Nas’ Black President

Rapper Nas has a new song, Black President [obscene lyrics, NSFW]. I don’t give it high marks musically, but it’s interesting to me for two reasons. The first is that rap music actually addressing contemporary issues is rare. (Though it’s not entirely unheard of: Changes, for example.) The seconds is that the song is about Obama.

As I said, don’t set your standards too high if you listen to it, and don’t even waste your time watching the video, which seems to just be a montage of images of Nas. Do take care to read the lyrics carefully: a lot of people seem to miss the leading “They said…” and interpret the song as being against Obama. And the “Although it seems heaven-sent, we ain’t ready to see a black President” is actually from Tupac’s Changes, not an assertion that Nas is making.

What troubles me about the song:

Whats the black pres thinking on election night,
Is it how can i protect my life? Protect my wife? Protect my rights?

KKK is like what the f—, loading they guns up, loading up mine too,
Ready to ride ’cause I’m riding with my crew, he dies we die too

I read an article a while ago, citing absolutely no evidence, saying that there’s a persistent belief among African-Americans that Obama would be assassinated if elected. Hillary played into it, too, if inadvertently, both when some speaker in NH at a campaign event made a comment to the effect of, “Some have compared Obama to JFK, but let’s not forget what happened to him” (which Hillary denounced), but also when she said the same thing about Bobby Kennedy to explain why she was staying the race when it was clear she couldn’t win. It’s creepy how often it comes up, and then you add in the creepy amount of parallels to Lincoln…

And I find this snippet interesting, too:

Gotta do what we gotta do,
We ain’t got no governors comin’ through to help,
Anything we need, we gotta do for self,
New improved JFK on the way…

You may recall Kanye West’s spontaneous George Bush doesn’t care about black people remark during a Red Cross fundraiser, which then led to the (highly profane, thus NSFW) video, George Bush Don’t Like Black People song. While I’m not necessarily supporting the claim that Bush was overtly racist, I think it’s historically significant: not only was the whole Katrina event horribly mismanaged (the lyrics to the song include, “If it’d had been Connecticut, he’d have been there twice as fast”), but the whole deal with shooting looters (who were inevitably black) makes it entirely understandable that African-Americans may have felt a tad bit alienated.

Again, I’m hardly in agreement with everything put forth in the song, but I think it’s culturally significant. It’s not an advertisement or a campaign song, but just his perspective on the state of affairs. And I think it was interesting to look at.

2 thoughts on “Nas’ Black President

  1. I hadn’t seen that! (I don’t watch TV often these days…) I love that Nas was able to get his point across quite articulately even on Colbert’s show.

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