In the land where the emcee reigns supreme, it’s the pen that truly is mightier than the sword.
It’s that very power of the pen that has earned Nas a place among the game’s elite. Long considered one of the best lyricists to bless the mic, Nas’ integrity as a writer has never been questioned…until now.
Recent accusations regarding the writing on Nas’ Untitled album have the hip hop community puzzled and in uproar as to whether or not Nas is the sole creator of the work. The lyrics in question come in part thanks to producer credits from Jay Electronica and stic.man of Dead Prez.
Both emcees were already known to have contributed to the album in different aspects, but it’s their written participation that is now the focus of allegations from author Dream Hampton and FWMJ of RappersIKnow.com.With no real evidence other than the claims made online, the controversy surrounding Nas has sparked conversation as to what it means to collaborate on the writing process and where to draw the line.
Looking to get an emcee’s perspective on the situation, we reached out to ¡MAYDAY!’s Wrekonize for an exclusive interview regarding Nas and how the recent allegations weigh against his body of work. Having just released Thrift Store Halos, Wrek and the ¡MAYDAY! crew have plenty of experience in the realm of writing and collaboration.
Have you kept up on the Nas ghostwriter situation?
I was talking about it with Bernz. You know, maybe five or ten years ago, the thought of Nas having a ghostwriter would have been extremely blasphemous to me on some hip hop purist shit. When hip hop lyrics and verses are so intricate and personal, a lot of times you want to believe that it really is that person writing it – that it’s their thoughts. For the Nas situation, if it’s true or whatever – you know, like “Queens Get The Money” definitely sounds like Jay Electronica and I guess stic.man did a hook for one of the joints that he produced.
After being in the game and recording these albums, working in ¡MAYDAY! alongside Bernz – the writing process, I don’t see it as such a sole person thing or a sole entity. When you’re in a room writing with people, that process becomes communal at times. Yeah, there’s gonna be a shared writing process. It doesn’t seem like such an alien idea to me now. The fact that he may have had writing help on some of the tracks on that album, it doesn’t really burn me like it might have five or ten years ago when I was a more of a purist about things. His body of work is so big too that yeah, Jay Electronica may have written a couple of verses on that album, but are you discrediting that this guy has written a dope amount of shit? I read somewhere online from somebody that they would take that song about his daughter less seriously. I’m like damn, who’s to say he didn’t write that? The dude is obviously a writer, no matter what. He can have a dude come in and pen a couple of verses, but he’s a writer. Through and through, he is a writer. I don’t think him having people sit in for a couple of verses is that big of a deal. It’s something that I wouldn’t want to personally do, I love writing my own verses and I think he does too, but after being in the game for so long and dropping so many projects, who knows?
It almost feels like a witch hunt considering the lack of evidence.
It does, it really does. At the end of the day, if the music affects you and you enjoy the music, is it that big of a deal? I guess hip hop is the only genre of music that’s a little closed to that kind of stuff. Maybe it’s the fear of people not knowing or finding out later. No one really had a problem with Rhymefest writing “Jesus Walks” for Kanye. No one really had a problem with that. Maybe because he was a different kind of artist. That happens, people write things that get picked up by other people, Kanye writes the “Lucifer” hook, he comes up with “from the murder capital where we murder for capital” and gives that to Jay. That’s dope. He produced the track and he co-wrote the track with him. I definitely feel more open about that thought process now, being a little bit further down the road.
There was a time where I would have heard that and would have been like, “That’s blasphemy!” Now, I don’t see it as such a huge deal. There’s no possible way that, if he has ghostwriters, that they have penned more shit for him than he’s penned for himself. I would throw my life on it, there’s no possible way. Even if he did have ghostwriters on a bunch of material, he’s still got such a large body of work and he’s still got more dope verses that he’s written himself than other people have written for him.
The thing with Nas, for me personally, I get some of that. I haven’t really dug a Nas album in a long time. That might just be beat choices or hooks – I don’t know, there’s probably various reasons. I loved Illmatic obviously. I thought It Was Written was dope as fuck too, I was really heavy into Nas at that point. It Was Written was cool for me. I think I Am has some nasty tracks on it too. There’s definitely been a few albums scattered through his discography, but after I Am, he kind of lost me. I haven’t had a solid album from him in my ear since I Am. I get that because his material has sometimes been scattered in the last few years.
Like you said, sometimes people are never satisfied. He’s put out dope tracks too. So regardless, maybe he hasn’t put out a groundbreaking or solid album in the last five years, but damn, he’s dropped some bangers though. No one can ignore that. “Made You Look”, that’s fire. He’s got bangers that may have been attached to albums that weren’t perfect, but he’s still got bangers.