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    <title>A Conversation with Nas and Michael Eric Dyson</title>

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    (bell rings) <br> - What's going on, everybody? <br> (audience cheers) <br> I go by the one and only 9th Wonder, <br> representing Little Brother. <br> Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage, <br> my colleague, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, <br> (audience cheers and applauds) <br> my colleague and Zulu Nation brother, Dr. James Peterson, <br> (audience cheers and applauds) <br> and the legend himself, the one and only, Nas. <br> (audience cheers and applauds) <br> How you doing? - What's up boss? <br> - [Nas] How you doing? <br> (clears throat) <br> - Give it up for 9th Wonder, please. <br> (audience cheers and applauds) <br> You know, a couple days ago, 9th hit me up <br> And he was like, "Listen, I wanna come, <br> "I wanna see the conversation, <br> "I wanna come and be in the audience," <br> and I said, "Bruh, can you please bless us from the decks?" <br> And so thank you for coming in and doing that tribute <br> to the brother Nas, we appreciate that. <br> (audience applauds) <br> I feel like I need a moment here. <br> I need a moment, because this is an amazing time <br> in my career anyway, because it's just exciting, <br> but the opportunity to be here in Gaston Hall, <br> this wonderful university, to sit between <br> the greatest Black intellectual of our time <br> and the greatest emcee of our time; give it up. <br> (audience cheers and applauds) <br> It's actually very moving for me to be here, <br> so I don't know how this all came together, <br> but I appreciate the opportunity <br> to moderate this conversation, and I wanna say, <br> I do want you brothers to be in conversation. <br> We're gonna talk up here for a little while <br> and then we will open it up. <br> There will be Georgetown folk with mics <br> that will be out there; you only need to raise your hand <br> and they'll come to you. <br> We'll work all that out when we get to it, <br> but I would just like to start off <br> with both of you talking about, how did y'all come together? <br> Because this is not the first time the three of us <br> have sat down and had a conversation, right? <br> - [Nas] Nah. <br> - So I wonder if each of you could talk a little <br> about how did this happen, but also, <br> how did you first connect and meet and come together? <br> - Well, I'll take that. <br> First of all, I wanna say to brother Gareth Ross <br> at Kennedy Center, and to the Georgetown board, <br> thank you so much-- - For making this happen. <br> - For facilitating this, (audience applauds) <br> and doing this. <br> It's so funny, I was at the Schomburg the other day, <br> and a woman was sitting behind me, and said, <br> "You won't remember me, but I was at Essence magazine, <br> "and I'm the person who called together <br> "the panel on Black men that featured you and Nas." <br> I was like, "Oh, wow;" that was years and years ago. <br> So we first met in person several years ago <br> on a round table on Black masculinity, and I was sitting <br> next to a man whose rhetorical genius was evident, <br> and I started spitting some of his lyrics. <br> And I know he didn't expect a old man like me <br> to be spitting: <br> ♫ It's only right that I was born to use mics <br> ♫ And the stuff that I write is even tougher than dykes <br> ♫ I'm taking rapping to new plateau, through rap slow <br> ♫ My rhyming is a vitamin, held without a capsule <br> (audience applauds) Right? <br> And Nas was like, "Yeah." <br> (laughs) <br> And that began an incredible friendship. <br> My admiration for him is unlimited, <br> and my appreciation for what he does, <br> not only as an emcee, but as a human being who's engaged <br> in the political realities of the world around him <br> and to use his platform to articulate visions <br> and understandings of the world in which we live <br> with such poetic clarity and passion. <br> So, we've been doing this for many years now. <br> - What he said. <br> (audience laughs) <br> Nah. <br> Yeah, we met at the Essence thing at the Schomburg Library <br> in Harlem, and... <br> Harlem in the house. - Give it up for Harlem. <br> (James chuckles) (audience members cheer) <br> - Yeah, what's up? <br> So, we met, and I didn't know he would know my stuff, <br> and since then, we just clicked. <br> He's had my back, I had his, <br> and he's one of the smartest guys I've ever met. <br> There's not a lot of people from your generation, <br> educated people who have a voice out there <br> who really can identify with us. <br> And you. <br> He's the guy. <br> He's our guy. <br> So, we've been tight since years. <br> - We're right on the cusp of this tremendous