Friday, September 07, 2007

Nas remembers VTech by shouting at Billo

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's a racist," Nas said. "Everybody has a marketing plan; his marketing plan is racism.

"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:
Here's somebody that speaks about America in his music, and the community that I come from has the same kind of violence as Virginia Tech," the legendary rapper said about himself. "It's unnecessary, stupid violence. Hip-hop is a part of the generation of [Virginia Tech] as well as alternative and pop and rock. Hip-hop is a part of that. That's why I'm [performing at the concert]. With Bill O'Reilly, it doesn't raise an eyebrow to me because it's garbage, its bullshit. He has nothing to do with the real people who go to school or the parents who had to endure that tragedy."

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:
"Let him ask why I made the songs I made," Nas said. "It didn't come from nowhere. It came from this country. I'm not talking about Russia in my music. I've never been to Russia. I'm not talking about Africa, Switzerland, China. I'm talking about me being American and growing up in a crazy world and helping to reflect all different sides of life. I got songs also about totally different things — 'Black Girl Lost,' you feel what I'm saying?"

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?


Anonymous said...

"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."

Hi, Hi from America. FYI for the people who live in the 'hood but aren't in a gang, it's exactly that: random mass killing of innocent bystanders. Just last week a 10 year old girl got shot near where the Notorious BIG grew up. tiresome.

simon h b said...

Hello, anonymous American: That's not what Nas sings about, though, is it? Unless, of course, you're suggesting that the Notorious BIG was also an innocent bystander?

janine said...

I'm not even a Nas fan, and I appreciate your calling Beth Ditto out on her bullshit, but you have to be intentionally obtuse to read, "the community that I come from has the same kind of violence as Virginia Tech," and think that he's only talking about hip hop lyrics. There are communities here that feel under siege every day. People as innocent as the v-tech kids who's families are like, "why'd that guy shoot him/her?"

Whatever you think of Nas' lyrics (I don't know much), the words "the tiresome internal gang-on-gang shooty-shooty-look-at-my-gun violence" make you look like n asshole. It may not be the 80s, but people still get shot for no reason in Black communities. Do they not matter because violent rap lyrics exist? Is that the argument?

Finally Nas doesn't sing; he raps. I'm a metal fan and I know the difference. The 60 yr old guy who's teaching me to fingerpick is able to make finer distinctions.

simon h b said...

Janine, I appreciate what you're saying, and I guess what it boils down to is if you're taking Nas's use of "community" to mean "black America" or, as I think he meant it, "the hip-hop community".

Let's just take a random Nas lyric - this is from Got Yourself A Gun:

Me and 2Pac were soldiers of the same struggle
You lames should huddle, your teams shook y'all feel
the wrath of a killer, 'cause this is my football field
Throwin' passes from a barrel, shoulder pads, apparel
but the Q.B. don't stand for no quarterback
every word is like a sawed-off blast
'cause y'all all soft and I'm the black hearse
that came to haul y'all ass in
it's for the hood by the corner store
many try, many die, come at Nas if you want a war.


Who am I? the back twister, lingerie ripper
automatic leg spreader, quicker brain getter
keepin' it gangsta wit' ya


I think that it's slightly more obtuse to be reading Nas' lyrics and seeing him as some sort of Orwell of the dispossessed black neighbourhoods. His is not the voice of the people caught in the crossfire; he glories in the slaughter.

Sugar Ray Dinky could credibly claim to be speaking up for the voiceless killed in pointless drive-bys; Nas, I really don't think can.

I think you've missed my point completely: it's got nothing to do with people shot in crossfire not mattering, it's totally about whether Nas celebrates and feeds the atmosphere in which those people find themselves victims, or if he condemns it.

One 44, two 45's
3 loaded clips, 4 niggas roll, one nigga drives
500 Benz, 6 reasons why
This kid should die
We shootin every motherfucker outside
Pulled on his block, jumped out the car, guns in our hand
At the same time everybody ran
There that nigga go, hiding in the crowd
Let the trigger blow, 7 shots now he lying on the ground
Blood on the floor
Then we shot some more
Niggas he was with
2 niggas hit, one nigga fell
One tryed to run, go get him son
Make sure he's done before we bail, i aint trying to goto jail
Must handle beef, code of the street
Load up the heat, if these nigga think they could fuck around
Real niggas do real things
By all means, niggas knowin how we get down...


I'm sorry, but this is "tiresome internal gang-on-gang-shooty-look-at-my-gun" violence. I'm not sure what bit of that description you disagree with - is it not tiresome to hear so many people constantly telling us about their guns and how they're going to kill and maim? Gang-on-gang, it certainly is. "Look at my gun"? That's definitely in Nas' lyrics. I'm not going to pretend to find rich men making more money out of portraying murder as somehow 'cool' anything other than pathetic. It's not disrespectful to the people who get caught up in this sort of violence to call those who would seek to glamourise it.

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