Tormented Rappers vs. the Man

Saul Williams: «Freestyle (live from No Man's Land)» [128kbps mp3]
Salaam Remi: «Made You Look (A/K/A In My Bed) (instrumental with guns)» [192kbps mp3]

A few days ago, Pitchfork reported that Nas is having a public dispute with his record label, after an email from him to Def Jam executives was leaked. Apparently, the rapper is outraged that his second volume of outtakes(!) is not being marketed aggressively enough by Def Jam.

Reading Nas' rant, it's interesting to note that a man who makes his living on words—streams and streams of rhythmically delivered swashbuckling and vaguely expressed hype about how Nas and his homies roll/do/wear/drink/smoke things and perform various activities (without really specifying anything, except perhaps where exaggerated and usually unprovoked threats are concerned)—a man ostensibly so gifted with the gab cannot spell. Yet let's not lower ourselves to petty pedantry. What's far funnier than ignorance of spelling, words and their meanings are the sky high pretensions of a wordsmith who uses so many words to say so little. Idiocy is only funny (rather than just depressing) when the fool thinks him- or herself profound, or otherwise blessed with superiority of historical importance. Thankfully, then, Nas' lack of logic (or just a set of relatively coherent values) gives us some of the most entertaining statements coming out of hip-hop in 2010:
From: Nas
To: LA Reid, Steve Bartels, Steve Gawley, Michael Seltzer, Joseph Borrino, Chris Hicks

Peace to all,

With all do [sic] respect to you all, Nas is NOBODY's slave. This is not the 1800's, respect me and I will respect you.

I won't even tap dance around in an email, I will get right into it. People connect to the Artist [sic] @ the end of the day, they don't connect with the executives. Honestly, nobody even cares what label puts out a great record, they care about who recorded it. Yet time and time again its [sic] the executives who always stand in the way of a creative artist's dream and aspirations. You don't help draw the truth from my deepest and most inner soul, you don’t even do a great job @ selling it. The #1 problem with DEF JAM is pretty simple and obvious, the executives think they are the stars. You aren't.... not even close. As a matter of fact, you wish you were, but it didn't work out so you took a desk job. To the consumer, I COME FIRST. Stop trying to deprive them! I have a fan base that dies for my music and a RAP label that doesn't understand RAP. Pretty fucked up situation [sic]

This isn’t the 90's though. Beefing with record labels is so 15 years ago. @ this point I just need you all to be very clear where I stand and how I feel about «my label.» I could go on twitter [sic] or hot 97 tomorrow [sic] and get 100,000 protesters @ your building but I choose to walk my own path my own way because since day one I have been my own man. I did business with Tommy Mottola and Donnie Einer, two of the most psycho dudes this business ever created. I worked well with them for one major reason……. [sic] they [sic] believed in me. The [sic] didn't give a fuck about what any radio station or magazine said….those [sic] dudes had me.

Lost Tapes is a movement and a very important set up piece for my career as it stands. I started this over 5 years ago @ Columbia and nobody knew what it was or what it did but the label put it out as an LP and the fans went crazy for it and I single handedly built a new brand of rap albums. It's smart and after 5 years it's still a head [sic] of the game. This feels great and you not feeling what I’m feeling is disturbing. Don't get in the way of my creativity. We are aligned with the stars here, this is a movement. There is a thing called KARMA that comes to haunt you when you tamper with the aligning stars. WE ARE GIVING THE PEOPLE EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT. Stop throwing dog shit on a MAGICAL moment.

You don't get another Nas recording that doesn't count against my deal….PERIOD! Keep your bullshit $200,000.00 fund. Open the REAL budget. This is a New York pioneers ALBUM, there ain't many of us. I am ready to drop in the 4th quarter. You don’t even have shit coming out! Stop being your own worst enemy. Let's get money!

-N.Jones [my italics]
Interesting that a guy whose creative endeavours mainly consist of self-centred bullshitting about bling and sexual and violent bravado, invokes the words «karma» and «soul» (and «truth», as coming from the «innermost» «depths» of this purported spiritual self). One minute he's the tortured artist castrated by the Man, the next he's giving a fat cat money maker's pep talk—as if he can't decide whether he wants to battle the unjust deprivation suffered by his multitudes of fans, all ready to fight for a much larger budget to promote a second volume of outtakes (unless they're already «dying», that is), or whether he simply wants more cash to buy gold chains and some nouveau riche decor worthy of an MTV reality show episode.

Be that as it may, when delusions of grandeur meet the limitations of reality, a Messiah complex is born. But if you want to be Christ, you need to be prepared for the crucifixion. Actually, Nas is loving it, which is why he's inventing this persecution in the first place.

It takes a certain something—or someone—to make you side with a big corporation for once. Unlike Saul Williams, rapper of substance who was given producer Salaam Remi's incredible backing track to Nas' «Made You Look» (and Amy Winehouse's «In My Bed») to say something actually relevant to someone beyond only Nas himself. Whether you agree with Williams' political sentiments or not, at least he's not just gazing into his own diamond encrusted navel.

We can't recall when and where we came across Williams' rare recording, but it was ages ago. «Made You Look (instrumental with guns)» was the B-side to Nas' by now out of print CD single «Made You Look», which, in all fairness, is a monster. Nas may not be the sharpest shiv on the cell block, but the man's got flow and a voice:

Keep it real, etc.

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