Nas Makes Us Look At The Real Reasons Young Black Men Are Dying Too Young (Audio)
Since his days as a teenager, Nasir Jones has been gifted in telling the stories surrounding his experiences and the lives of others. On “One Love,” he put the correspondence between friends—one free and one incarcerated into song. On “U.B.R.,” Nas narrated, in verse, the journey and success of Rakim—one of his early mentors and deepest influences. Last year, “Wrote My Way Out” likened the dramatic Hamilton tale with how he left the 41st side of Vernon through his penmanship.
It now appears that Nas writes a tribute of sorts for fellow Queens rapper Chinx. Several months after the Coke Boys rapper’s death (two years ago this week), “Die Young” was released on his Welcome To JFK album. The song was tragic irony for the 31 year-old rapper who was found fatally shot in a car in his Jamaica section of Queens.
On a new version of “Die Young” featuring Nas, Chris Brown keeps the chorus in tact, and builds upon it with a heartfelt cry to law enforcement to value young Black lives differently. Later in his part of the track, Brown urges young men to stop using revenge and retaliation as motives to do harm to one another. Nas then delivers a striking guest verse that goes to the sad realities behind the violence. He raps: “Autopsy, dissect ’em, they open him up / All they want to see is if he had coke in his blood / ‘Cause the cops shot him / Just ’cause he came from the rock bottom / Now you see his name in the body column.”
While Nas is not speaking directly about Chinx, the song reaches towards tragic deaths like his. At the time, many drove focus to an artist named “Chinx Drugz” and a “Coke Boys” artist, and not a 31 year-old father named Lionel Martin who lost his life. “Rock bottom” also may reference Far Rockaway, the ocean-side part of the borough Chinx represented. No matter the allusion, Nas captures the circumstances that send young men to early graves, and demands it stop.
While Chris and Nas have both had high profile conflicts with peers in their careers, this moment is an awakening. These are two respected artists calling out to cops to stop resorting to brutality, so young men can live to grow old.
#BonusBeat: Chinx’ 2015 original:
This song features French Montana, Meet Sims, and Zack, all of whom are Coke Boys Records artists.