Archive for September, 2011

Rebel Diaz – Troy Davis Lives Forever [lyrics and download]

FREE DOWNLOAD: Rebel Diaz – Troy Davis Lives Forever (prod Agent of Change) by agentofchange

Check this brand new track from Rebel Diaz, produced by myself. The track takes the form of a letter to Troy Davis, and the instrumental samples Billie Holiday’s classic song ‘Strange Fruit’ (which dealt with the issue of lynchings).


Another lynching has gone down in the US
And it’s 2011. Nothing has changed.

What up Troy, I can’t believe they actually did it man
To tell the truth they ain’t never gone kill you man
You live forever in the hearts of those who fought for ya
You fought for us, you gave us strength like a true soldier

[Rodstarz verse]
I feel the pain, I feel the anger and I raise to show it
I hit the streets and spread the word so the world knows it
I’m sorry we didn’t save you
Shoulda been braver
But at times I feel alone when I’m surrounded by these strangers
2009 we first spoke, after I met Martina
I got the shirt but since then I haven’t really seen her
Been on the road with these raps just tryin a spread a message
But when I think about our talks they were such a blessing
You was in jail reading your poems on the phone
And all I did was just listen, back stage of the show
Then I heard the crazy news about a week ago
That the date had been set and they wanted you to go
11.08pm, September 21st
Never forget, my inner being still hurts
Obama stayed quiet, like he did for Oscar Grant
Clarence Thomas b**ch ass never gave you a chance
See, you was innocent, there was too much doubt
7 of 9 witnesses wanted their testimony out
They was scared, police threats, serious like cancer
But you know it wasn’t true, years later they recanted
I wish I had the answer what to do next
Gotta do more than tweet, Facebook and send texts
We need freedom, organise like Zulu
Feel the pain of injustice even tho I never knew you

What up Troy, I can’t believe they actually did it man
To tell the truth they ain’t never gone kill you man
You live forever in the hearts of those who fought for ya
You fought for us, you gave us strength like a true soldier

[G1 verse]
They still lynching from plantations to the prisons
Methods changed but it’s the same system
White robes used to burn a crucifix
Now black robes sign a death sentence
Instead of Jim Crow and legal segregation
It’s yuppie condos and cuts to education
And I ain’t gotta say it Troy, you said it in your last letter
Thanking your supporters worldwide for they past efforts
More than half a million signed them petitions
The pope, the archbishop, stars and politicians
A who’s who on Twitter weighing in like Mayweather
But what happens to my bro after the storm let up
New day
Pray you in a better place
Over here we coping, tryin a channel that rage
To abolish these legal lynchings, abolish they broken system
Abolish the need for prisons, in defence of the human spirit

What up Troy, I can’t believe they actually did it man
To tell the truth they ain’t never gone kill you man
You live forever in the hearts of those who fought for ya
You fought for us, you gave us strength like a true soldier

Troy Davis: strange fruit in 2011

This song, first recorded in 1939, still resonates today, the morning after the legal lynching of Troy Davis by the white power structure in the US.

Many didn’t think it could happen – many thought the (black) President would intervene, or that that the Supreme Court would listen to the numerous human rights organisations that were calling for clemency. But the truth is that systemic racism and white supremacy are still very much alive, and the racist far-right is in the mood for re-asserting its authority.

Forward against the racist system, by any means necessary.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
And the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather
For the wind to suck
For the sun to rot
For a tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

Troy Davis

Jasiri X – I Am Troy Davis

Jasiri X takes the Pete Rock and CL Smooth “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y)” beat and uses it to brilliant effect, breaking down the Troy Davis case – yet another example of the deeply entrenched racism of the US ‘justice’ system.


