"Jah Told Me - In His Own Words"
Often when I have to make posts about musicians I just feel tempted to explain before I pummel you with rhetoric you might not agree with. And today I am going to do the same because I am about to write a short one about Nasir Jones - okay he's Nas to all you people who consume rap at a customer level.
This Queensbridge native has been my favourite rapper for donkey years because I can say without fear of contradiction that he's the only rapper with both the underground and the mainstream firmly in his grip. He might not be as deep as Krumbsnatcher or Immortal Technique but on any given day he tackles the same issues - though with diplomacy rather than uncooked anger often heard on most of the rappers on DJ Premier's mixtapes.
Now, after years of being a fan and collecting Nas albums, the only one I don't have is the first one when he was 14-years old and rapping about kidnapping Ronald Reagan's wife without an escape plan, aptly titled Illmatic. The rest I have made sure I collect and listen to every word and memorise the ones my brain has developed a capacity to archive.
So, recently I have been into those American rappers who seem to revive the genre after its surrogate father Tupac Shakur died that Spring evening. And while I am currently still struggling to formulate an opinion on Drake and Lil Wayne I have been at pains to admit that for the first time in many years Nas made me relook at my continent and country with another glance. Especially in South Africa where we know we are being led by a lunatic president and his entourage of greedy officials who will stop at nothing to milk the cow for the remaining three - or probably eight years.
So, on the album Nas did with Damien Marley, okay you know he's the son of the legendary Bob Marley I came across a line that shook me. Well, for your information I'm not an easy man to shock - I'm a journalist and what you see on the newsp
aper and gets shocked of is actually a diluted version of what I saw. But Nas had me thinking; In a song titled In His Own Word from their collabo titled Distant Relatives Nas raps, "why are South Afrikans dying from circumcision/ they lack proper surgeons suffer malnutrition/ underestimate the wealth of their own wisdom/ it's like it's been exchanged for this penicillin". Worrying; the same song features Steve Marley.
What worried me was not that Nas said that. I live in this country and have read A Man who is not a Man, a book that profiles what goes wrong in those circumcision schools and how do we end up with 'men' without penises. I was not worried by Nas touching on his 'motherland' cuz he did touch on its from his It Was Written album. He's the first rapper to openly rap, from an informed position about Mandela, Shell gas company and other forms of African civilization.
I was angry because he was right. We have underestimated the wealth of our own wisdom. But well, while he generalises I understand that he has no geographical and anthropological understanding of this country. The only people dying from botched circumcision are found in the Eastern Cape. Not all of the Eastern Cape but on the Transkei side of it. My tribe, Mapulana have been circumcising and initiating for centuries and still have to report their first casualty of a botched circumcision. Circumcision does not kill people; amateurs do.
For the life of me I am circumcised (though by a surgeon) and I am still alive and almost all my friends were circumcised in the bush and are fine. And for Nas, we don't lack proper surgeons but altruistic bush surgeons in the Transkei. We don't suffer malnutrition but dehydration because of global warming as opposed to how it was always done before this phenomena became our plague.
Have we exchanged our wisdom for penicillin? Yes, because all those failed amakhwetha end up in the hospital - on antibiotics while there are herbs to accelerate their healing in the bush. So, Nas got me thinking as he should make the stupid culture vultures in the Eastern Cape to do the same. After all all Mapulana and amaXhosa are distant relatives - as Nas and Damian rightfully said.
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