When I woke up this morning, I planned on writing about (actually, I did write about) what was probably going through Nas’ mind as Kanye continued to go on his alienate-the-black-community Twitter spree. With albums set to release in June by Nas, Cudi, Pusha T and Teyana Taylor, I figured that none of them could be too happy about Kanye’s politics causing a clear rift on social media between him and his fans. If folks get to canceling Kanye, are they going to cancel all Kanye-related projects? I guess it depends on how far down the rabbit hole Kanye goes.
I was particularly interested in Nas’ opinion because of his super pro-black stances and his clear disdain for Trump. I wondered how Nas would square working with somebody (Kanye) who supported and advocated for people whose politics were anti-black. That’s what I planned on making my first order of business today. But life comes at you fast. By noon, I was wondering if I’d ever be able to listen to “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” again.
By now we’ve all read the articles where Kelis describes an abusive relationship with Nas and what kind of parent he is to their son, Knight. I watched the entire hour-and-15-minute interview, and I have to say: I view Nas in an entirely different light than I did just this morning.
This morning, he was possibly the greatest rapper of all time. And he might still be, but now he’s the greatest of all time who happens to have allegedly put his hands on his ex-wife several times and is maybe a borderline deadbeat dad. It’s hard to support that. It sucks. And I don’t mean it sucks that I have to struggle with supporting an(other) artist who is supremely problematic; no, it sucks for the kids caught up in this mess and for Kelis, who sat on this for years for any number of reasons. Nas is no victim here.
It sucks because the only thing stopping us from putting distance between ourselves and most of the artists we love is the silence of people who have interacted with them. Who knows what stories are being held close to the vest for fear of retribution, or of “ruining” somebody else’s career?
None of this is new. Social media and access to information have changed it all. Lots of famous artists from days past were notoriously violent and were womanizers and all-around terrible people.
Amazingly, the hip-hop floodgates have stayed largely closed despite that arena being rife with misogyny. Times are very different, and we listen to women now more than we used to, but we still don’t listen enough. What Dr. Dre did to Dee Barnes could end his entire career in a matter of minutes today. Back in the ’90s? He managed to become one of the most heralded and richest men in the entertainment business after the very public fact.
Big Pun’s widow and son have talked about how abusive he was. Kanye is a blond-haired anti-black Trump supporter at this point. Fabolous caught a domestic violence charge recently. I’m sure there are many other occurrences of which I’m unaware.
And it can all change so quickly. Before Kanye started tweeting the other day, he was still a sunken place resident musical genius. Now he’s going out of his way to piss off the black community.
What’s next? That’s the scary part. It literally could be anybody and probably will be somebody we know and hold dear. We have placed so many artists and entertainers on undeserved pedestals that their falls from grace sting that much worse. When I woke up, I forgot Bill Cosby was even on trial. Now he’s a convicted sex offender. The same Bill Cosby who helped raise a generation of children through a television screen.
And that’s just this week. If we dig deep enough into anybody’s past, we’re sure to find something that could put them on blast long enough to create damage to their careers. Maybe everybody’s trash. But like Kelis said, she hit a wall, and that interview would be one where she didn’t edit herself. At some point, there’s no more editing.
I don’t know Nas’ side of the story. What I do know is that even if she was only half right, Nas is still different now in my eyes from when I woke up this morning. He’s not now, nor has he ever been, my hero, but as I continually attempt to wade through the murky waters of accepting that some of my favorite artists are also pretty terrible humans, I’m left realizing that who I support at 9 a.m. can change entirely by noon. And if you know folks ain’t shit, how can you support them without having to equivocate and create justifications?
Life comes at you fast. You better pray your faves aren’t trash.