Nas has been called many things in his life: Nasty, Esco, legend, father, emcee but never has he been called fake. As you read this, longtime Nas’ listeners are taking to the web in mass troubled by the allegations of Nas’ employing not one but two ghostwriters during the production of the Untitled album. Dream Hampton sparked the controversy when she responded to a fan’s tweet by saying Nas did not write the entire Untitled album, Jay Electronica and stic.man from Dead Prez wrote large portions of it. The shockwaves from this atomic bomb-like reveal can still be felt in Hip Hop today as one of its immortal legends reputation is being dragged through the mud.
Nasir Jones has spent his entire career priding himself on his mastery of the English language. On “Everybody’s Crazy” from Lost Tapes he refers to himself as Langston Hughes’ predecessor; on the song “Book of Rhymes” on God’s Son Nas identifies himself as a writer, speaking with Alchemist, talking about his studio routine. How he writes his rhymes write in the studio; how he had brought these notebooks filled to the brim with rhymes he wrote. The shuffling paper, the repetitive boom-bap, the self-reflection, this is quintessential Nas or is it?Many have questioned the credibility of this story. Dream Hampton is clearly a Jay-Z enthusiast, she did write his biography and every one knows royalties and loyalty go hand and hand. Not to mention she sidestepped a serious question about Jay-Z before throwing Nas and his stellar reputation for ripping mics under a Greyhound bus. Ms. Hampton’s case was boistered by an unlikely source. Frank William Miller, Junior or FWMJ of Rappers I Know and Hot 97, wrote a lengthy confessional about the day he learned his good friend Jay Electronica was going to be penning rhymes for an upcoming Nas album. It was coincidentally the day Hip Hop died for him. If there was not enough fuel on the bonfires after a corroboration of Hampton’s story from another highly respected source with close connections to Jay Electronica, she put a few extra coals on:
“Nas is one of the Greatest Ever. never has and never will need a ghostwriter. that man’s pen and legacy is without question.”
Some media outlets have used UntitledGate as a time to reassess Hip Hop Culture’s zero-tolerance stance on lyrical collaboration. In other genres its a rarity for the artist writing a song to be the artist performing a song. When a dual threat singer/songwriter does merge, like Alicia Keys, they are hoisted upon broad shoulders and taken from award show to award show to collect all of their hardware.
In Hip Hop when you step to a mic the expectation is that the words you say will be your own. Any admittance to having help crafting bars is a consignment to obscurity, irrelevance and disrespect. Why such a harsh stance? In a Culture born out of self expression how can you rightly express something that is not of yourself? This is the moment people scream double standard, ‘Puffy did not write No Way Out! Birdman did not write, well anything, ever.’ These are exceptions and not the rule; these are moguls not emcees. Even Will Smith who boasts one of the greatest ghostwritten songs ever, the Rakim delivered “Summertime” can be legitimately considered a rapper but he will never be in the conversation for greatest emcee of all time like Nas.
The question here is legacy. How much will Nas legendary career be stained if this is true? In July Life is Good debuted at #1, Nas’ sixth album to do so. Boasting a two decade long catalogue which quality can only be matched by a select few of his peers. Arguably the greatest emcee of all time and he is being accused of the athletic equivalent of juicing. However, this is the music industry so their will be no asterik next to the album rating of Untitled. There will be no Congressional subcommittee called. There may not even be a public statement from the artist himself. For many Nas fans however, they have a whole new reason to listen to Hip Hop Is Dead. Word.