Nas Says “Action Speaks Louder Than Words” In These Troubled Times (Open Letter)

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Nas has never been an MC to wear his politics on his sleeve. However, that doesn’t mean that he has not been deeply conscious of the happenings in the world around him. Rather than joining protests and talking on news shows, the Queensbridge MC has let his music do the talking.

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On songs like “If I Ruled The World (Imagine That),” Nas addressed the ills of the world by pondering what he would change if he was in charge. “No welfare supporters. More conscious of the way we raise our daughters,” he rapped, as well as “So many years of depression make me vision the better livin’, type of place to raise kids in.” On songs like “Black President,” he expressed his feelings even more explicitly. “They forgot us on the block. Got us in the box. Solitary confinement: how violent are these cops? They need a early retirement. How many rallies will I watch? I ain’t got it in me to march.

Since November 9, for most, the world has changed dramatically, with the election of Donald Trump, and, with desperate times come desperate measures. Today (May 30), Nas has used his mighty pen, not for his “book of rhymes,” but to write an open letter. Published at Mass Appeal, “Action Speaks Louder Than Words” is a call to action as fiery as any Nasir Jones verse.

Sub-titled “No time for lippin’ in the so-called ‘Trump era’,” the letter begins as follows:

The only way the black man gets a little piece in America is if he takes the O.J. stance: “I’m not black, I’m O.J.” When you ignore the shit that’s happening to people you can live in this fantasy, this American fantasy that you belong to… who? You ignore what’s happening, and that gives you peace. Because what’s going on is enough to make people insane.

Some guy lynched in a tree at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Georgia, and the cops rule it a suicide. Now, don’t get me wrong—suicides happen. There are blacks suffering from mental illness just like whites suffering from mental illness, except that whites who suffer from mental illness and have interactions with the cops, they end up living. Blacks, we get killed. So if you want to sit back and ignore all that, go the O.J. route. Just remember, even he got dealt with at the end of the day.

So where do I stand? I stand just as a man, doing what I have to do. Doing what I was born to do. No one can tell me who I am. No one can tell me where I can go and cannot go.

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Nas continues at great length, detailing his thoughts on politics, discussing why he hasn’t taken a more overtly activist stance, and explaining how he uses his music to do his talking. Read the entire letter at Mass Appeal.