Problematic Fave?

Nasty Nas//

Photo Courtesy of Raheem Nelson
Artist is available for commissions

I became a Nas Stan in 1994. From Word Up! pullouts to writing “words past the margin” in my poetry books, I was obsessed. I’d never heard such vivid stories or lyrics delivered as effortlessly. His vibe was reminiscent of Rakim, but wittier. A significant portion of his discography has been uplifting and besides having a wack ear for production at times, he could do no wrong. Until I watched his ex-wife, Kelis, in a recent interview. She alleged that Nas mentally and physically abused her. It’s often said that there are three sides to a story: Side A, Side B and the truth. While I await Nas’ side of the story, I believed Kelis in this interview. Her body language and display of raw emotion while recounting the details of their marriage swayed me. I don’t expect perfection from my artists, so I’m hesitant to cancel a fave. However, I’ll never be able to listen to Nas the same.

These are our heroes (c) Nas

Though we don’t know these artists personally, their work often resonates in ways that makes us feel as if we do. We experience emotions. Good art taps into those emotions, leaving indelible marks, almost endearing us to the artists. It then becomes difficult to separate the art from the person. At what point do we make a clean break from an artist when they disappoint us? Should we? After all, everyone has demons. The difference is, our favorite artists are often fighting them on a public stage. Do these demons help us empathize with artists or do they make it easier for us to chastise them? The media responses I’ve read suggest the latter. The “cancel” culture has become prevalent. Talent is immense within the music industry, but if we cancelled many problematic artists, our legendary pickings would be fairly scarce. Redemption arguably becomes necessary. Not only for the artist, but the fans.

Redemption is a universal principle. It begins with a show of remorse or a sincere apology. Do artists owe us this? Yes, if they want continued support from some of us. Whether artists like it or not, their morality is weighted by the public, especially if their work has a conscious element to it. We want to believe that our faves are practicing what they preach. If not, some of us want to throw them from the pulpit. Does continuing to produce great art seal passes for certain artists? Yes, but at this point, as an opponent of domestic abuse, it’s going to take more than hot sixteens and great production for me to ever consider donning my cape for Nas again. “Life’s A Bitch”, but “Life Is Good” when my favorite artists strive to exemplify decency beyond their content.



“Unapologetic.” Uttered often, but how is it personified? In 1998, I learned – without knowing I’d learned. That year, my English teacher assigned us Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. It’s Southern dialect reminiscent of afternoon porch conversations amongst my great-grandmother and her … Continue reading #ZoraDay

Reflections on Charlottesville



Downtown Charlottesville

Source: “Downtown Charlottesville” by Bob Mical – Under Creative Commons license

I shouldn’t have been alarmed by Charlottesville. I’ve studied Dr. Frances Cress Welsing and Dr. Neely Fuller. I’ve become accustomed to the dog-whistles and divisive rhetoric as they’ve gained traction over the years. I had a talk with my mother. She lived through Jim Crow. “Are you surprised by what happened in Charlottesville?”, I asked. Unfazed, she replied, “No. They’ll never change.” The discussion itself made it hard to prove her wrong. Still, witnessing it in 2017 was jarring. Those haunting images from my history books had finally sprang to life.

The normalization of all things degenerate is dangerous. Charlottesville was a stark reminder. The need for one group to have an advantage over others. Equality being threatening to some. The possibility of a level playing field exposing inadequacies. Opportunities that were always guaranteed to some having to be earned instead. All nonsensical concepts to someone who deals largely in logic. Frightening or perfectly normal to those who don’t. The refusal to grant equal rights and access to opportunities to all is the basis for this country’s turmoil. It’s why the “Make America Great Again” slogan has always been an offensive fabrication. That turmoil has been the barrier to greatness. Which brings me to the alleged cause of Charlottesville’s riots: the removal of a Confederate statue. Chants of “Blood And Soil” and “Jews Will Not Replace Us” revealed that allegation to be a fabrication as well. 

It’s easy to dispel the myths about Confederate statues, flags and the “heritage” they represent. That “heritage” has long been established as one of inequality. One need only study when those monuments were built and when their “importance” has resurfaced throughout history. Erected during the start of Jim Crow, they reappeared to signify opposition to the Civil Rights Movement. Now, the center of riots during arguably the most polarizing presidential regime of our lifetimes.

They are overdue for demolition. They shouldn’t continue to be financed on the dime of those they oppress. They are emblematic of a history of murder, pillage and slavery. One without malice would prefer to memorialize a more progressive era of history. Statues should be reserved for those who contributed to the greater good. Liberty and equality. A mantra that this country often recites, but has yet to fulfill. A promise that can’t become a reality with those replicas as constant public reminders of my ancestors’ pain.

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, what’s the necessary step forward? Since I’m unaware of any groups’ pending mass exodus from this country, coexistence remains a reality; which requires the work of allies. Potential allies, I’ve seen your “ThisIsNotUs” hashtags. Prove it. America is ailing, use this opportunity to help heal her. Your future generations should be able to look back and find you leading the fight against inequality, not contributing to it with your indifference. Marching is no longer enough. Learn biases and history. Have ongoing conversations with people from diverse backgrounds and philosophies. Become activists. Doing so will create a “heritage” that we can all salute to.