attitude, utilizing strange samples with stranger implementations across 13 raw bursts of liberated id.

Saleem’s follow-up, Intifada, harnesses all the creative and sociopolitical potency of Type Shit and refines it, sharpening its edge to deliver cleaner, deadly cuts. Anti-racist, anti-colonialist, anti-Zionist, and pro-revolution-by-any-means-necessary, it’s a focused, breathless attack on oppressive forces fortified with Zolo beats, The Residents samples, Suda51 references, a heavy dose of wit, and a heavier still dose of justifiable rage. For this edition of Album Auto-nalysis, we asked Snotnoze Saleem to detail Intifada track-by-track, to provide further insight into the thoughts, feelings, and artistic processes that went into making it.

1. “Febreze”

Snotnoze Saleem: “I could’ve started the album off with some political speech or the sounds of dumpsters on fire to situate the listener into an actual intifada, but I was listening to the Armand Hammer album Shrines a lot at the time and love how the first track, “Bitter Cassava,” just goes straight into this woozy loop. No time wasted. So I decided to do the same. I’ll save the fiery speech intro for a later project. I thought this would make a perfect intro track due to the frantic nature of the instrumentation and that screaming vocal sample, kind of like an exclamation point at the end of each bar. Great way to start off an album named after violent insurrection. The grimy nature of the beat led to me envisioning someone overwhelmed by all that’s happening and trying to clean up a mess: hence the title “Febreze” and the lines “take a seat, clean the sleaze, matter fact, grab Febreze.” Lyrically it serves to establish the themes of the album: violence and despair and uprisings and brutality against oppression, and just general grossness to give it a nice sleek. And if you find it to be too much, “just grab this Febreze.””

2. “Whole Lotta Dread”

Snotnoze Saleem: “Cultured listeners will recognize the many Playboi Carti references here, from the title to the lyrics: even to the flow towards the end. Named after his groundbreaking punk album Whole Lotta Red, this track finds the narrator knee-deep in an open-air prison being bombarded with mortar shells launched by billion-dollar state-of-the-art (American tax-payer funded) weaponry, apartment buildings being decimated, and children hiding in the corner with their ears covered in a fruitless attempt to drown out the cacophony. That’s just the first verse: second verse is the rightfully deranged thoughts a colonized person has when plotting ways to end their persecution. “When I go to sleep, I dream ‘bout murder.””

3. “Francis Bacon”

Snotnoze Saleem: “The word “intifada” translates from Arabic to mean “uprising” or, to be more literal, “to be shaken; shaking off.” This obviously applies to armed insurgencies the world over, but I also take it to mean a more internal act of shaking off thoughts and feelings that are holding you back. The more subdued beat called for an understated account of finding oneself going in circles, an endless Ouroboros in which the narrator can’t seem to break free from. The “unexplainable happenings” they see off the highway’s “last known exit” is themself. And when they try to get near it, only for it to disappear once their phone starts ringing, they spiral into a self-fulfilling pit of despair in which ego is shattered and identity is cast-off, until, in “their little hideout,” they hear a familiar ringing that reminds them of what used to be their ringtone, starting the grueling process all over again. If that makes sense. Such a cyclical, exhausting mental tug-of-war leaves them “screaming like a (Francis) Bacon triptych.””

4. “Rusty Arabic”

Snotnoze Saleem: “This one is just styling on the beat. Just classic hip-hop braggadocio but still keeping the political aspect. “I’m working on my layup with my fellow detainees from Abu Ghraib.” Just absurdity. There’s a little anecdote of some American girl doing terrorist acts for the narrator because “her mom said I’m handsome,” hence the title rusty Arabic: as in her Arabic isn’t that good, but she’s trying. “A little clumsy, but she got piousness.” It’s all tongue-in-cheek: sarcastic, really. I performed this track in a café, and afterwards, the DJ said he was really impressed with the 3/4 time signature. I don’t know what that means.”

