Rappers have never been accused of being politically correct, but Nas has somehow managed to cross a line. You might call the album he's releasing next month "The N Word," except that he's insisted on spelling out the slur, hardcore. NEWSWEEK's Allison Samuels asked him: why?
1. Some people think you're just pulling a PR stunt. Are you?
Hell, yeah. I want to shock people into buying the album, and listening to it. I was shocked that people reacted that way considering all the things that have happened this year. I'm not waiting for a noose on my door or in my front yard to say something about it. Some rappers want to pass out turkeys on Thanksgiving. Some brothers want to speak the truth.
2. But African-American leaders weren't very happy about the title, either.
I understand how they feel about the word—I get that. But I resent the implication that I don't have something interesting or thoughtful to say about this matter. Al and Jesse know I supported their move to bury the N word. It's a great suggestion. Is it a realistic one? Not in my opinion.
3. Are you saying that Sharpton and Jackson are out of touch?
Nah, but I do think they faced a different type of racism than young people feel today. A 60-year-old black man isn't getting racially profiled and pulled over just for being black. You got to live through that to know what that makes you feel like saying and doing as a young black person in America. No disrespect to the elders, but they should respect us and hear us out before attacking.
4. Don't you think that giving your album that title gives other races more reason to use the word?
No. A white person should never use that word. It's insane to think that's OK, no matter how many times I say it or another black says it.
5. You mentioned the nooses and Jena. Why do you think 2007 was such a bad year for race relations?
Obama has something to do with it—or should I say the fear of Obama has brought up a lot of negative feelings that people have towards people they don't understand or know anything about. It's easier to hate than to understand.