Still on the Fence About Nas’ New Album

by Latoya Peterson

Skimming through the MTV newsfeed, I saw an interesting item that sheds a little more light on the ideas and concept of Nigger.

MTV explains:

We’ve heard him rap from the perspective of a gun that has been used in several homicides. He’s rapped from the perspective of a kid on a project bench. And on his upcoming album, Nigger, he’s at it again, reciting lyrics from the viewpoint of an insect. One of the standout cuts he previewed for MTV News on Tuesday is called “Project Roach.”

“A roach is what I am, fool/ The ghetto is my land, fool,” he raps on the track, which was produced by No I.D.

“I get to thinking about how we evolved, how the human family evolved and sh–,” Nas said Tuesday from Jimmy Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios. “And I looked at ants, man. One day, I was looking at a bunch of ants. We’ve got a lot in common — just like everything that’s alive, everything that eats and breathes and builds and creates. There’s a connection to even the smallest thing. So I looked at it as the whole world, instead of looking at us as beauty. Inside poverty, inside the street, inside the ghettos and the gutters and the slums, we aren’t looked at as beauty out there. We were looked at as the worst pest, and because of that, because of that treatment, some of us started to believe we were a pest, started to believe what we were told, and started to act like it, and started to reproduce my people, bring kids in the world that were f—ed up in the head.

Nas then continues in this vein, personifying the word itself:

At times on “Y’all My Niggers,” he comes from the stance of the N-word. “Try to erase me from y’all language/ Too late, I’m engraved in history/ … They got Nigeria and Niger/ Somehow Niger turned to ‘nigger,’ and things got ugly.”

MTV notes Nas’ quest to inform, saying:

He’s abrasively frank throughout the album, with his song names and content. He holds back nothing. On the title track, he calls out racists, as well as holds a mirror up to people who actually perpetuate the stereotypes bigots spread.

“N-I-double-G-E-R/ We are much more, but we choose to ignore the obvious,” he raps on the song. “You are the slave and the master/ What you looking for? You’re the question and the answer.”

Nas then continues to probe deeper into his mindset while creating the album, saying:

“Somebody asked me, what’s your inspiration for this album? Everything that’s happening every day,” he explained. “I can’t really turn an album in when, like, next week it will be something else that will come to light and make me want to write about something. It’s hard to finally wrap it up, but I finally got there. I’m finally there now. Wow, this year is panning. … This year looks like it’s going to be amazing.

“Whas huge for me,” he added, “is when there’s an attack on hip-hop artists, and they say that hip-hop artists are responsible for the language, the terrible language, and for the violence. When we get attacked like that, we respond. We gotta to respond. We don’t want to pay too much attention to it, but with an album like this, this is my response in some ways to that, ’cause it’s, like, hypocritical, you know what I mean? With the way people are dealing with hip-hop and trying to use it as a scapegoat. So this album is like, ‘We’re not having that.’ “

MTV also reports that Nas has changed the title of the album:

“It’s important to me that this album gets to the fans,” Nas said in a statement released Monday afternoon (May 19). “It’s been a long time coming. I want my fans to know that creatively and lyrically, they can expect the same content and the same messages. It’s that important. The streets have been waiting for this for a long time. The people will always know what the real title of this album is and what to call it.”

In light of our last conversation, I have changed my stance on the album to “cautiously hopeful.” Reading the MTV previews and excerpts from lyrics has piqued my interest.

Emphasis on the cautiously in “cautiously hopeful.”

However, I still stand by my initial assessment of the first single. To lift a phrase from AverageBro, it still sounds like that special brand of Barbershop K-nowledge put on wax. I would have expected such stylings from Polow da Don, not Nas.

Thoughts?