Does the court system employ racists?
Then why are so many black boys in cages?
Why shouldn’t I be paranoid of hatred?
Just look at the curious case of Troy Davis
Let travel on down to savannah
In the state of Georgia just south of Atlanta
Where they wave the rebel flag like a bandanna
Hung our ancestors then posed for the camera
A white police officer was shot and killed
Over and argument he tried stop and heal
And here’s where the plot gets real
The main suspect blamed Troy went to the cops and squealed
And with no physical evidence or weapon
Troy was arrested for a 187
He said he was innocent man was a when he was questioned
But they said that he did it who needs a damn confession
They just need is a witness they can press to cry
Tell em what to say or they arrest the guy
Then Put em on the stand and make em testify
Swear to god to tell the truth and do they best to lie
And they did so troy was found guilty
Sent to death row by police so filthy
Even though his innocence is true
We pray they don’t reminisce over you

But the truth always comes to light
And Troy Davis didn’t give up the fight
He kept filing appeals until it was reveled
The state of Georgia wants an an innocent man killed
That’s why a who’s who wants him out
cause there’s just too much doubt
And witness after witness came forward and admitted
the only reason they did it cause the police insisted
so wicked so vicious
The system’s broke so fixed
2 decades no Christmas
Execution dates 4 listed
get organized show resistance
go online sign those petitions
Black Americans know the difference
It’s a new day but the same old lynchings
I am Troy Davis
families destroyed be cases
why can’t we avoid the Matrix
instead of giving his children toys to play with
he’s waiting his execution hoping the court stays it
I’m praying and doing
we need action we need movement
cause his innocence is true
I pray they don’t reminisce over you

Follow Jasiri X on Twitter
Sign the Amnesty petition calling for clemency

Cash – Talk About Pain

Really happy Cash made a video for this track! Inspiring, heartfelt lyrics. Nice to hear an up-and-coming UK rapper bringing some REAL TALK.

My little brother’s 10, I feel like I’m slacking
He shouldn’t be hearing me rap about gun-clapping

There’s bare mums crying round ‘ere
Cos there’s bare sons dying round ‘ere
If you think I lie, watch the news then
Every other week another ghetto yout’s dead
And I can guarantee that as I wrote this song
Another ghetto yout bled
Ghetto people, it’s time for us to rise up
And open up our eyes, cos our eyes shut
And we don’t seem to educate our minds much
Cos we’re too busy throwing gang signs up
Putting knife workin or gun blastin
We’re all pissed while the government’s laughing
Little man pay attention when I’m talkin
You don’t want your mummy paying for a coffin
Little girl stay in school, keep grafting
Allow the baggaman ting this ain’t Sparta

Follow Cash on Twitter

Tribute to Steve Biko

steve biko34 years ago today, leading anti-apartheid militant and black consciousness pioneer Steve Biko was killed by apartheid police in South Africa. In the intervening decades, political apartheid has ended and various gains have been made, but the struggle against racism, imperialism and white supremacy continues in Biko’s name.

His writings remain essential reading. A few of his best-known quotes:

“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”

“It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die”

“Nothing can justify the arrogant assumption that a clique of foreigners has the right to decide on the lives of a majority”

“Whites must be made to realise they are only human, not superior. Blacks must be made to realise they are also human, not inferior”

“Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude”

Steel Pulse released the following tribute to Steve Biko on their classic 1979 album ‘Tribute to the Martyrs’.


The night Steve Biko died
I cried and I cried
The night Steve Biko died
I cried and I cried
Biko, O, Steve Biko died still in chains
Biko, O, Steve Biko died still in chains
Biko died in chains, moaned for you
Biko died in chains, moaned for you, yeh

Blame South African security
A no suicide he wasn’t insane
It was not for him to live in Rome, No
Still they wouldn’t leave him alone
They provoke him, they arrest him
They took him life away
but can’t take him soul
Then they drug and ill-treat him
Til they kill him
And they claim suicide

I’ll never forgive, I’ll always remember,
Not, not only not only I, no
But papa brothers sisters too, Yeh, yeh
Him spirit they can’t control
Him spirit they can’t man-trol
Cannot be bought nor sold
Freedom increases one-hundred fold.

