Nasir Jones is a funny, funny guy.
Nasir Jones, aka Nas, rapper extraordinaire is back in the news. In fact, he’ll soon be back with a new CD. The often controversial rapper is again doing what he does best, causing controversy. To be truthful, there really isn’t any controversy…just high comedy.
Nasir Jones is a funny, funny man; borderline hysterical.
Just in case you’re not aware of the latest, Nas has announced his forthcoming CD will be named…
(drum roll please)
Yes, see how the mere utterance of the word in its full, gory splendor makes most “reasonable” individuals twitch in discomfort. Note; emphasis on the word “reasonable.”
Nigger, coming soon on iTunes. Or, you can run out to your local music retailer and purchase Nigger as a gift for your loved ones this holiday season. In fact, call your favorite radio station and request Nigger right now.
Yes, doesn’t that just “sound” like a good idea?
THAT, my people, is brilliance unparalleled. Such creative genius only comes around once in a generation. The juxtaposition of “nigger” and rap music is groundbreaking. Never before have the two come together in music.
Evidently the NAACP and other civil rights ancillaries are none too pleased at the announcement and have voiced their displeasure. To which, Nas had this to say to MTV News:
“I’m a street disciple. I’m talking to the streets. Stay out of our business. You ain’t got no business worrying about what the word ‘nigger’ is or acting like you know what my album is about without talking to me.
He goes on to say…
“If Cornel West was making an album called “Nigger,” they would know he’s got something intellectual to say. To think I’m gonna say something that’s not intellectual is calling me a nigger, and to be called a nigger by Jesse Jackson and the NAACP is counterproductive, counter-revolutionary.”
And so goes the continuous contradictory nature of hip-hop music today.
Quicker than a single rotation of a 12” LP, hip-hop will argue the merits of “free speech” and how hip-hop should not be “censored” or heaven forbid, criticized. Yet at the same time, hip-hop has been gleefully ignorant as to the implications and responsibility associated with anything “free.”
“Freedom of speech" is an inalienable right to avoid prosecution for your views…not persecution because of them. There’s a distinct difference.
Nas is "free" to title his CD Nigger or any other equally misguided nomenclature he sees fit; regardless of how ill-conceived, illogical and asinine it may happen to be.
But why in the hell WOULD anyone (Black) WANT to do so?
Be it the attempt to justify the BET TV show Hot Ghetto Mess, merchandise "Nigga" T-shirts (Damon Wayans) or naming your CD Nigger…the question is the same.
Why in the hell WOULD anyone (Black) WANT to do so?
Freedom of speech intimates a dialogue, not a monologue. The NAACP, Jesse Jackson and Mo’Kelly are also "free" to express our overwhelming disapproval at Nas’ lack of foresight and class. Freedom of speech does not begin and end with the first voice in the discussion, it continues until all are heard.
This is Mo’Kelly’s turn.
- Disciple n.
1. A person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another.
There is nothing inherently dishonorable in being “from” the streets. Our origination points in life are simply that…a starting locale prior to growth and progress. They should never be the goal or end destination.
The problem though is coveting the infantile mentality that eschews growth, education and progress for items of zero value…synonymous with “the streets.”
In “the streets,” men are not men.
Baby Boy (Movie)
Boyz in the Hood (Movie)
And to think we as African-American men couldn’t stand to be called “boy.” That’s clearly progress at its best.
In “the streets” women are not women.
The “mores” and “ethics” of the streets are contained in phrases such as “stop snitchin.’ The debasement of women and disrespect of fellow African-Americans are acceptable and encouraged modes of behavior.
The “streets” are about “having more” not “being more.” The “streets” idolize drug dealers, rappers who pattern themselves after Mafiosos and/or drug dealers (i.e. “Nas Escobar”) and are largely indifferent to common sense and decency. Mo’Kelly’s not deriding people “from” the streets, just those who embrace the tenets “of” the streets. It’s about the mentality, not the zip code.
It wasn’t the zip code that landed rapper T.I. in jail (again). It was the mentality that convinced him machine guns and silencers were more important than continuing to enjoy his music and movie stardom without them.
If Nasir Jones is a self-proclaimed “street disciple,” then by definition he embraces and extols the “virtues” of the very least that African-Americans have to offer and the worst of human interaction. Mo’Kelly doesn’t need to “wait” for the CD to KNOW that Nigger is an unacceptable way to represent African-American people.
Mo’Kelly’s got common sense and decency.
“I’m a street disciple. I’m talking to the streets. Stay out of our business.”
Like Mo’Kelly said…Nas is a funny, funny man. High comedy. And by the way, since 70% of all hip-hop is purchased by non-African-Americans, what "streets" is Nas REALLY talking to?
Nas should've said..."I'm talking to the suburbs, who keep me in business." THAT is more of an accurate statement.
The moment Nas stops appearing on MTV News, pre-promoting CDs, having his music spun at night clubs, accepting royalty checks from a conglomerate he neither influences nor owns et. al…then and ONLY then might he admonish anyone to stay out of his “business.” In the meantime, he keeps bringing his “business” to us and is quite intent on making a profit in the process.
