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Fire Starter: Razah
Def Jam is stocking up on male R&B singers. Bobby Valentino, Ne-Yo, the-Dream and now their newest addition, Razah. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in Brooklyn, Razah has been toiling away in the mixtape circuit for the past three years, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Papoose, Memphis Bleek and Bun B along the way. But his biggest collaboration has been the "Where Do We Go From Here" remix, which co-starred Rihanna. Now that he's officially on the same powerhouse label as RiRi, the minimal radio-spin days should be in his rearview. His new joint, "Rain," is a first-listen winner. He has that Caribbean melody thing working for him, like Akon and Sean Kingston.

MTV News: What about a person like Nas who has made it and does mingle with socialites, but also still deals with the everyday thugs? How do you deal with being in both worlds?

Nas: It's not right for all us who have made it to forget about everybody else in the struggle. Everybody ain't make it out to be billionaires or filthy rich. We have to bridge that gap back to not come down on each other, especially hip-hop. Don't come down on hip-hop for it. But at the end of the day? Whatever, man. I ain't got no time for it. "N---a" is a part of my vocabulary — as far as I know — for life. Amongst each other, we say it in jokes. It's really a stupid conversation to even have at this point, on the stage we have it on. If [the people who are against the use of the word] really wanted to have a conversation about it, it could have been done better. We didn't invent the word. We took the word and made it into something positive and we made money off it. God bless Richard Pryor.

MTV News: It's wild that we as a people still haven't resolved this. They brought this up 10 years ago with Snoop and them, and back in the '80s ...

Nas: You right, Sha. My example is Richard Pryor. Richard is my hero. He made an album called Supern---er where [on the cover] he's in the air like Superman. A few years later, they put him on the poster for "Superman III" with Christopher Reeve. They needed Supern---er to help America's biggest hero, Superman. They needed to sell movie tickets. God bless Richard Pryor! He turned the word into a positive. Of course, there is some f---ed-up rap music out there. That just f---s up the music. But at the end of the day you can't blame rap for everything.

MTV News: Last year, your Hip Hop Is Dead declaration was one of the most provocative statements in a long time. Recently though, the whole game has been sparked with the 50 Cent vs. Kanye West showdown. Obviously you've been keeping up because you told me that you felt 50 was going the controversial route, and it didn't sit well with you.

Nas: At first I was like, "Damn, he should be embarrassed," but now I get it. I'm excited about his album and Kanye's album, really. [50's] got that street sh--. I wanna hear that. Kanye has that pure music. That wins all the time. This is n---as' third albums. I'm looking at the controversy that they gotta put behind it and I'm like "damn!" It's that competitive hip-hop sh--. But I feel that your third album in 2007, it should be mind-blowing. I'm just happy Kanye got some good sh--. I'm just sitting back in my chair looking at n---as like, "Hurry up!" It's fun from where I'm at. I'm G'd up from where I'm at. Third album? Come on, bring it! Hip-hop needs it.

MTV News: Your third album was back in '99. Now you're working on your ninth LP, not counting the Firm, The Lost Tapes or your other side projects. Salaam Remi, who has been a constant collaborator of yours over the last few years, called me up recently. People might not know that in addition to doing your album, he also produced a bunch of stuff for Amy Winehouse's Back to Black album. I was seriously lobbying with Salaam to get you and Amy together for a collaboration. You think that might happen?

Nas: Absolutely, people don't know "Me and Mr. Jones" on her album, that's me [she's talking about.]. She mentions my birthday and then Destiny, that's my daughter. Its all based around my sh--. I think she's one of the hottest to hit the scene this year. She's a true artist to the fullest.

MTV News: When I heard it, it reminded me of the song you have about Rakim on Street's Disciple.

Nas: I felt the same way. It felt like "U.B.R. (Unauthorized Biography of Rakim)." I was f---ing with it because it had that sound, the whole album had that sound I been f---ing with.

Hungry for more hip-hop coverage? Sink your teeth into our "Hottest MCs in the Game" feature.

For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines.

For a full-length feature on the role of mixtapes in the music industry, check out "Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry."

For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines

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Photo: MTV News

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