Concert boycotts, calling out other rappers, exposing alleged dirty radio politics and under-the-table payoffs: Nas has done it all in the past few days. Some have chalked up the usually reserved street poet's actions and words of late to straight wildin' out, some say he's just awakening, others have been saying the King of Queensbridge has snapped. He can't even explain it.
"I don't know why I'm saying this, I don't know what's gotten into me, but one thing I know is that I love the music too much and I try to stay real to it," Nas said Friday in Hershey, Pennsylvania, just before his performance as part of Usher's Evolution Tour. "When I see people faking the funk, I can't have it."
New York radio station Hot 97 wasn't having it last Wednesday when it held its annual grand slam concert Summer Jam. While Nas was the scheduled headliner for the Uniondale, New York, event, he declined to show up when the station, he said, would not let him perform the song "Ether." Instead, he went on Hot 97's rival Power 105.1 and went on a tirade about the day's events.
Hot 97 defended itself the next day and said it didn't have any beef with Nas performing "Ether," but rather it was perturbed by a mock lynching of Jay-Z that was supposed to take place during his set (see "Nas A No-Show At Summer Jam, Denies Planned Mock Lynching Of Jay-Z").
"What I was about to do was no different than what Eminem would do onstage when he brings out dolls of Britney Spears, of his own moms," Nas rebutted. "Or what [Dr.] Dre did when he had a lawsuit against Michigan from them not allowing him to express himself.
"They conspired together to make sure I wasn't dissing any other rappers, but for some reason they promote other rappers dissing Nas every time," he continued. "I just want to figure out what's happening with that. I want to prevent that from happening with any artist in the future, not to be exploited or put in slavery by any radio station or anything for that matter. This is supposed to be our freedom of speech, our time to voice our word to the world and they're giving us limitations well, giving me limitations because it seems like every time you turn on that station it's a new rapper talking about me and they promoting it like it's the best thing since sliced bread."
Nas was indirectly referring to Cam'ron's appearance on Hot 97 in the wake of Summer Jam night. While on Power 105.1, Nas said Cam was a "good" lyricist but added his latest album was "wack." The Harlemite, not too far removed from his impromptu performance at the concert, hit the studio and recorded a scathing comeback, where he raps over Nas' "Hate Me Now" for a portion of it and, among other things, threatens Nas by saying, "Take your daughter to R. Kelly and have my way with her face."
"To talk about people's moms and daughters, that's how you reach down and try to hurt somebody's feelings," Nas said of Cam's rhymes. "He's lost. He's looking for a way to sell records but he doesn't understand that he's getting used by Hot 97 for ratings and to speak up for [Funkmaster] Flex, who don't care about nobody except for himself. They got a dummy to be a dummy and go up on the radio and speak out against me. It's unfortunate because they're using [Cam'ron] and he's not even a part of my fight. My fight is against any power structure that's gonna try to hold the freedom of speech and that fight is not over yet."
One fight that Nas also hinted isn't over though he iterated he wants it to stay strictly in the verbal form is with Flex. On Friday afternoon, during a pre-taped interview on New York radio station 107.5 WBLS' "The Wendy Williams Experience," Nas accused Flex of taking money under the table to play records (a claim that Flex has heard before and has denied in several interviews) and basically put up a bounty, saying, "If you a real man, take Flex's chain and give it to me. If you a real man, when you see Flex take off his chain and I got something for you. If you a rap artist, that's real, smack that n---a man!"
"I didn't mean that, because as a real man I'm not gonna promote any violence," a remorseful Nas said of his diatribe. "I'm not gonna ask for any harm to be done to Flex. I was outraged, I was angry and I'm man enough to say I really don't want nothing to happen to him because he's not fit for it, he's not built for it. He's just a mouth that gets paid to do whatever he wants to do ... I take that statement back."
On Saturday, Nas did have his chance to perform in front of some New Yorkers who traveled down to New Jersey as the Evolution Tour made a stop at the PNC Bank Arts Center.
With no one threatening to censor him, he hit them with one verse of "Ether" then abruptly ended the song, saying, "Nah, I'm done with that, I need new competition, I'm moving on," as the crowd chanted for him to finish.
"I been through a lot of things in my life and I'm going through a lot of things right now, but I can't let all the negativity get to me," he also told the audience during his performance. After his finale of "One Mic," the onlookers gave him a standing ovation that lasted a little over two minutes.
For a full-length feature on the battle between Nas and Jay-Z, check out "Nas And Jay-Z: Grade-A Beef."