Nas premiers new video
While most New Yorkers were getting ready for 12:00 a.m. premieres of Sex and the City, hip hop purists were eagerly anticipating a far different screening. Thursday night, in downtown Manhattan’s Tribeca Grand Hotel screening room, veteran Queens rapper Nas premiered his “Be a Nigger Too” music video from his upcoming album formerly entitled Nigger. Treating guests to everything from red and white wine to Corona beers, Nas stood confidently in white shell-toed Adidas, blue jeans, orange Alife tee shirt, and a blue Mets fitted cap as he introduced a video that has been highly publicized with photos of screen stills floating around hip hop blogs.
For all the controversy surrounding the album’s title, “Be A Nigger Too” will certainly cause people to shake their heads either right or left or up and down, which is something Nas’s followers have come to expect. The video, directed by Rik Cordero, was inspired by Spike Lee’s 2002 film 25th Hour. The first scene shows Nas staring at himself in a mirror with the word “Nigger” written on it, similar to Edward Norton’s character in Lee’s film when he picks apart each race by their stereotyped qualities. Making guest appearances in the video are former stars of The Wire Andre Royo (“Bubbles”) and Gbenga Akinnagbe (“Chris Partlow’).
The gritty clip flips in and out of black and white footage, mostly to show the relationship between the tension of black and white people in America’s past and present. One scene shows a black slave held at gunpoint by his white slave master juxtaposed against a scene of a white police officer holding a gun to a black man’s head.
When asked if he thought the video would have to be tidied up to be aired on television, Esco said he hopes that MTV and others accept his video as is, but he is prepared to work without them.
“I hope MTV is open-minded. They’ve had some pretty wild stuff [on the air] throughout their history,” said a pensive Nas. “If not, fuck them.” If MTV and other video networks do choose to show the video, there most certainly will be changes. The word “Nigger” is used in the chorus 20 times alone, and there are images of hangings and lynchings throughout the video.
Later, Nas spoke about the decision to change the album title. The rapper said the change was made in response to major markets refusing to sell a product entitled Nigger and not so much from the negative reactions he’d received from prestigious African American elders like Al Sharpton.
“He [Sharpton] ain’t have nothing to do with me changing the title,” said Nas. “I don’t know why he is taking this as a partial victory. The older generation looks down on us. The Cosby’s and the rest, they’re scared of us rising up and of the positive dialogue I’m creating.”
The album will go untitled when it’s released through Def Jam, but Nas says he has other ways to get his point across when shoppers arrive to pick up his album on July 1.
“I promise the album artwork will scream ‘Nigger’ without actually saying it,” said Nas.