Ask any vet — music and combat go hand in hand. Whether pounding the drums of war, blaring the bugle calls, or recording songs after combat, music has underscored the good, the bad, and the ugly of warfare throughout human history.
"Live From Iraq" is a Rap album actually made by combat veterans in a theater of war.
Soldiers from 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment conduct security with their M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank for a cordon and search operation in Biaj, Iraq. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II)
It was produced and conceived by U.S. Army Sergeant Neal Saunders, an M1 Abrams tank crewman of the 1st Cav's 112 Task Force, along with several of his buddies.
They were fighting around Baghdad and Sadr City in 2005. When not out on missions, Big Neal and his crew would record songs in a makeshift studio, using their paychecks to order equipment from a Sam Ash music store in Philadelphia.
It was the only Sam Ash that would ship to their APO address.
"Live From Iraq" takes the listener on a harrowing, poignant journey of a year-long deployment. There's no boasting of riches, hot girls, or glorified violence — just words of truth with socially relevant lyrics:
"This is up armor kits and bulletproof windows/ We sleep with body armor blankets and Kevlar pillows," are some lyrics from the title track, "Live From Iraq."
The album samples a troops-in-contact moment on the song, "Lace Your Boots," with the lyrics: "But it's too late to switch/ After this full metal jacket grabs 'em/ Look we told 'em this was war/ And we told 'em we get at 'em/ This is war…"
"Reality Check" over a poignant piano riff calls out those who like to play soldier in style and attitude, but have never walked the walk: "Wanna be soldiers
Follow me I'll take you to see some Marines in Fallujah/ And I hope you make it/ Or come visit my theater/ Shit I'll show you some places/ But I really don't think/ That y'all wanna go where I'll take you..."
Big Neal has said that this album is the blood of soldiers and all that they have seen and done. One could argue that "Live From Iraq" is the original Battle Mix, one that still resonates today with many of our soldiers deployed.