Tuesday, April 22, 2008

America's N-word, from Nas to Dick Gregory

Undoubtedly Nasir Jones has been one of hip-hop's most important lyricists. Even at his creative worst, when he mixed dual personas by amalgamating the street prophet 'Nastradamus' with the drug dealing 'Escobar', his positioning in the world of hip-hop has provided listeners of all backgrounds and ideologies with important political/message tracks such as "If I Ruled the World", "Black Girl Lost", and "Black Zombies".

He remains an icon.

But rappers, even the ones known as "conscious MCs", are NOT infallible. They are NOT Popes of public opinion. And Nas' 9th studio album, entitled Nigger, proves that point. It has been the source of incredible public debate, however, especially among the Civil Rights Generation.

Rev. Jesse Jackson said:

"The title using the 'N' word is morally offensive and socially distasteful. Nas has the right to degrade and denigrate in the name of free speech, but there is no honor in it. Radio and television stations have no obligation to play it and self-respecting people have no obligation to buy it. Many wish he would use his talents to lift up and inspire, not degrade."
My initial reaction is to agree with Rev. Jackson. Plus, when I saw Nas on CNN, he wasn't making any sense.

However, Rev. Jackson never once embraced hip-hop in his political prime while running for president in '84 or '88. Also, the anti-rap movement in the early 1990s, was a partnership of white conservatives like William Bennett and black civil rights icons like C. Delores Tucker. It was elders who led a movement that extinguished or diminished the careers of political MCs (Paris, Public Enemy, 2Pac, Ice-T, etc.).

Today the same Negro Spiritual leaders that denounced hip-hop in the early 90s, protest The Boondocks, which is the only "conscious" hip-hop oriented television show on the air. They also lay the usage of the N-word at the feet of the Hip-Hop Generation while conveniently forgetting activist/comedian Dick Gregory's autobiography. Not to mention other popular presentations of the word.

Originally scheduled for release in February, Nas' Nigger has been pushed back to July 1, 2008. Yesterday the first track was leaked via the Internet. The song is called "Be a nigger too" where Nas raps:

"not mad because Eminem said, nigger/
because he is my nigger/
wigger cracker friend/
cuz we are all black within"

Ummm, I don't think so Nas.

Hear the song below:

Your thoughts?

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