I’ve always said, never back a professional stand up comedian into a corner. Seriously. One of my favorite things to see on “The Daily Show” is a guest who thinks he’s giving Jon Stewart a beat down. You know why? Because just when the guest thinks he’s got Stewart backed up into a corner that stand up survival instinct kicks in and Stewart verbally smacks that guest down. If I ever find myself interacting with the likes of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, you can bet good money that I will be the nicest little so and so. Make no threatening gestures and maybe you won’t be attacked. Recently I’ve had to revise my truism. Never back a professional stand up comedian or Nas into a corner.
What’s the deal with Nas? Well, he’s where wit and intelligence converge with rap music. And like an ill informed guest on “The Daily Show”, our current culture has backed him into a corner, and the result is his latest album “Untitled”.
At this point most of the world knows that he actually wanted to call the album “Nigger”. First, the likes of Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson denounced the album. This was before Jackson was outed as having used the word niggers himself. Then Fox News, who already went after Nas when he was slated to perform at Virginia Tech’s welcome back to school concert, also condemned the album. This was before ColorofChange.org attempted to deliver a petition with over 600,000 signatures calling out the “fair and balanced” news source on racial smears and race baiting. Is it any wonder that Nas is one ticked off dude?
The album was released in July as “Untitled” mainly because Nas wanted to insure his fans could actually buy the CD, and many retailers like Target and Wal-Mart had said they would not sell the album if it was called “Nigger”. Also, at this point he knew that everyone knew what the album was called, even if it was untitled. The content of the album went unchanged except for one track being pulled because of sampling issues. But enough but the title, let’s talk about the disc!
This CD has made my top albums of all time list. Musically, it’s fantastic. Even if there were no lyrics you could easily enjoy the CD. Add in the lyrics and wow. It’s all I can say. If you’re looking for booty shakin’ rap jams or the extreme posturing of other hip hop albums, you’ll be sorely disappointed. If you’re looking for a glimpse at what America is like for the African American community, delivered with razor sharp wit, then this is your disc.
It’s hard to discuss the content of the album because it’s just so dense. Not a single word is wasted, and that makes for tough reviewing. I read some other reviews online to see how they went about it and was shocked to see a lot of criticism of the disc. One reviewer said that all Nas did was complain and point out problems but never offers a solution. My response to this is, it’s a CD, not a bill going before Congress. Phil Ochs said he wasn’t marching anymore, but he didn’t instruct us on how to actually end the war. Another review regarded Nas as hypocritical. How can he mention that he owns a BMW but still paint himself as a revolutionary? Um, because he’s honest. And can’t someone with money also want change?
Only time will tell what Nas’ contribution to our societal dialogue will be, but for me, his latest album embodies all that is good about rap music and the hip hop community. It takes a lot of courage to tangle with the likes of Sharpton and Fox News and he’s fighting like he’s Bill Hicks at dive comedy club.
Here is one of my favorite tracks off the album, “Hero”. This song replaced the one song that was pulled.
Here is Stephen Colbert bringing you up to date on Nas and Fox News:
And here is one good reason why I never want to tick off Nas:
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