5. “Herpes Simplex”

Snotnoze Saleem: “The way I write a song is I simply write whatever the beat tells me to. This is a very frustrated-type beat, and I figured the rest of the project already has enough anger directed towards racists and colonizers, so this one is directed towards the age-old trope of wack MCs: keeping up with the previous track in upholding that classic hip-hop spirit of competitiveness and arrogance on the mic. Not directed towards anyone in particular, just more myself getting my shit off. I think hip-hop is the greatest and most diverse genre of music in the world. You can quite literally make a beat out of anything, and you can fine-tune a track in a manner that it is true to yourself while still taking inspiration from those that came before you: without outright copying them. I don’t know. I just notice a lot of copying, and I wanted to express that in a song. I’m not walking around yelling at clouds or anything, but that’s the beauty of expression and hip-hop. You can articulate whatever you want. I’m not gonna name an album after violent rebellion and not be confrontational.”

6. “Boltzmann Brain”

Snotnoze Saleem: “More internal pathologization. Colonization affects the afflicted both inside and out. The mental health of those in war-torn situations is abysmal, and they don’t even have Western-approved terms to describe what they are going through. Children in Gaza do not have PTSD because the “post” would imply that the trauma is gone. Whereas, for them, it is a constant, daily presence. I stumbled on the term “Boltzmann brain” while on a Wikipedia binge, and while I actually find it to be mostly bullshit, I thought it would make for an interesting concept. A person so distressed by the world around them that they simply dissociate and see themselves as no more than a brain floating in a vacuum.”

7. “Umbilical”

Snotnoze Saleem: “This wacky instrumental called for wacky lyrics and a wacky performance. Abstract illustrations of being hunted down by military trucks and hate-filled surveillance states. Mental capacity being filled to the brim and ready to blow. Composure lost, and sense being abandoned.”

8. “Duck Hunt”

Snotnoze Saleem: “Probably the most overt track on the whole album. “I clap Zionists like duck hunt.” I wonder what he means by that? “Deliver my speech to the United Nations, bomb in my pocket, fuck relations, rather vent frustration.” Hmmm.”

9. “RIP Liveleak”

Snotnoze Saleem: “An ode to the internet of yesteryear in which an innocent child could stumble upon a seemingly innocuous video of pedestrians walking down the street only to have their entire worldview changed in an instant! You really had to be there. Also dedicated to general internet miscreant behavior. “ISIS beheadings and porn on the other tab, never get bored, all the misery up for grabs.” What is the cost of having all of the information ever to be assembled by the human species available in your pocket?”

10. “Jean​-​Jacques Dessalines”

Snotnoze Saleem: “Dedicated to the titular Haitian Revolutionary leader who famously killed all the French colonizers left in his country. Do I support such an act? “My solution to the problem to some is extreme. You know what I’m getting at? It’s like a disappearing act.” Uhhh, stop asking me questions, man. Also, I’m really proud of this sample flip.”

11. “Malice at the Palace”

Snotnoze Saleem: “In which I equate the famous basketball brawl to opposing forces clashing in the Holy Land. This beat legit took a whole day to make and has some of the tiniest sample chops I’ve ever done. Seriously, if you somehow find the original track and listen to what I did with it, I honestly don’t even know how I did it. Pandemic lockdown sure gave me a lot of free time. Also, the only track I’ve done so far in which I added drums. In this case, they came from a Ski Mask the Slump God drum rack.”

12. “Buggin’”

Snotnoze Saleem: “I think all great hip-hop records should have at least one instrumental track. Just an arbitrary rule I live by. This one serves as a break from the linguistics, with bassline serving as a spiral staircase down to the depths of depravity that so permeate the rest of the project. The coda before the denouement.”

13. “Intifada”

Snotnoze Saleem: “The final thesis statement in which all themes are plainly divulged. The instrumental evokes the afflicted, and the lyrics are a plea for a freedom that must come.”

You can follow Snotnoze Saleem on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to keep up-to-date with the artist. Further reading available via Dead Good Music and Orlando Weekly.

Travis Shosa is the founder and editor-in-chief of Stamens/Pistils/Parties. Formerly the runner of COUNTERZINE, he has bylines at Pitchfork, The Alternative, and Post-Trash among others.

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