The lead single of Nas’ new Untitled is “Hero,” in which His Illness proclaims himself hero for championing provocative hip-hop — specifically the (stymied) attempt to title the new record Nigger. Here’s his rundown of the saga, with linkage by us:
I’m hog-tied, the corporate side
Blocking y’all from going to stores and buying it
First L.A. and Doug Morris was riding wit it
But Newsweek article startled big wigs
They said, Nas, why is he trying it?
My lawyers only see the Billboard charts as winning
“L.A.” is L.A. Reid, chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group, and Doug Morris is CEO of Universal Music Group. The album’s US release has Doug Morris’ name edited out — likely at Universal’s behest, judging by Morris’ low news profile.
But here’s the stumble that landed Nas in our registry. Inducting himself into the musical revolutionaries’ hall of fame, he lists these contemporaries:
Try telling Bob Dylan, Bruce, or Billy Joel
They can’t sing what’s in their soul
Dylan-yes, Bruce-mmhmm, ok, and — WHAT? BILLY JOEL?? LIKE, “UPTOWN GIRL” BILLY JOEL? AND “SHE’S GOT A WAY” AND “JUST THE WAY YOU ARE”???
Ahem. After my ears stopped bleeding I remembered that Joel was involved in a flash-in-the-pan embrolio in 2007, when he wrote “Christmas in Fallujah” — which he released with unknown Cass Dillon singing because Joel was too old. (I know what you’re thinking, and no, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” doesn’t count. That was actually the beginnings of Billy Joel’s aborted historical fiction novel, written between 3 and 5 AM one night over a pitcher of vodka-Fresca.)
Nas, we recommend you either pick up Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits or go see Movin’ Out. Probably go with the first one.
MP3: Nas – “Hero”