Life is Good, the latest album by Queens rap legend Nas, has been unanimously declared his best record in several years.
The untitled album that preceded it, however (originally and unofficially titled Nigger), may not have been written by Nas at all. A new post on FWMJ’s Rappers I Know blog refers back to a time when the writer was working for New York radio station Hot 97, and underground rapper Jay Electronica told him that he’d been ghost-writing for Nas:
“The day Jay called me at work to tell me he was ghostwriting for Nas was a hard day for me. On one hand, I was happy that a friend of mine that seemingly no one cared an iota for a year or two prior was quickly ascending through the ranks of hip hop as a voice to pay attention to and a career in the making to watch. Earlier that summer we’d posted and artworked Act I and word was quickly spreading that he was a one to watch. Not too long after began that yearly teasing at Christmastime that Act II: The Pledge would be dropping for free as a download that would surely overload my server and shut down my site from traffic. It’s 2013 and we’re still waiting.
“I don’t recall specific dates, because I actively avoided listening to any of it, but we were either at the tail end of or in the middle of the ringtone era when I got this call from Jay. Rapping was in bad shape on a mainstream level, and that’s why the New York DJs as I would witness for the months surrounding any new Nas release would be giddy as hell hoping that the Soulja Boy and Tity Boy songs they are handcuffed to play day in and day out, would come to some sort of balance when a new Nas single that would hit.”
“When it’s public knowledge that the ‘greatest lyricist’ of our era, has ghost writers, what does that mean? Like, he has the ability to write crazy raps, but it’s like doping in the Olympics, how can we ever trust the good results again? This ain’t pop music, so it matters if you write your own raps or not. For at least 6 albums, that was the only currency Nas had; his lyrics. How long has he been using ghost writers?
“I had an existential crisis that day. I was happy for Jay Elec, but he basically speared a childhood music hero and make a sock puppet out of him”.
Hip-hop writer Dream Hampton has echoed the claims, Tweeting that “Nas’ Nigger album was largely written by Stic of dead prez and Jay Electronica.” Now, it’s hardly major news that a big name rapper has employed a ghostwriter – Dr. Dre’s been doing it for years, and he’s one of countless examples – but when it’s an artist as famed for his lyricism as Nas, it does make you wonder.
Update: Stic.man commented on his work with Nas via Facebook, “As far as the rumors about myself and jay electronika ghost writing for Nas, let me say this. Nas is one of the if not the most prolific original lyricist to EVER do it. My contributions to his album was a collaboration and an honor and under his direction of what he wanted to convey and say. Haters cant discredit that man’s genuis. Nas is the Don.”
He later elaborated, saying he was “just a white belt that answered the call for a session with a master of the craft. And I assisted where it was requested with ideas, beats and some writing.” So, maybe some smoke, but not the type of fire these rumors suggested.