In addition, as long as Nas is intent on “representing” African-Americans in a public sense with such stupidity, it will always be Mo’Kelly’s “business” to check him accordingly.
“You ain’t got no business worrying about what the word ‘nigger’ is or acting like you know what my album is about without talking to me.”
Great. Nas is also the self-proclaimed “authority” on the word “nigger” with all rights, entitlements and privileges accorded thereto. That is “goal setting” at its highest.
Mo’Kelly wouldn’t dare try to take that “honor” away from him. Mo’Kelly will let Nas hang that award proudly on his bathroom wall…right next to his 8th grade diploma.
The simple point Nas misses (one of many) is that “just because you ‘can’…doesn’t mean you should.” And if you still do, don’t expect the rest of us to support you either.
Enough is enough.
If Nas can’t understand the inherent stupidity in naming his CD Nigger, then it’s a fair assumption the subsequent content is equally lacking in common sense. Remember, he’s a “street disciple” with all the baggage it entails.
Heaven forbid if we as a people strove to “be more” instead of just “having more.”
Let’s stay within the realm of common sense here. Nas is not on any intellectual par with Dr. West and neither are Nas’ “teachings.” And if Nas is only talking to "the streets," any and all references to Dr. West are silly. Is Nas trying to be silly or serious? Right now, the humor is winning out.
Nas IS a funny, funny man invoking comparisons to Dr. West. Appropriating the intellectuality of Dr. West to argue the merits of stupidity is high, high comedy. Dr. West hasn't written any songs talking about You Owe Me or engaged in publicized beefs/pissing matches, dissing his peers such as Tavis Smiley, Leonard Pitts or Earl Ofari Hutchinson over perceived disrespect.
Nas on the other hand...
But to Nas' point, Dr. West has released multiple CDs which included the topic of The N-Word (as the songs were specifically titled). Meaning, Dr. West is clearly sensitive to the controversial nature of the word in ways that Nas is not. The fact is; Dr. West likely wouldn’t ever name his CD Nigger. The hypothetical is erroneous and ridiculous.
“ To think I’m gonna say something that’s not intellectual is calling me a nigger, and to be called a nigger by Jesse Jackson and the NAACP is counterproductive, counter-revolutionary.”
Nas would like us to disregard the greater portion of his career filled with non-intellectual beefs with Jay-Z, 50 Cent and others. He would like us to forget all of his foolishness, but Mo’Kelly won’t. Nas is occasionally intellectual…in the way that it occasionally rains. In other words, he changes like the weather.
But therein lies the rub. Although Nas is fine with using “Nigger” for his own ill-gotten gain, irrespective of how destructive, offensive and inflammatory it might be; he’s “offended” at the prospect of the insult being thrown back at him.
Which is it Nas…is the word offensive and inflammatory or not? Nas can’t seem to make up his mind.
Nas’ own contradictions are the perfect illustrations as to why this word has no place in our mouths, our hearts…or as titles of our CDs. The word and its hateful history are neither redemptive nor salvific. Nothing good has EVER come out of “nigger.” Being that Nas is the “authority” on “nigger” he should already know this to be true.
“We're taking power from the word,” Nas also added.
No, he's not. The word itself doesn't have power, it's the history and racism it embodies which have power...neither of which he's addressing or mitigating by "selling Nigger" for $18.95.
Nas can't numb African-Americans into submission through overuse of the word in the hopes of it becoming passe' and he knows it. He just wants your $18.95 before you figure it out.
No matter how many times Richard Pryor said it under the guise of humor, no matter how many times NWA used it under the guise of empowerment; the FIRST time Michael Richards mentioned it...we were back to square one. The FIRST time it was used against Mychal Bell, the wheels of history began turning in his mind and the Jena 6 were born.
The association of “nigger/nigga” and rap music is not "revolutionary." Ever since the debut of NWA in the early 90s…rap and “nigger” in all of its permutations have been inextricably linked. Nas is not breaking new ground here, only digging up more of hip-hop’s old skeletons. In fact, the use of "nigger" on an album/CD isn't even new. Richard Pryor has Nas beat by some 30 years and we should all remember where "intellectually" and emotionally Pryor ended up on the use of the word "nigger" when all was said and done.
To be “revolutionary” implies cutting against the grain in the hopes of uplifting the least of all of us. It’s a key differentiation between relevant social revolutions and garden variety prison breaks.
Nas titling a hip-hop CD in 2007 Nigger after a career of its incessant use in his music is indicative only of unimaginative profiteering, masquerading as intellectuality. His inability to see past the error of his ways is just more of the infantile faux-masculinity that is common and pervasive amongst “street disciples.”
Nas, you are a funny, funny man…even when you’re not trying.
The Mo'Kelly Report is an entertainment journal with a political slant. It is meant to inform, infuse and incite meaningful discourse...as well as entertain. The Mo’Kelly Report is syndicated by Newstex. For more Mo’Kelly, http://www.mokellyreport.blogspot.com.
Morris W. O'Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he welcomes all commentary.