Three years ago, New York rapper Nas declared — in the title of his eighth album — that “Hip Hop is Dead.”
But he doesn’t feel that way these days.
“I love it, man,” says Nas (real name Nasir Jones), whose latest release, “Untitled,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and is certified gold, with two Grammy Award nominations. “You’ve got Kanye (West), Lil Wayne, T.I., (Young) Jeezy, The Game, Common, Soulja Boy. Everybody know we’re making it happen again.
“And you’ve got a lot of new artists coming out, so it’s all good.” It’s good
, , despite some heavyweight controversy surrounding “Untitled” — which he originally titled after a controversial African-American epithet. His intent was decried by politicians, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), among others. Nas even claims that he even heard from “the White House” about his plans, and Wal-Mart was among the chains that refused to carry it.
Ultimately the MC — a hip-hop force since his celebrated debut “Illmatic,” in 1994 — backed off before the set’s July release, and he doesn’t regret the decision at all.
“I did it for the fans,” explains Nas, who’s expecting his first child with his wife, R&B/pop singer Kelis. “With the (original) title it might have come out and never got to the fans. I just felt like whatever it takes, get it out.
“So I said, ‘If you guys don’t want to sell it with (the original) title, it’s gonna have no title — and the public will know what the real title of the album is, anyway.”
Nas also made guest appearances on records by Young Jeezy, The Game, Khaled and Keyshia Cole in 2008 and has a couple of other features lined up for the new year — including a shot on Dr. Dre’s “Detox,” whenever it comes out. In his own career he says he’s “got a couple of special things up my sleeve that should be unveiled in the next few weeks,” but he doesn’t think taking home a Grammy — even for Best Rap Album — is in the cards.
“Y’know, I’ve been nominated for it, (but) never won one,” says Nas. “In all honesty, the fact that hip-hop is even at that stage now, for a guy like Lil Wayne to even be nominated for the Best Album Grammy and me to be nominated ... all that stuff, honestly, it’s just a blessing. Whether I win or lose, I’m happy hip-hop made it that far.”
Nas, Royce da 5’9”, Johnny Saxx, Street Justice and Foolish perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Feb. 6) at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center, 799 N. Hewitt Road, Ypsilanti. Tickets are $35-90, with a $10 discount for EMU students. Call (734) 487-2282 or visit www.emich.edu/convocation.
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