performance <br> you're gonna be doing this weekend at the Kennedy Center, <br> and I wonder if you could both reflect on this moment. <br> You, Nas, just from the perspective of where you are <br> in your career. <br> We're sitting here talking about hip-hop <br> at Georgetown University with scholars who teach it, <br> we got the Harvard Hip-Hop Fellow, 9th Wonder. <br> I don't know if you guys know this, but 9th's been working <br> up at Harvard all year long. <br> We have Nas getting ready to... <br> (audience applauds) <br> We have you getting ready to perform at the Kennedy Center. <br> I wonder if you can reflect on where hip-hop is <br> as we think about the confluence <br> of all these powerful events <br> and powerful things happening right now. <br> - It's crazy, 'cause <br> it's so many layers to that question, <br> and where is hip-hop. <br> You talk about 9th Wonder at Harvard. <br> I've recently been over there and met with Skip Gates <br> and Dr. Morgan, and just watching where hip-hop is today, <br> with myself re-releasing an album from 20 years ago, <br> it's like, 20 years? <br> That's crazy. <br> - [James] There's a lot of people in this audience <br> who weren't born 20 years ago. <br> (audience chuckles) - Word. <br> Word. <br> - Somebody said, "It's still a classic." <br> That's what I heard. - I appreciate it. <br> Appreciate it. <br> So, you know, I never... <br> When I first started, I said, "It would be cool <br> "to talk at colleges." <br> (James chuckles) You know? <br> "But that would never happen." <br> And that's really what I thought. <br> So it's surreal, but at the same time, <br> it's what it's supposed to be. <br> Especially for me, at a place <br> like the John F. Kennedy Center. <br> I had dreams of that kinda stuff early. <br> I didn't think it was really possible; <br> I kinda gave away those dreams, I let those dreams go, <br> but now that it's here, it's come around to this, <br> it feels like this is where it's supposed to be. <br> - Well, and sitting up here with you, <br> one of the foremost scholars on hip-hop in America today <br> without question, and I've learned so much from you, <br> and you and I and Nas had a great conversation <br> in the Aspen Institute, we were talking about in the car <br> on the way over here, and when you think about the fact, <br> the word genius is bandied about, <br> but this guy is a rhetorical genius. <br> And at 16, "Verbal assassin, my architect pleases. <br> "When I was 12, I went to Hell for snuffing Jesus." <br> 16? <br> Like, dude? <br> Who is this guy? At the barbecue? <br> That ain't no regular barbecue. <br> (Nas chuckles) <br> And then, at 19, as a prodigy, <br> "I need a new nigga for this black cloud to follow, <br> "'cause while it's over me, it's too dark to see tomorrow. <br> "I changed my motto. <br> "Instead of," talking about buying a lottery ticket. <br> What does he say? <br> "Instead of--" <br> - [Nas] The buck that bought a bottle <br> coulda struck the lotto. <br> - There it is. (audience laughs) <br> I just wanted him to say it. <br> "Coulda struck the lotto." <br> So, the point is, that now, a guy with a PhD from Princeton, <br> a guy with a PhD from Penn, is discussing the music <br> of a guy from Queensbridge. <br> So, his dream about getting into college, celebrate that. <br> (audience applauds) Celebrate that. <br> And to me, teaching Nas, teaching hip-hop, <br> Jay, Pac, Biggie, Lauryn Hill, <br> is about excavating in the common earth <br> of our social existence, not only relics and artifacts <br> of their genius, but the ongoing engagement <br> with the most serious level of literacy. <br> I went to see Teju Cole the other day, <br> the Nigerian author. (audience members cheer) <br> Teju cole is a rhetorical master. <br> This man, 20 years ago, gave us a novel <br> in the form of Illmatic. <br> Exploring what was happening in his neighborhood; <br> his letter to his brother, which inspired me, <br> in the book that we put out on Illmatic, <br> to talk about my brother who's been in prison, <br> and every time I see Nas, he asks me about my brother. <br> But when he made that One Love, that spoke to me, <br> he talked about suffering, he's talked about struggle, <br> he's talked about what it meant to be a drug dealer, <br> he talked about what it meant to be a victim of crime. <br> So in other words, that album gave us, in precis, <br> a panoramic vision of what it meant <br> to be a young Black person struggling for survival. <br> So the fact is, we teach at Harvard, at Georgetown, <br> at Princeton, at Yale, at Talladega, at Spelman, <br> at Morehouse, the works of these gifted artists <br> because they have something profound and important, <br> and I think, just as we study Hemingway, <br> I think just as we study Morrisson, <br> I think