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.