The system
Something’s got to be done
Straight away
The system of weak-heart emontion
They’ve got to pay
The system of backra corruption
They’ve got to pay
The system is destroying my nation
The system kill him

O, O Jah Jah, O Jah Jah
Take them where life sweeter
Send a Moses to set them free
Pharoah’s army won’t let them be
From the beginning he knew
He’d meet his end
Yes my friend
They’ll keep on ruling, all hours Jah
Jah send
I’ll tell you again
Dem take him life – Dem take him soul
Him spirit they can’t control
Cannot be bought nor sold
Freedom increases one hundred fold

The system, the system, the system
Something’s got to done,
The system where black man
Get no recoginition
The system of colour partition
The system should be dumped from creation
The system kill him

O, O Jah Jah, O Jah Jah,
Take him where life sweeter
Send a Moses, send a Moses.
Pharoah’s army won’t let them be
Biko died in chains
Moans for you
Biko died in chains all are moaning
Moans for you
Steve Biko died still in chains
Steve Biko died still in chains
Still, still in chains
Still, still in chains

Long live the memory of Stephen Bantu Biko.

An album worth waiting for: Lowkey – Soundtrack to the Struggle

Lowkey and Jody McIntyre

As Lowkey says in the intro: it’s been a long time coming.

Twenty-five-year-old rapper Lowkey (aka Kareem Dennis) has been well-respected on the underground hip-hop scene since he was a teenager, winning notoriety for his humorous battling style and rapid-fire lyricism. But it was a few years into his career, in early 2009, that he really emerged as the leading voice in the “soundtrack to the struggle” – making music representing the hopes and dreams of oppressed peoples around the world; people struggling for freedom and equality.

A key moment in this process was the massive rally in Hyde Park on 10 January 2009, protesting against Israel’s brutal bombing campaign against Gaza. Lowkey’s impassioned acapella performance of the poignant ‘Long Live Palestine’ (which has since become a massive hit) caught a lot of people’s attention, and Lowkey quickly became a leading voice in the anti-war movement, one of very few with the ability to put radical ideas in a form that young people can relate to.

Since then, Lowkey has released a string of hits and established himself as the leading voice of political hip-hop on these shores (in addition to gaining the respect of some of the major radical voices of US hip-hop, such as Dead Prez and Immortal Technique). The reach of his singles has been unprecedented for a fully independent artist with no mainstream media support. His tracks ‘Terrorist’ and ‘Obamanation’, both hard-hitting pieces of political and social commentary exposing the lies and hypocrisy of imperialism, have received 1.6 million and 1.4 million YouTube views respectively. A generation of young people has been inspired and educated by these songs, which have successfully captured people’s imagination in a way that the many organisations bringing a somewhat similar message have failed to do.

And although there are a few that want to ghettoise him as a ‘Palestine rapper’, Lowkey has continued to make music about police brutality, about respect for women, about the music industry, Cuba, Diego Garcia and much more, and has collaborated with leading London rap voices such as Wretch 32, Klashnekoff, Akala, Black the Ripper and Sway.

In addition to his music, Lowkey has also spoken at meetings, rallies and pickets up and down the country, speaking out against war, racism, islamophobia, government cuts and police brutality. He has taken his skills and knowledge around the world, speaking and performing in the US (alongside respected anti-zionist academic Norman Finkelstein), Palestine and Australia.

Along with activist Jody McIntyre and rapper Logic, he has formed the Equality Movement, bringing young people from different ethnic, political and religious backgrounds together to learn and act in the struggle for a better future. A true activist-musician, he’s as comfortable with the megaphone as he is with the microphone.

Throughout these last nearly three years of intense activity, the anticipation has been growing for a Lowkey album – a body of work that sums up his experiences, and our whole generation’s experiences, over the past few years; years characterised by imperialist wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Libya; bombings of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen; global economic crisis; massive cuts to public services in most of the affluent countries; and rising resistance to the status quo.

Although Lowkey’s debut album, Dear Listener, appeared in mid-2009, and was a very solid release, it was clear that it was a prelude to his first major album, which has finally arrived in the form of Soundtrack to the Struggle. And it’s a classic. No weak tracks, no cringe moments, no need to skip or fast-forward; just 20 exceptional pieces of thought-provoking and soul-stirring music. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that this album sits comfortably alongside the best UK hip-hop releases of all time (such as Skinnyman’s “Council Estate of Mind”, Rodney P’s “The Future” and Klashnekoff’s “The Sagas”). Furthermore, given the international relevance of the subject matter and the intensity and lyrical ability Lowkey brings to the table, I would argue that Soundtrack to the Struggle deserves a place alongside the best political/radical hip-hop releases (such as Dead Prez’s “Let’s Get Free” and Immortal Technique’s “Revolutionary Vol. 2”).