just as we study Homer, <br> we study a Nas to understand the verbal invention <br> (audience applauds) of the culture. <br> - [Nas] Wow. <br> (James chuckles) <br> - You wanna respond to that, bro? <br> - Thank you. <br> (audience laughs) <br> - [Michael] Absolutely. <br> That's real talk, bro. <br> - Nas, you know some people will say <br> that hip-hop doesn't belong in the academy. <br> And some of those voices will come <br> from within hip-hop itself. <br> I wonder if you could both talk a little bit <br> about some of the resistance; it's all sweet right now. <br> It's great we're here, great audience, <br> thank you all for coming out, but it wasn't always this way. <br> Just like you had a dream about speaking to college classes, <br> as a young scholar, I always wanted artists <br> to be in the classroom, but it's been a long, long haul <br> to be here, and there's still a lot of naysayers, <br> people are saying, "Well, you shouldn't be speaking <br> "at Georgetown," or, "You shouldn't be teaching <br> "that course at Georgetown." <br> What do you say to some of those haters? <br> (audience laughs) <br> - Man. <br> I feel like Nature is the young always fighting <br> to take over the old spot, and the old is trying <br> to keep itself in charge, but the laws of Nature <br> is against that. <br> So every time someone in power tries to hold back the truth <br> of, well, just the truth in any aspect, they lose. <br> I can't see how you would not want American music <br> spoken about in an American school. <br> (audience applauds) <br> Especially this is the only art form <br> where there's a lot of words. <br> This, there's a lot of words, <br> (audience chuckles) <br> and it's a lot of truth, for the most part. <br> It's a lot of truth in the music, <br> and you would learn so much. <br> I spoke to someone, a really powerful venture capitalist, <br> and he listens to rap music. <br> White, older guy, and he told me that listening to rap music <br> is the way he stays in tune with what's going on. <br> You always gotta keep your ear to the street, <br> and if you think you're above this class of people <br> or these kinda people, the world will change <br> before you know it, and you'll wind up <br> on the outside looking in. <br> So it's important that academies allow us young, <br> well, I'm not so young anymore, <br> but us guys and girls to tell our story. <br> It's important. <br> - Doc, to the naysayers? <br> You got a lot of those too. <br> - Well. <br> Yeah. <br> But you know, <br> at the level we're operating now, <br> I've long since ceased to justify <br> to people who are either too ignorant, <br> too disinclined to understand, who have no understanding <br> of the evolution of the very thing <br> they call classic culture. <br> "Well, we wanna talk about the great books." <br> The great books came about in World War II. <br> There was no genuine consensus <br> about what constituted the canon of American books. <br> So now, if in 1940, 1945, we are trying to rearticulate <br> our conception of primal literacy, <br> about what constitutes the American scene, <br> we knew there were great books. <br> Benito Cereno, we knew Moby Dick, <br> we knew that Melville was the most Shakespearean <br> of American writers, but Melville was writing pulp fiction <br> of his day. <br> So he's being dismissed, written in newspapers, <br> that has now become classic American literature. <br> So I fear no claim of hyperbole when I talk <br> about putting this young man and other young artists <br> in league with some of the greatest creative artists <br> of all time. <br> Colleen Litkenhaus, who's been working like a demon-- <br> - Shout out to Colleen. <br> - And we should celebrate her here tonight. <br> (James applauds) <br> (audience applauds) - She's around here, <br> - [James] she's probably still working. <br> - She's working. <br> But this thing sold out in an hour. <br> We could have filled up McDonough with 2,500 people; <br> next time we will. <br> 'Cause Nas has said he's gon' come back <br> and we gon' have part two, alright? <br> (audience applauds) For those who didn't... <br> For those who say, "We don't wanna study this," <br> they didn't wanna study sociology when it came out. <br> Auguste Comte and the beginnings of philosophy, <br> the beginnings of psychology; every major field <br> has had its naysayers. <br> Every form of music. <br> When you have the spirituals. <br> ♫ Ain't got long to stay here <br> Then you have the Negro spirituals, <br> and then jubilee singing come along. <br> "Well, I don't know." <br> Then jubilee singers get established <br> and then gospel comes along. <br> Wait a minute, that's that blues music <br> that Dorsey is playing with Big Mama Thornton <br> and all those women in the blues clubs, <br> now it's up