For years, Guled Diriye has been making noise in Seattle’s hip-hop scene, catching the eyes of a few national blogs and local fans. But recently the U.S. Secret Service has taken notice, too.
Like many Americans, Diriye hasn’t been shy about voicing his disdain for President Donald Trump on social media. In December, Diriye, a Somali immigrant and U.S. citizen who performs as Chino’o Capo Gaddafi with his Malitia MaliMob group, filmed a music video for which they drew a Hitler mustache on a likeness of Trump and strung it up from a street sign along Rainier Avenue. Over the past few weeks, he has posted several pictures and videos from the shoot with anti-Trump messages on social media, teasing the new song, titled “Dum Dum.” It was the controversial social media promotion that Diriye believes led the Secret Service to his mother’s house Tuesday afternoon.
The Secret Service is charged with protecting the president.
According to Diriye, two people who identified themselves as special agents came knocking on his mother’s door looking for Diriye, asking to search her Kent home. The two did not have a search warrant, according to Diriye.
“I didn’t threaten the president, I didn’t say I was going to kill the president,” Diriye recalled Wednesday, still audibly rattled.
One of the agents left a handwritten note with their name and phone number, according to Diriye, who showed a photograph of the note.
The voicemail of the agent whose name was in the note was reachable through the Secret Service’s Seattle field office. When reached Wednesday on one of the numbers listed in the handwritten note, she initially denied knowledge of a home search in Kent. When asked about Diriye, she said she was only trying to locate somebody and declined to comment further.
A spokesperson for the Secret Service’s Seattle field office did not respond to calls seeking comment Thursday.
Diriye, a married father of four, was not at his mother’s home at the time. But his mother – who runs a daycare out of the house – was there with his sister and his children. Despite his mother’s objections, the agents, Diriye says, repeatedly asked to search the house. According to Diriye, they also inquired about his immigration status, though he says he and his family members are all American citizens.
Diriye’s sister eventually convinced his mother to let them in, saying they had nothing to hide. The agents eventually left, leaving behind the handwritten note with instructions for Diriye to call them, he says.
“My mom is terrified,” says Diriye, 30. “She’s thinking ‘Oh my God, they’re going to close my business.’”
Diriye contends that the agents were overly persistent.
Diriye’s family came to America when he was 7, fleeing Somalia to escape the terrorism that ravaged their native country. They arrived in the U.S. with all of their belongings in a single suitcase and eventually settled in Seattle.
“America is my home,” Diriye says. “I left Somalia, fleeing with my mother stepping over dead bodies, laying next to dead bodies. A lot of traumatizing [expletive], bro. … I appreciate being here. I love being an American. I’m proud of being an American. I would never even burn a flag like some people do, because I know what America is all about.”
After consulting with a lawyer affiliated with the local chapters of the Council on American Islamic Relations and the American Civil Liberties Union, he plans to release an edited version of the video. He describes its message as a “kumbaya” celebrating the idea that America was “built by foreigners” and that people of different backgrounds coming together is what “makes America great.” While Diriye says Trump isn’t mentioned by name in the song, the video’s incendiary imagery is a metaphor for how Diriye “feels as a black man in America.”
“We feel that we’re hung every day – in the streets being shot, being killed,” he says. “I’m depicting that through art. Every day we feel like we’re at gunpoint.”
Malitia MaliMob is a group formed by Diriye and Mohamed Jurato, aka J. Krown, bringing the perspective of Muslim immigrants to gritty struggle rap. Their 2015 album, titled “ISIS,” “stands in direct opposition to the Islamic State’s fascist fundamentalism,” according to a City Arts Magazine story at the time. The album received favorable local reviews, though the controversial title delayed its iTunes release.
Having left Somalia to escape terrorism, the self-described “dread-headed American kid from Seattle” takes offense to being investigated as if he were a terrorist, Diriye says.
“We hate terrorism. I can’t even go back to where I was born because every day there’s bombings,” he says. “Bro, we are anti-terrorist to the max. … For them to try to put me in that category, it’s heart-breaking, bro. It’s the worst thing in the world to me. I’m here because of these bastards. … How could you put me in the same category as these scum bags?”
Michael Rietmulder: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter: @mrietmulder. Michael Rietmulder is the Seattle Times music writer.