Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Press release of the day: Publicity stunt over. Thank you for your cooperation.

The best thing for any pop star to be called is controversial. Luther Campbell still prays to Mammon every morning with thanks that As Nasty as They Wanna Be caused such a profitable ruckus back in 1989. And don’t even get me started on “Elvis Pelvis.”

Since Nas’s all-about-the-showbiz “feud” with Jay-Z ended three years ago, the rapper has had to work extra hard for publicity, and he’s done it by chasing after controversy like Lionel Hutz chases ambulances. He got some tongues wagging by calling his last album Hip Hop Is Dead. Then, last September, he performed at Virginia Tech and egged on Bill O’Reilly, who complained that Nas’s violent lyrics were inappropriate at a place where 32 people had been murdered. (I don’t usually agree with O’Reilly, but he had a point.)

About a month later Nas said that his next album would be titled simply with the N-word, and gave a Richard Pryor-esque explanation, saying he’s “taking power [away] from the word.” But was Nas trying to drain the word of its headline-grabbing power when he delayed the album numerous times, letting those Jesse Jackson, NAACP and elected-official complaints echo and amplify?

Now, six weeks before street date, having reaped all the outrage and free ink he could, he has changed the title to ... Nas. Update: While EW said it’s called Nas, AllHipHop and MTV both say it’s untitled. That’s right, this lion of provocation has chickened out where John Lennon and Patti Smith did not fear to tread. The explanation? According to his statement to the press yesterday, he did it for the “fans.” Awww.

It’s important to me that this album gets to the fans. It’s been a long time coming. I want my fans to know that creatively and lyrically, they can expect the same content and the same messages. It’s that important. The streets have been waiting for this for a long time. The people will always know what the real title of this album is and what to call it.

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