in the church. <br> Now the gospel people mad at BeBe and CeCe Winans, <br> but they were dismissed as outmoded, secular artists. <br> Then BeBe and CeCe looks old school <br> compared to Kirk Franklin. <br> Now Kirk Franklin against Lecrae, or Mary Mary. <br> So every generation has what it sees <br> as its sacred iconic figures who can't be touched, <br> but like Nas so brilliantly said, <br> the laws of Nature are against the artificial preservation <br> of your niche. <br> Greatness will determine, and excellence will determine, <br> ultimately, where you end up in culture, <br> and there's no denying the power <br> of what these young people do, and so I think we have to say <br> to the naysayers, "Just hold on. <br> "You naysaid on Shakespeare. <br> "You naysaid on the great literature of every epoch and era, <br> "and then later on, you acclaimed as greatness. <br> "Well, I ain't waiting for history to affirm <br> "and validate what I already know. <br> "We're sitting in the presence of genius; recognize." <br> (audience applauds) <br> - [Nas] Yes. <br> Wow. - You both mention <br> that you have, besides from the rhetorical connection, <br> you have this unfortunate connection <br> that you've had family members <br> in the criminal justice system <br> and in the prison industrial complex. <br> I wonder if each of you could talk for a minute or two <br> about what young people need to know <br> about the United States and the prison system <br> and criminal justice in the United States. <br> (chuckles) <br> (audience laughs) <br> Take your time, bruh. <br> - Aw, man. <br> Well, when Doc over here said that we was... <br> Dr. Dyson, was saying that I have a brother in prison, <br> it wasn't my blood brother, it was a friend brother, <br> and I wrote a couple of friends and I wrote about them <br> on a song called One Love on my first record. <br> It resonated with him because he has his real blood brother <br> who's behind the wall, been there for years, <br> and it just seems like, of course, we all know <br> the problem is out of hand with the amount of Blacks, <br> Latinos, and poor Whites that are thrown in jail <br> and not given a chance to get out. <br> In New York alone, at least 46,000 a year get locked up, <br> it's probably the highest in the nation. <br> Most of them are 16 and 17 years old, <br> and they're charged as adults, for the most part. <br> It's really like a railroad system, <br> where we know how easy it is to be profiled, <br> we know what we're up against. <br> When I was 15, 16, we were hearing that most Black men <br> won't make it to be 25. <br> So we were on a hurry-up process: get it now, <br> get money now, live now, have kids now, <br> everything now, because tomorrow's not promised <br> in the situation that we was in. <br> And the more you're out there, you feel like <br> it's us against them, then the more defiant, <br> the more enraged, the more trapped you feel, <br> so what do things that are trapped do? <br> They react. <br> You back something in a corner, it reacts, <br> and then we build up our own form of thinking <br> that's like, "Fuck the world," <br> and at that point, it's almost the point of no return. <br> Once that's clicked in our minds, it's hard to pull us back <br> to say that the American dream is out there for you. <br> You can change up, "Yo, chill;" no, <br> once you've made it in your mind that you were dealt <br> a bad hand, you're going all out. <br> So I had a big problem trying to pull a lot of my friends <br> into the music business (chuckles), <br> 'cause this is the only thing I had. <br> I was 20 years old, getting in the music business, <br> I'm like, "All 30 of y'all, come on. <br> (audience chuckles) <br> "Get on the bus with me, hotel rooms, let's go," <br> and it didn't work. <br> It didn't work, but I tried what I could try, <br> what I could try at the time, and now that I got older, <br> I start to think; I'm going a little outside of that. <br> I was trying to come up with some solutions <br> to bring back to the block. <br> One thing that should have been really strong <br> on our minds was business. <br> This is America, this is capitalism at its finest, <br> this is business, so we're doing everything <br> besides legal business. <br> We're not caring too much about if America's saying, <br> "Stop complaining, get off your ass, Black guys, <br> "and make something of yourself," <br> then it's like, for me, I'm like, "Okay, <br> "then let's start teaching the lil' dudes <br> "and lil' women on the block, business." <br> Money management, and entrepreneurship. <br> This is what the American dream is, <br> and we don't have any more time to waste. <br> There's no more time to play around. <br> We have to literally go back on the block with a plan, <br> and with people with