In an effort to further gray the area separating free speech and censorship, Brooklyn assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is demanding that the New York Comptroller withdraw an $84 million state pension fund invested in Universal Music Group and its parent company Vivendi unless Nas changes the title his new album Nigger. “[They are] profiting from a racial slur that has been used to dehumanize people of color for centuries,” Jeffries said. “It is time for Nas and other hip-hop artists to clean up their act and stop flooding the airwaves with the N-word.” According to the Comptroller’s office, he’s intending to the music company and “urge them not to release the album” under that moniker. Universal had no comment.
Rolling Stone‘s Evan Serpick recently spoke to Nas regarding the controversy surrounding the new album. While the MC was reluctant to discuss the album’s specifics (“It’s not ready for me to talk about. The album is done, basically, but … it’s a piece of art”), Nas spoke openly about his, and the record label’s, decision to stick with the name. His last album, Hip Hop Is Dead, was supposed to don the title, but “the climate wasn’t right, and Hip Hop Is Dead is also what I was feeling. That went first, and now I’ve got to get this one off my chest,” he explains, turning to speak about the rash of hate crimes involving nooses around the country. “It’s the new act of hate, and probably because of Barack Obama, people’s ignorance and fear and jealousy is creating an outrage throughout the country, and people are reacting by putting nooses up. It’s been a really serious year,” the rapper explained.
So what of all the controversy? “It’s like talking to your child about sex. It’s hard, but it’s important,” he says. “It’s probably going to make people uncomfortable. I don’t expect a lot of people to sell a record called Nigger. Hopefully, people can open their minds up and lose some of their fear and deal with it. It’s just an album. It’s one piece of the many things I do, and this will be one of my favorite pieces.” And his label is firmly behind him, “It will be certain record stores that will be scared to deal with it. The record label is gung ho, and it’s ready to go.”