If Nas’ master plan holds up, the first music from his controversially titled album Nigger will be out next week. There hasn’t been an album that has caused this much ruckus without one note being consumed by the general public since, well, Nas’ last LP, 2006’s Hip Hop Is Dead. The title alone has garnered condemnation from civil-rights activists, some even going so far as to say that they will organize boycotts of the entire Universal Music Group if subsidiary company Island/ Def Jam goes ahead and releases the LP.
A couple of weeks ago, Island Def Jam Music Group Chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid told MTV News that he and his company stand fully by Nas and his album. Jay-Z, Def Jam’s president and CEO, recently expressed the same sentiment of support, although he didn’t necessarily seem to fully agree with Nas’ reasoning.
“I know he’s very intelligent and there a reason behind what he’s doing,” Jay told MTV News. “He’s not just doing it for the sake of being provocative. Of course we’re going to support his art. … I hope [the concept] is coming from a great place. I believe it’s coming from a great place. I just think it’s misguided. People give strength to words, power to words. If your remove ’nigger,’ then you have ’jiggaboo’ and ’porch monkey,’ the words will keep continuing. How many words you gonna take out? People give the words power. I think we need to direct that [energy] towards the community.
“The first thing you do when you sit with a psychiatrist is they go back to your childhood. It all stems from there. So all these things that’s happening in these neighborhood, the worst schools, drug-infested areas … of course people are going to be hostile. So if you fix that, you fix self-esteem, you fix hope. … Then they’ll be another thing. But you can’t remove a word and think all the problems don’t exist. Like I said, it’s misguided.”
In recent weeks, Common, Akon, Method Man and others have expressed their support for Nas — but not 50 Cent, who said Nas is going for “shock value” with the controversial album name — and fellow Def Jam artist LL Cool J also says he doesn’t have a problem with the title.
“It don’t matter to me,” he said. “Why not? It’s great marketing. People are talking about it like they are talking about Hip Hop Is Dead. He’s obviously going to have reason behind it. I don’t think it’s ignorant, because he’s a real intelligent guy.
When asked to consider that Nas has said he’s trying to take power away from the word, LL said, “He wants to make the anti-snakebite venom,” and laughed. “He’s giving [people] a vaccination, he wants to desensitize them. Why not? Do your thing. I’m waiting to hear the record. Nas is a grown man, he makes his own decision. It’s an interesting title. I don’t think the N-word is going anywhere. It’s just a cultural thing. Does it offend me? It’s according to who says it. Other than that, it’s not going anywhere. What’s the big deal?”
“I guess he wants to address that word,” Reverend Run surmised, “I’m sure it’ll get a lot of attention, and I appreciate it.”
Run’s older brother Russell Simmons’ eyes lit up when asked about his take on the album name. He said he liked it: “Good title!”
“I think Nas is a very innovative artist,” Alicia Keys said. “He’s incredible, he’s not a fool. If he has something shocking to say, it’s because he wants you to pay attention to it.”
Hateful overtones of racism were splashed all over the news on Thursday (November 1). Comedian Katt Williams had an animated exchange on CNN in which he explained why he wore a noose around his neck at the recent BET Awards. Meanwhile, A&E announced it would be suspending production of the reality show “Dog the Bounty Hunter” after a phone conversation between Duane “Dog” Chapman and his son — during which Chapman used the N-word twice — hit the Internet. Chapman’s son was dating a black woman.
In a statement to CNN, Chapman said, “My sincerest, heartfelt apologies go out to every person I have offended for my regrettable use of very inappropriate language. I am deeply disappointed in myself for speaking out of anger to my son and using such a hateful term in a private phone conversation … I was disappointed in his choice of a friend, not due to her race, but her character,” he said. “However, I should have never used that term.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has condemned Nas for titling his new album the way he did, released a joint statement with Abraham H. Foxman, national director and chairman of the Anti-Defamation League, relating to the Chapman incident.
“The recent epidemic of nooses and swastikas appearing in various places in our communities are acts of hate, and are intended to intimidate and instill fear,” the statement said. “Such acts are despicable, and we call upon all people of good will — of all races, religions and ethnicities — to stand up and say such acts will not be tolerated.”
Sharpton also wrote a letter to Chapman saying they should meet and that he should march with Sharpton during his “Washington DC March on Hate Crimes” rally on November 16.
Nas’ Nigger is due December 11.