President George W. Bush had a lot of screw-ups during his eight-year term, but he did do a couple things right. One of them was proclaiming June as Black Music Month on May 31, 2002. June is here,* and to celebrate Black Music Month, I'll be featuring one of my favorite artists each day, sharing my first or most personal memory of them, and explain what their accomplishments are and why I felt they should make the Black Music Month Top 30 list. There will be some oldies, some newbies and some artists you may not know of yet.
Black Music Month Heat Factor "Why's this artist hot?": You may call him Dr. Knockboot, Nasty Nas, Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, Nasir, Nas Escobar or just plain Nas. But whatever you call him, make sure you pay attention to what he's saying. Chances are whatever it is, it'll be important. I'd been a longtime fan of Nas. I even agreed with him that quite a bit of hip-hop was dying a slow death and appreciated him for making other artists step up their game to prove him wrong. But he lost me completely when he wanted to name his album "Nigger" and showed up in a T-shirt that said "nigger" and his (now ex-) wife Kelis wore a "nigger" jacket. I thought about turning in my fan card completely and boycotted the album. (To this day, I still haven't heard the CD in full.) I said I was going to boycott all his music and sell all the CDs I had of his. I did sell one, but I just couldn't make myself get rid of "Hip Hop Is Dead and "I Am..." I tried, but good music is so hard to come by. I'd already seen him live. He did a damn good job of battling Jay Z during their quick rap beef issue. And when the two of them squashed the beef and did "Black Republicans," I thought, "This is the best of both worlds for real."
First Memory, Most Personal Memory of the Artist: I try as much as possible to promote safe sex, whether it's talking to my own friends and family, suggesting testing centers, talking to college students or volunteering with BEHIV events. I think the song "Dr. Knockboot" is overlooked, but that one song had a lot of good advice for young men (i.e., don't have unprotected sex with just anybody, wear condoms, get confirmation before intercourse, do not rape any woman, don't date under-aged girls, don't lie about what you own [i.e., jewelry, cars], don't be so rough in intercourse that you orgasm too quickly, and stop talking about how thuggish you are). I could've done without him saying "bitches" repeatedly on that song, but the rest of the advice was on point. I had a segment of that song on my voicemail for months while I was at NMU and ended up with the nickname Ms. Knockboot because I was always lecturing people about being safe.
Then when I got to grad school and saw him perform live for only $5 at DePaul, that was it for me. He's not only a great lyricist, but his stage performance is fun, too. He engaged the outside crowd the entire time and didn't seem to want to leave the stage when his time was up. I couldn't keep my eyes off of him. I didn't take him for one of those live emcees who jumps all over the stage, and he's not. But he's so cool with it that he makes you want to jump all over the grass instead. It doesn't hurt that he's always been nice on the eyes, too, even in the early days with the chipped tooth. I don't think anybody else could've made me blast "Oochie Wally Wall" but him.
Accomplishments from the Artist: His inspirational shout-out to the youth with the song "I Can" stayed on the Billboard charts for 20 weeks. That song meant a lot to me because my nephew and his graduating class rapped to that song. I don't recall any song growing up that would've been kid friendly enough to rap to at a graduation. "If I Ruled the World" stayed on the charts for 20 weeks. "Got Ur Self A..." for 19 weeks, "You Owe Me" for 16 weeks, "One Mic" and "Made You Look" for 13 weeks, "Street Dreams" for 8 weeks, in addition to a few other songs ranging from four to eight weeks. To this day, I'm still getting cursed out about an Amazon** review saying I didn't care for "Illmatic." Some hip-hop heads consider that the best hip-hop album ever. And if they're mad at me and defending him, clearly he did his job whether I agree or not.
His new album with Damian Marley called "Distant Relatives" is one of the best hip-hop collabos ever. There are many artists who come and go, but what I dig about Nas is that his beats meet his quality lyrics. He has stage presence. He's gorgeous. But besides all that, he's very intelligent. He can go from talking about politics to culture to dating to music to sex to poverty to life with the rich and famous, and he's unapologetic about being married. He actually put his (now ex-) wife Kelis on his album to confirm he was serious. I had to respect that. I think he's a modern day griot. If somebody could convince him to take a Richard Pryor style trip to Africa and stop saying "nigger," I might have to hand him the crown as Best Rapper Alive. Until then, it's Rakim. But Nas is only about a centimeter behind The God Emcee, tied with Mos Def.
* This entry was originally published on Associated Content in June of 2010. It has been republished with permission from Shamontiel. To find out who the other 29 artists were who were selected in 2010, visit this Pinterest board.
** I have been boycotting Amazon since 2012 so I no longer read the opinionated views on "Illmatic."
Follow Shamontiel on Pinterest for all of her latest TV, book, music and movie reviews; photo galleries; entertainment saving tips and other entries, or subscribe to her National African American Entertainment channel at the top of this page. Also, follow her @BlackHealthNews, and follow this Pinterest board to read her celebrity interviews.