The intro track, ‘Soundtrack to the Struggle’, sets the scene perfectly, with its cinematic strings, choir voices and the chorus reminding us that “the system need fi change right now, too much yoot a go down inna grave right now”. Lowkey makes his mission very clear:

This album has been in the making a quarter century
Born to bless the beat and rap over recorded melody
I knew the truth since I was a small little boy
I am a product of the system I was born to destroy

The next track, ‘Too Much’, featuring the singing talents of Shadia Mansour, has a clear message about the dangers of our society’s obsession with money, asking “Do you possess money or by money are you possessed?”. The recently-released video, shot in Havana, contrasts this money madness with the simpler and more altruistic life favoured in Cuba.

Track 3 will already be known to most of you – ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ featuring radical New York-based hip-hop legend, Immortal Technique.

‘Hand on your Gun’ is a new track over a ridiculously funky Show’n’Prove production, exposing the sinister forces behind the weapons industry.

First in my scope is BAE Systems
Specialise in killing people from a distance
Power is a drug and they feed the addiction
Immediate deletion of people’s existence
Who says what is and what isn’t legitimate resistance

Next up is a skit based on a firing speech by Reverend Jeremiah Wright that, in two minutes, tells you everything you need to know about imperialist state terrorism. “Violence begets violence, hatred begets hatred, and terrorism begets terrorism”. This of course provides the perfect introduction to ‘Terrorist’, Lowkey’s biggest track to date, and probably the most widely-discussed piece of music of 2010.

After ‘Something Wonderful’, the video for which was released early last year, comes a new cut, ‘Dreamers’, a deeply personal track dedicated to the dreamers: not the people that “see things that are there and ask why”, but the people that “see things that aren’t there and ask why not”. The emotional lyrics and tight flows work perfectly alongside Mai Khalil’s wistful adlibs and the acoustic instrumental (which you will almost certainly recognise!).

A clip of a speech from well-known activist/journalist Tariq Ali, assessing the record so far of US President Barack Obama, sets the scene nicely for ‘Obamanation’, which, although released back in March 2010, only gets more relevant with the passage of time.

Next up is ‘Cradle of Civilization’ featuring Mai Khalil, a haunting and moving tune devoted to the homeland Lowkey has never seen: Iraq.

What I view on the news is making me shiver
Cos I look at the victims and see the same face in the mirror
This system of division makes it harder for you and me
Peace is a question; the only answer is unity

In ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’, Lowkey joins forces with UK hip-hop heavyweight Klashnekoff for a track reflecting on their careers and their roles within the music industry. Everybody around the scene knows that these two brothers could be living large off music right now if only they were willing to give up control of their minds and bodies to the major label puppet-masters. Both have opted instead to stay true to what they believe in over the course of their careers. Lowkey’s verse describes his mission to give voice to the voiceless:

I don’t do this for the happy ravers or the aggy haters
I do this for the warriors and the gladiators
Do this for those whose lives you never cared about
Can’t pronounce their names, their origins or their whereabouts
Those brought up around tragedy and sadness Who adjusted and found normality in the madness
Fight the power, til I’m out of breath like Malcolm X
You empower the powerful, I empower the powerless

In the new track ‘Everything I Am’, heavyweight producer Show’n’Prove again comes through with the goods with a phenomenal sample flip. Lowkey explores his own identity and how he is perceived, particularly by his fans.

Preferably the aim is equality eventually
Don’t relegate me below, or elevate me above, you
Needless to say, in either place I’m uncomfortable
I treat you as an equal I’m simply a man
Your brother in humanity is everything that I am

The next skit, introducing ‘Long Live Palestine’, is based on a beautiful and deeply moving speech by Norman Finkelstein, explaining why he, as a Jew, feels compelled to support the struggle of the Palestinian people. This will make you cry.

