Nas Controversy Fizzes Up

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nas-n-word.jpgThe controversy over Nas‘ forthcoming ablum, Nigger, is growing more intense with news that one of its songs subverts the old Dr. Pepper jingle by replacing the word “Pepper” with the N-word:

“I’m a nigger, he’s a nigger,
she’s a nigger, we’re a nigger
Wouldn’t you like to be a nigger too?”
- From Nas’ “Be A Nigger Too” (Listen here)

Before this latest shocker, a lot had been written about who is in support of Nas’ album title (Jay-Z, Common, Alicia Keys, Don Imus) and who isn’t (NAACP, Jesse Jackson, 50 Cent). 50 Cent, among others, says Nas is going for “shock value.” The fact that rappers have embraced the word and rendered it less hurtful and more banal through overuse for at least two decades may lend some credence to his claim. Maybe this is why Nas’ earlier statement seemed kind of weak:

“I wanna make the word easy on muthaf***ers’ ears. You see how white boys ain’t mad at ‘cracker’ ’cause it don’t have the same [sting] as ‘nigger’? I want ‘nigger’ to have less meaning [than] ‘cracker.’”

But Nas’ new song could pull more people into his corner and back up Jay-Z’s earlier statement: “I know he’s very intelligent and there’s a reason behind what he’s doing.” Pairing a once-omnipresent commercial song that is childlike in its simplicity with one of the most incendiary words in the English language raises so many questions that it could make heads explode. Could Nas be commenting on how big business packages and sells just about anything to kids — from soft drinks to gangsta rap? Could he be attempting to hit back at the very commercialization that has damaged hip-hop as an art form? Could he be doing all of the above and stirring up controversy to sell albums, too?

Nas’ intentions may not yet be totally clear, but we’re all waiting to hear more. — Matt Muro

[Photo: Getty Images]

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