"Let Nas Down" and the Absent Father

Editor’s Note: I’d like to apologize if this comes off as rambling in some points. I just wanted to speak on several issues.

Now, I love hip-hop, and respect its “forefathers” and whatnot. So, this isn’t meant to be slanderous. But, “Let Nas Down” has got to be one of the saddest sappiest most-butthurt saddest songs in recent hip-hop memory. Yes, it has decent bars and a smooth, jazzy instrumental. By itself, it’s not a bad song. It’s kind of his “Big Brother” moment, down to the chorus structure. But, it also features Cole venting like a kid who just found out Santa Claus (or pro wrestling) isn’t real. I get it, I really do (because I’ve had some of my idols reject stuff that I’ve put out or beats I’ve submitted to them). Hell, I even get the need to speak on it and maybe even say “hey, sorry you didn’t fuck with it like that. The next shit is better, I promise.” But, to spend four-and-a-half-minutes crying about how Nas didn’t like “Work Out” seems a bit much.

It’s a problem.

Hip-hop tends to put so much weight on idols and their thoughts. Through this idolation, artists–in desperation for having their idol co-sign on the music–lose sight of what they want/need to do. “Work Out” was a radio single that, for better or worse, overtook radio in Summer 2011 and still managed to be more lyrical than most of the other stuff from that year. Yeah, it’s a light-and-fluffy, easy-to-digest song, but it was the guy’s first (real) single. Even Lupe Fiasco’s first, non-Da Pak-released single “Kick Push” falls in this category (subtext aside). And, for a first single, as fluffy as it was, it still featured some pretty okay lyricism. (Ed. Note: I personally believe that he should’ve dropped “Lights Please” as the first single, but that was, at the moment, two years old)

For Cole to come out and say “Damn, Nas hated ‘Work Out.’ Now I need to apologize profusely for this song that introduced me to a new audience and allowed me to cross over and possibly even make my new album, Born Sinner, possible” shows Cole as humble. I’ll give him that. But, in some ways, it paints him as weak. It paints him as a “man” in constant need of approval from his “superiors” for his work. It paints him as a man who lacks his own voice, his own perspective, his own identity. To be completely blunt, this constant need/desire of approval from the Shawns, the Nasirs, etc. could even paint him as exhibiting patterns aligned with histrionic personality disorder. That is, if we were just going off what Wikipedia and the Interwebz tell us.

But removing the psych aspect, we’re still left with a young man who, like many young Black men today, needs approval and guidance for his actions. On “Rich Niggaz,” Cole talks about his father and how if “a plane crashed, and it’d only killed his ass…[he’d] be glad it’s that nigga.” Now, I just have a minor in sociology. But, this anger towards the absent father (and desire of acceptance by those that can be seen as “father figures,” for better or worse) tells us something that we probably already know.

Cole, like many others of his background, has daddy issues. I feel his pain. I’ve spoken on fathers versus dads and I’ve my own share of anger and resentment towards my namesake. It’s a problem that runs rampant. Not just in black communities, mind you, but it’s quite prevalent in them. Men need to step up and be fathers to their children, even if the relationship with the mother sucks, even if they’re not “ready” to be fathers, even if it’s tough as hell, even if their father wasn’t there for them. For who shall teach your son to be a man if you aren’t one yourself? And who shall teach your daughter to expect respect from men if you don’t do it yourself towards her and her mother?

Be that as it may, it still doesn’t excuse him from making this subpar song. It explains it a bit more, but the song is still kind of garbage.

Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on speedonthebeat.com. Dad of two, cat dad (of two), mental health advocate, Team Support Dope Music in All Its Forms.

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