My late father was in Auschwitz, my late mother was in Madjanek concentration camp. Every single member of my family on both sides was exterminated. Both of my parents were in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. And it’s precisely and exactly because of the lessons my parents taught me and my two siblings that I will not be silent when Israel commits its crimes against the Palestinians. And I consider nothing more despicable than to use their suffering, and their martyrdom to try to justify the torture, the brutalisation and the demolition of homes that Israel daily commits against the Palestinians. So I refuse any longer to be intimidated by the tears [of Zionists absolving themselves of any crimes by making reference to the Nazi holocaust]. If you had any heart in you, you would be crying for the Palestinians.

The next new track is ‘We Will Rise’, an optimistic tribute to those fighting against empire, in particular against its disastrous impact in the Arab world over the course of the last century. The track ends with a powerful poem from young Yemeni-British poet Sanasino.

After ‘My Soul’, the video for which was leaked in July, comes another deep new track, ‘Butterfly Effect’, produced by the highly-respected New York production team Beatnick and K-Salaam. Lyrically a very deep and unique track, ‘Butterfly Effect’ sees Lowkey giving voice to a disabled homeless war veteran and exploring how events and decisions have repercussions that we can never predict. The beautiful sung chorus, solemn instrumental and powerful storytelling make this one of the standout tracks of the album.

Next comes ‘ObamaNation Part 2’, the video for which was released just a few days ago, and which has become an instant classic. Three intense verses – from M1 (Dead Prez), Black the Ripper and Lowkey – over an epic Nutty P production.

Then we have another new BeatNick and K-Salaam produced banger, ‘Dear England’, featuring Mai Khalil. The grime tempo/feel is a welcome change of pace and gives Lowkey a chance to show off his double-time skills, very appropriate for this insightful track about the recent London riots.

Britannia lit the match but Britannia fears the flame
Where blood stains the pavement, tears stain the cheek
When privilege is threatened, the fear reigns supreme
Where bankers are earning from shooting and looting
The nervous are shooting, we search for solutions

‘Haunted’ is perhaps the most personal, reflective and fragile moment of the album, as Lowkey gives the listener an insight into some of the psychological conflict he deals with daily, haunted by the memory of his brother, ground down by the stress of his ongoing court case, and lied about and misrepresented in the press. He ends by urging the listener to remember: “When I go, just know, that I did it for the people”.

The penultimate track is the long-awaited ‘Terrorist Part 2’, featuring the young London-based Iraqi rapper Crazy Haze taking the role of a barrister defending Lowkey against charges of ‘inciting terrorism’ with his music, and then as a prosecuting barrister cross-examining Lowkey. An innovative and interesting track over a tasty Last Resort beat.

The final cut of the album is the impassioned ‘Million Man March’, which encapsulates the sentiment of Che Guevara: “I don’t care if I fall as long as someone else picks up my gun”. Mai Khalil (whose contribution to this album cannot be underestimated) sings:

My back’s against the wall
But you can’t kill us all
Even if you take my life
Still we will survive
We shall overcome
And the tables will turn
Today I die as one but as millions I’ll return
But as millions I’ll return
But as millions I’ll return

And there you have it. Twenty phenomenal tracks that make you think and make you feel. An album worth waiting for. I’m sure there will be many more albums to come from Lowkey (who at 25 years of age displays a remarkable musical, lyrical and political maturity), but it’s not going to be easy to top this.

The album is released on 16th October. Here is the iTunes pre-order link. If you are a Lowkey supporter, please do your best to spread the word about the album far and wide! There is no multinational corporation sponsoring this music; it is our music; music for the people. If we don’t support it, it can’t continue.

“Your voice, your opinion” – not so much. Bars For Change, extremism and islamophobia

The first two episodes of ‘Bars For Change’ (on police accountability and government cuts) were excellent. Jody McIntyre, Windfall Films and the various artists involved (including Durrty Goodz, Ghetts, Logic, Lioness and DVS) did a really good job giving voice to the opinions and frustrations of young people in our communities. The timing of the episodes was spot-on: the one on police accountability came soon after the high profile death in police custody of reggae star Smiley Culture; the episode on the cuts came soon after England’s streets exploded in spontaneous uprising against poverty, discrimination and marginalisation.

