When Nas hit the press last year for “Hip-Hop is Dead.” He did so without any real explanation of what he meant. People on both sides of the ‘what has hip-hop become’ debate got shook and decided Nas was coming after their baby. Southern rappers (T.I. and Lil Wayne) took the, “I’m making money, it must be alive” route; and underground mags (Mass Appeal) propped up profiles featuring underground rappers, nuclear fallout deep, proclaiming they were proof hip-hop isn’t and will never be dead.
Didn’t Young Jeezy want to smack Nas around a little or at least give him a firm talking to?
It was like Moses rose from the ashes, landed on the Empire State Building and smashed the hip-hop commandments on the heads of the heathens. What was all the fuss about?
Just confusion all around to an obvious personal critique of this music of ours.
I’m not sure if Nas ever got past saying.. “that’s not what I meant”.. in any previous explanation he’s given.
In the latest and greatest issue of Stop Smiling: The Magazine For High-Minded Lowlifes they devote the entire issue to hip-hop nuggets; with two covers, the New York circulation features Nas.
The interview was conducted at the time of the album’s release.
He still doesn’t say why hip-hop is dead, the man has layers (and contradictions), peel back and see what makes sense.
SS: One of the things you seem to be saying on “Hip-Hop is Dead” is that hip-hop culture is super-materialistic, that everyone’s out for themselves. That it’s a lot like the way American culture, as a whole is becoming.
The problem is, we don’t realize the power of words.
One rapper from wherever talks about the hardships of growing up, and the record might be so hard, so hot, that the fans - the listeners- think it’s telling you how you should live, or that your music should be an imitation. That’s not why I made records.
But when I did, and saw what was happening, it was too late to explain, “Yo, I’m just expressing myself, not telling nobody to live no kind of way. You may not be able to get it the way I got it. There might be an easier way for you.”
So when someone starts talking about bling and ice to express themselves, you can’t tell who the real dudes are - and it makes us look like crazy, materialistic pigs. Some people think life is all about material things, and that’s all their record is about because they don’t know anything else.
Time for the contradiction…
We get the blame for being overly materialistic.
I come from the Eighties. The American dream was the shit Scarface died for, and it was everything no one in America had: Porsches, Ferraris, big mansions in Miami. That was drug dealer shit. There was a time when the drug game bought you all of those things. And when that era died, what was left is what the rappers like myself picked up and kept moving on with.
We talk about the experiences of those before us, what it was like, how insane it is that a guy who can’t read is born wanting to wear Gucci. And he earns on the streets without school. And learns class, sophistication and counting money without school. That is amazing to young brothers. Because it shows you their genius.
When you saw them go down A??,??__ whether they were shot, killed or put in jail A??,??__ you realize then that they’d had a decision to make. They could have said yes to that life or no to that life. But whether they did or didn’t, what they were after was something everyone is after: the money and the women.
So now we have thousands of rappers picking that up, saying the same shit they heard somebody good say, and it fucks it all up.
Not a true contradiction, just have to pay attention as he defined the soil that sprouts “real dudes.” Please note the two fingers on each side of that.. “real dudes.”
We’ll finish this off with a snippet of the “do you have a special responsibility” question.
It’s there you’ll find Nas talking about those hyped-up fans.
I’m criticized for doing songs for children, but if I do a song telling a ho’ to suck my dick, I would never get criticized.
What I realized is that 70 percent of rap fans don’t know what rap music is, and don’t like it. They just like the excitement and controversy.
That’s only 300,000 of those that buy your albums if you’re a platinum artist. The others are into the hype - that’s it.
Whatever they’re looking for, they’re not looking for the music. Those fans don’t know what rap music is. Rap music is a small community. And it’s hard to explain it because so many people feel like they’re a part of rap music but they’re not.