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‘If you’re not taking chances, putting your career on the line, it ain’t fun no more,’ MC says of edgy clip.
By Shaheem Reid
NEW YORK â€” Nas was a walking pull quote Thursday night as he stood in front of journalists and bloggers at the Tribeca Grand Hotel.
“I ain’t Farrakhan or Chuck D,” he said about the message on his new album. “I’m just a Queensbridge n—a that got rich. … I love pissing people off and stirring up stupid mutha—-as.”
Nas invited the media and others to see the world premiere of his video for “Be a Nigger Too.” The clip was directed by Rik Cordero, who’s earned a name for himself helming clips for Ghostface Killah, Beanie Sigel, Styles P and other MCs on shoestring budgets.
“Nas offends no one by offending everyone,” Cordero said, addressing the crowd in the small auditorium. He revealed that much of the imagery in the video â€” such as Nas talking to himself and rapping in front of a mirror â€” was inspired by Spike Lee’s film “25th Hour.” The clip shows how the racist behaviors of yesteryear correlate to modern-day prejudices. The video concludes with a slave getting lynched.
Actors Andre Royo and Gbenga Akinnagbe from HBO’s “The Wire,” John Cho from “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” and the outspoken Danny Hoch all make cameos. “They heard the song and were supportive of what we do,” the director said.
Nas is satisfied with the video just being a part of his viral campaign, but he’s optimistic that MTV will play an edited version. He said the video could hit airwaves “if MTV is open-minded and understands this is music. … They had pretty wild stuff through their history. I think they know how to edit that.”
Nas recently had to drop the planned album name of Nigger for his July 1 opus due to political pressure. Instead, it will be untitled. He said that when Al Sharpton released a statement in the wake of the name drop and claimed partial responsibility for it, it was a false victory.
“This record is about how the older generation looks down on us. … There’s a crew of older black people, [they’re] on their way out and we’re on our way up,” Nas said. “It looks like hip-hop n—as is about to make that Oprah money, and that’s scary to them.”
The Queensbridge General also railed about some black leaders extorting the record companies through political pressure. “Them n—as is old. The only way they make money is off our sh–.” He said that he was told by many people that naming his album Nigger was “career suicide” â€” and he liked that.
“I take a lot of chances with the music,” he explained with a grin. “At this point, if you’re not taking chances, putting your career on the line, it ain’t fun no more.”
He also alluded to the statement his album’s artwork makes. “The cover speaks for itself,” he declared. “It says ‘nigger’ real loud.” The album cover, which was leaked to the Net, shows Nas’ back severely scarred by what seem to be whip lashings, with the horrific scars forming the letter N.
Earlier this month, while talking to MTV News, Nas said the Dr. Pepper-jingle feel of “Be a Nigger Too” was inspired by an interlude on N.W.A’s Efil4zaggin LP. He also said he doesn’t think the lyrics, which are filled with racial slurs, will bring the same type of backlash that befell Michael Jackson almost two decades ago when the King of Pop dropped “They Don’t Care About Us.”
“I think that, fortunately for hip-hop artists, we don’t stand under the microscope like Michael Jackson, the pop star,” he analyzed. “Rappers, hip-hop artists are known to be edgy, crazy, real blunt with it. I think people expect for hip-hop to be crazy like that. With Michael Jackson, no one expected for him to come out with something where he was just giving you a piece of himself, no matter how nobody took it. The same way he wasn’t trying to be mean to anybody is the same way I’m not trying to be mean to anybody. I think he caught the worst end of the stick. … This is hip-hop music, and Jews rock with Nas. Asians rock with Nas. Italians rock with Nas. I’m here to speak my mind. If you can’t respect that, you’re part of the problem