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Does Al Sharpton have a point?

Not too long after I published my post last week on the proposed title for the upcoming Nas album, MTV News caught up with LA Reid on the red carpet for the premiere of American Gangster. They asked him about the Nas album, and he claimed he didn’t have any problem with Nas calling his album that.

You’ll recall that earlier that week, Fox News had run a quote from somebody close to LA Reid saying there’s no way Nas could release an album called Nigga. How would that look at Wal-Mart? Well, Reid claims he has no idea who that was and he never said anything like that.

Likely story.

Instead, you get the idea that he realized how much free publicity such a title could generate and that it could be a PR nightmare if people thought Def Jam would censor its artists like that. Lord knows they’ve got enough problems there trying to market rap music.

But whatever. In the same story over at, there’s the following quote from Rev. Al “Mr. Do” Sharpton.

You don’t see [people from] any other race trying to take the power out of names being called to them. People [who use the term in their music] wouldn’t put out a record against whites or cops or Jews because they ain’t got the guts to do that. They only got the guts to beat up on their own.”

Which is an interesting point, I think. Especially now that we know that the label could care less.

You wonder if Mr. Do is aware that there was a similar incident in which a rapper learned the hard way there’s just certain shit you don’t say on a major label rap album. Nah, he probably isn’t. People who live to censor rap music don’t actually to it themselves. They just don’t want you to listen to what you want to listen to.

As the man who got the term T.I. in wikipedia (which is what I’d like my epitaph to read), of course I’d be more than happy to enlighten the Reverend. (I wonder if he reads this site.)

A few years ago, Mos Def put out an album called The New Danger. On one track, called “The Rape Over” (based on Jay-Z’s “The Takeover”), Mos mentioned that a tall Israeli is running this rap shit. Lyor Cohen, the guy Mos was referring to, heard about it and had the album pulled from shelves and replaced with a new version sans “The Rape Over.”

It’s probably the only case in which a rap album has been pulled from shelves in order to have certain lyrics removed other than “Cop Killer,” unless I’m mistaken. And yet you hardly ever about it. Obviously Mr. Do had never heard of it, or else I’m sure he would have used it as an example.

Which begs the question: How come you can drop the n-bomb a million times on rap albums and say all sorts of other shit, but you can’t even mention the height and nationality of the guy who runs your label, lest you run the risk of having your shit pulled from the market?

I believe the official explanation was because the Doors sample the song used wasn’t cleared, but since when have you heard of a label voluntarily pulling an album from the market to remove an uncleared sample without there being some sort of threat from the artist being sampled? For all we know, the Doors probably never heard of any of this. Especially Jim Morrison.

Also, I’m not a lawyer myself (perhaps TPAR could clarify this for me), but I’m pretty sure the Mos Def song wouldn’t be subject to normal sampling laws, being a parody and all. The point he was making was that guys like Jay-Z brag about running this rap shit, but it’s the tall Israelis who really run this rap shit. Even now that Jay-Z is nominally the president of any number of ventures, including his record label.

Which brings me to my point. If Nas really wants to stir up some shit, he should call his album Most of the Money from this Purchase Will End Up in a Jew’s Pocket or something along those lines. See if the label will release it then. If not, Al Sharpton might have a point, as much as we hate to admit it.

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