Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007

Another Nas Album Title Controversy

By Evan Rytlewski
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Is this the beginning of a new annual tradition? Around thing time last year, Nas sparked a heated debate over the title of his then-upcoming December album, Hip Hop Is Dead. A year later, and the rapper is again courting controversy with the intended title of an upcoming December album: N*gger.

The title has already been condoned from civil rights activists and Fox news—an unlikely alliance if there ever was one—but Nas maintains his intentions are ture.

"We're taking power [away] from the word," he told MTV News. "You see how white boys ain't mad at 'cracker' 'cause it don't have the same [sting] as 'n*gger'? I want 'n*gger' to have less meaning [than] 'cracker.'"

Still, it's easy to be cynical about Nas' motivations here. The debate around whether hip-hop was or was not dead (and what exactly Nas meant by that claim) gave countless publicity to his last record, which debuted at number one. N*gger is a much more inflammatory title than Hip Hop Is Dead—and it's already raised eyebrows outside of just hip-hop circles—so there's bound to be even more of a media circus this time around.

On the other hand, this time around Nas has assembled a coherent set of talking points in defense of his title—last year his explanations for the title of Hip Hop Is Dead were mostly muddled and frequently contradictory—so perhaps the new title really is more about ideals than marketing. In the MTV News interview, he had harsh words for anyone who would even suggest that he'd name an album N*gger without having "something intellectual to say."

Some Predictions:

1. The album might not be released this year. It's planned Dec. 11 release date is only a month and a half a way—which is coming up very fast for an album that, just a few weeks ago, reportedly didn't exist—and rap release dates are never set in stone to begin with.

2. It's title may be watered down yet, since the backlash could pose serious problems for the Universal Music Company. Nas could avoid the headache but still save face by just calling the album The N Word or even just The N, a nod to the intended title of his last album, which he originally wanted to be Hip Hop Is Dead… The N.

3. Regardless of when it's released or what it's called, it will probably be excellent. For all the contrived controversy around Hip Hop Is Dead, that album was Nas' best since his turn-of-the-century comeback, so there's good reason to have high hopes for its follow up.

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