Unfortunately, the third episode, released this evening on YouTube, puts forward a very different message. Although it was originally planned to be focused around the rise of the fascist English Defence League (EDL), it seems Windfall Films made an executive decision to turn it into a film about ‘extremism’ in general. The result, I would argue, is a film that reinforces islamophobia and discourages political dissent.

Because of these problems, Jody McIntyre publicly dissociated himself from the film, saying on his Facebook page:

“I think a lot of people will be very disappointed with the Bars For Change film that will apparently be released this eve. This is what happens when attempts are made to co-opt voices of dissent.”

And further:

“The film Bars For Change have just released makes me feel sick. Racism and white supremacy, once again given a cloak of legitimacy…”

The program starts by uncritically quoting the government’s definition of extremist groups.

“Extremist groups oppose democracy, British law, individual freedoms, and respect for other faiths”.

The film-makers missed the opportunity to make the very obvious point that, given Britain’s role in illegal wars against Muslim countries, this definition is an excellent fit for the British state.

The show does a reasonable job of exposing the hypocrisy and idiocy of the EDL. Fascists are shown saying obviously stupid things. “I don’t want my children to grow up eating halal food.” (OK, well, don’t give them halal food then, you twerp). Where it goes wrong, however, is when the obscure Muslims Against Crusades (MAC) group is presented as some kind of dark-skinned equivalent of the EDL. A small group of Muslims is shown shouting the slogan “Sharia for UK” and then talking about how it is destiny that the whole world shall be ruled by Islam.

We then get the voice of reason from a “former extremist”, Matthew Collins, who comes out with this pretty extreme statement:

“The EDL and the MAC are exactly the same as each other. MAC don’t speak for the Muslim community; the EDL don’t speak for the English.”

The EDL and the MAC are *not* exactly the same as each other. The MAC is a tiny and obscure political scarecrow that has been frequently used by the right-wing press to make people terribly worried about these nasty brown folks that want to force the good people of England to wear burqas. The resulting hysteria feeds hugely into the culture of Islamophobia that divides our communites and that builds support for the wars being waged by the British state in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Muslim extremism is *not* a major problem on our streets; English fascism and Islamophobia *are* real problems. Muslims are being violently attacked, vilified and discriminated against.

Furthermore, English fascism and Muslim extremism are very different social phenomena. EDL-type fascism is simply the paramilitary extension of the existing racist, anti-poor, anti-immigrant power structure; its views are informed by mainstream ideology (read the Daily Mail and you’ll see what I mean). Muslim extremism, on the other hand, is a resistance identity, an interesting by-product of our society’s colonialist and racist mentality.

In fact, the Muslim ‘fundamentalists’ in this country are generally speaking inspired by those radical Islamic groups around the world fighting courageously against neo-colonialism (Hezbollah is a good example). It is worth noting that this radical Islam became popular in the wake of the crushing of the secular nationalist resistance in the Middle East, perpetrated by Arab ‘elite’ at the instigation of their western puppet-masters in Britain, France and the US. So if you look deep enough, even the presence of a few guys in England calling for Sharia law can be traced to imperialist policy and the thirst for oil!

The artists (Black the Ripper, RoxXxan and Mikill Pane) clearly try to steer the programme towards a positive conclusion of communities needing to unite, but the film-makers force it back towards a stern warning against all forms of extremism. Given that the only definition of extremism we have been given is the government-supplied one quoted above, doesn’t this message tend to support the status quo? Does it not perpetuate the myth of British democracy?

People called Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko extremists. They called Malcolm X, Huey P Newton and Angela Davis extremists. They called Nasser and Ho Chi Minh extremists. “Extremism is bad” is a dangerous message, because we live in a society which is ‘extremely’ messed up, and we may need some ‘extreme’ measures to move forward!

Imperialism is the ‘extreme’ domination of the world’s resources, land and people, by means of ‘extreme’ force. Move against it by any means necessary.

Jody’s statement can be read here.

Must-watch video interview with Rebel Diaz

Check this must-watch 35-minute interview with Rebel Diaz by The New Significance, showing the hip-hop community centre and studio they run, talking about their new album and their ethos.

Follow Rebel Diaz on Twitter

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