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The Last Real Nigga Alive…

There’s gonna be some noise tomorrow about how many units that NaS did, or did not sell in the first week of his latest CD’s release. There’s certainly no way that he will have sold the billion albums that Lil’ Wang pushed out. This is by no means indicative of NaS’ greatness. I consider NaS the greatest rapper of our generation because of the content (and controversy) that he can put on a mainstream musical platform. There are certainly rappers out there that project even more reflection on socio-political problems, but those rappers exist well under the mainstream media radar. NaS is out front and he still uses his platform for stirring debate and discussion.

I find NaS to embody all the aspirations of the African American. From attempting to achieve status and wealth to reflecting on what these things mean in the grandest scheme of life. Is this why NaS has been so difficult for the masses to ingest? Do the masses want their entertainers to exist in only one sphere of thinking? Why can’t people describe the materials they have accrued and still describe the struggle that remains for freedom? Some critics of NaS complain that he only pays lip service to the latter, but honestly, why isn’t the story of conspicuous consumption only a dream as well? We assume that NaS owns the Maybachs and helicopters he rhymes about, yet we don’t allow him the fantasies of revolution or social change.

Why can’t we have it both ways? Why can’t we have economic access and socio-political change? I understand why white fears this. White thinks that they will be subjected to the same genocidal tendencies they have promoted for centuries if they ever retracted their supremacist idealogy. The universe will have to balance itself one of these days but the truth is that the overwhelming majority of the oppressed just want the foot off their neck without seeking to return the disservice. NaS represents that.

For my mind, NaS greatest achievement was breathing life back into his father’s career. Our parent’s give us birth and they infuse us with our hopes and dreams. How church must that be to be able to return that gift to the ones that first gave it to us? It’s even bigger than buying your moms a mansion or a car or anything with money. It’s about giving them a chance to pursue life on their own terms. NaS has been doing that ever since he first released ‘Illmatic’. That album was the looking glass for Hip-Hop and rap music. He hasn’t changed who he is in all this time. NaS still dreams of living life lavish and turning tragedy into triumph.

‘Untitled’ is a collection of ideas that cover race, and class as well. It won’t end poverty or racism if the listener is someone that only wants to nod their head. For some people however it will change the way they see the world and themselves in it. At the end of the day that is really all you could want from art. The rest is up to us to secure. What do you value for your life? Let that be your goal.

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