The decision to invite Nas to perform at last night's Virginia Tech showbiz memorial wasn't a universally popular one, what with Nas's track record for making gratuitiously violent songs. However, the adoption of the 'ban Nas' campaign by Fox News' Bill O'Reilly handed Nas an easy way out. Instead of defending his music, he was able to get on the safer ground of attacking O'Reilly instead:
"He doesn't understand the younger generation. He deals with the past," Nas continued. "The people he represents are Republican, older, a generation that has nothing to do with the reality of what's happening now with my generation. ... He's not really on my radar. People like him are supposed to be taught and people like me are supposed to let niggas like him know. I don't take him serious. His shit is all about getting ratings or whatever. I wouldn't honor anything Bill O'Reilly has to say. It just shows you what bloodsuckers do: They abuse something like the Virginia Tech [tragedy] for show ratings. You can't talk to a person like that."
Now, you'll not find anyone keener than us to point out the shortcomings of Billo, but this is somewhat simplistic - after all, while Fox News' interest in Virgina Tech might be a ratings boost, isn't Nas' appearance at the Dave Matthews organised event also about commerce? And is turning the event into a platform to cry "racism" at Fox really any less of an abuse of the memories of those who died?
Nas did eventually try to explain why a man who makes money selling violent records was present at a memorial service for those who were killed. Tried being the operative word. His reasoning? Erm, life's hard:
Hmm. Is Nas really comparing the tiresome internal gang-on-gang shooty-shooty-look-at-my-gun violence which has blighted hip-hop is comparable with being shot in a random mass-killing? He does seem to.
Nas then suggests that it's not odd that he would be there, because not all his songs are violent and, um, he doesn't sing about Russians:
Some of these points may or may not be fair - the more coherent of them, anyway - and there is room, certainly, for a debate about how far artists are making violent works because they're influenced by surroundings, and how far violent art makes all our public spaces less safe. And Bill O'Reilly's one-manned version of less-informed Daily Mail, with piles, is fair for a take-down.
Indeed, so wrong-headed is Bill's worldview, his suggestion that something must be banned is usually enough to get us out running up a petition to have the State supply whatever it is on the general rates.
But this does miss the point somewhat. The best Nas has done is suggest why Bill O'reilly might not be the best person to frame the question, but he still hasn't managed to answer it: when families and survivors of the Virginia Tech killings had asked you, because of your violent work, to not come to an event being held in their name, why did you still go?