This night was slightly reminiscent of Howard. I sat in my seat ready to hear Nas and Michael Eric Dyson speak about the current state of hip hop. I look around and I notice people reading “Born to Use Mics: Reading Nas’s Illmatic“written by Michael Eric Dyson and Sohail Dauatzai. I look to the front and I notice turn tables on the stage. This was just like Howard and I said to myself “Oh ok, they’re definitely trying to get it poppin tonight!” Then, 9Th Wonder unexpectedly walks on stage to the turn tables and starts rockin!
In walks Michael Eric Dyson, ‘Diddy Boppin’’ toward the stage with Professor James Peterson following close behind. And then there was Nas. Two scholars and a rapper on one stage. Or should I say three scholars on one stage?
This was an awesome night for the following reasons:
(1) Nas is cool. No, like seriously, he is cool. You would want to be his friend. (2) Nas is real. (3) Nas dropped a lot of gems.
Here is an abridged version of the conversation. Let’s play a game of “Nas is like…”
Nas is like….[On the future of hop-hip]
“I don’t see enough emcees who are brave enough to be honest.”
Nas is like… [On Feminism}
“Everybody needs an army. Every organization/group is going to get bloody and grimy and everybody needs a mafia!” “If you guys need to squad up, then squad up!”
Nas is like…[Hip Hop not belonging in academia]
“Nature is the young is always fighting to take over the old spot. And the old is always trying to keep itself in charge but the law of nature goes against that. So every time someone in power tries to hold back the truth, they lose. I can’t see how you would not want American music spoke[n] about in American schools.”
Nas is like… [On what he would tell his younger “Illmatic” self”]
“Stay on course, don’t worry about nothing. We worry about small things and when you do that they turn into big things. So just stay focused, go straight forward. It’s not that hard, you create our own problems. We are attached to illusions. You might be attached to something that you’re really not attached to but you think you are! Something that [may have] happened five years ago that you’re still attached to and it’s not even there…only to you. So just go forward. Laugh, smile, laugh as much as you can!”
Nas is like… [When asked if he would still rap in 10 years when he is 50]
“A friend of mine asked me that I’m my 20’s. He said, you gon still rap in your 30s?! And I was like yeah, yeah, 30 is good.. I would love to come out and you guys be there in the audience. And we’re all older and we remember times like this! I could put on a suit and walk a little slower, have my glass in my hand, a lil cigar. That’s G sh*t right there! So Yeah!!”
In all of the chaos, Nas took a moment to briefly chat with me and snap a few pictures. Hopefully Nas will be watching The Weave Whisperer soon, or at least maybe his daughter (or Kelis!)
Thank you to Georgetown and the John F Kennedy Center for Performing Arts for this event! Watch the event on USTREAM here.