that expertise <br> to come down there and show them business modules, <br> and show them how they can get into computer programming, <br> get into real estate, get into engineering, <br> get into all the things that are making a lot of money, <br> all the things that are making this country better. <br> We can do it, it just needs to be cool. <br> It needs to feel like it's something cool. <br> It needs to feel like, "Alright, we tried this. <br> "Watch the movie Scarface, you know how that's gon' end." <br> Right? (James chuckles) <br> We know how that ends. <br> So if we know how that ends, let's put pause on that <br> for a minute, and let's introduce <br> a whole new way of winning. <br> I haven't figured it out yet, <br> but, (audience applauds) <br> we have to figure out something, <br> because at the rate that young Blacks, Latinos, <br> and poor Whites are thrown in jail is outrageous, <br> so we gotta think of something, and we don't have time. <br> - Wow, that's beautiful. <br> I think about, to piggyback on that brilliant analysis <br> of how we warehouse young people, poor Blacks, <br> poor Latinos, poor Whites, and how they get the book, <br> if you will, of the court system thrown against them, <br> and the startling statistic that Nas spoke about, <br> which is why Russell Simmons was arguing <br> against those draconian Rockefeller laws in New York City, <br> hip-hop has always been on that cutting edge <br> trying to speak to it, even before Diddy's Vote Or Die, <br> and when you talk about a person like Nas <br> who's speaking that narrative on his first album, <br> spoke to me so poignantly because in that letter, <br> it's an epistolary form, it takes the form of a letter, <br> but he's writing to, and hearing from, <br> his beloved in prison, and they're sharing the pain <br> and the heartbreak and the struggle, and Nas is trying <br> to affirm him in the midst of his own difficulty, <br> even as he's acknowledging the lies, and schoolbooks, <br> and lectures, and all the things in "official knowledge" <br> has worked against the very people who are imprisoned <br> to begin with, and helped get them there, <br> and help keeps them there. <br> The legitimacy, I think about what he said <br> about young Black people; Paul Ryan, yet again, <br> another reinvention of Black pathology. <br> Lazy Black men, get off your ass <br> and do something. <br> Well, there might be a lack of employment <br> but it ain't no lack of work. <br> (chuckles) Right? <br> They getting the work in, <br> and the work is underground economy, <br> the work is not above-ground economy. <br> So you provide limited opportunities, <br> and you stymie and squelch the opportunities <br> for young people to be employed, <br> and then the underground economy looms large, <br> and then you punish them for participating in the very thing <br> that is the only outlet, for the most part, <br> available to them. <br> So, I think we have to deal with that, and then to end this, <br> in terms of the criminal justice system, <br> we have tonight here attorney Jasmine Rand, <br> who is the attorney for; stand up, Jasmine. <br> The attorney for Trayvon Martin is up in here tonight. <br> Let's give some love. (audience applauds) <br> Right. <br> And here, you're talking about, again, <br> it's not simply what they do to us <br> by putting us in jail or prison, it's the suspicion. <br> It's the skepticism. <br> It's the doubt about young Black people. <br> We got 9th Wonder and Mark Anthony Neal <br> teaching at Duke University. <br> That's what Black masculinity is. <br> We got Nasir Jones, at 40, still killing younger rappers <br> at 20, still murking 'em with the rhetorical finesse. <br> (audience applauds) <br> (Nas chuckles) <br> We got a Black man in the White House. <br> (audience applauds) <br> For what that's worth and what it ain't worth, <br> so the point is... <br> (audience laughs) <br> For real. <br> (laughs) <br> But the point is that Black men in particular, <br> Black people more broadly, people of color even more broadly <br> and people in a particular class even more broadly, <br> are struggling against systems of oppression, <br> one of which is a criminal justice system <br> manifest with the unjust imprisonment of our bodies. <br> Not only in prison though, Dr. Peterson; <br> it starts with sending kids to detention. <br> It starts with third-grade classes that are being scoured <br> to see how well they're performing, <br> to see how many jail cells we're gonna build. <br> It begins with zip codes where kids live, <br> so we can determine what neighborhoods to racially profile. <br> So for me, when I listen to a guy like Nas, <br> that's reporting on the front edge of the universe <br> that we're trying to create, and the suffering <br> that we're enduring. <br> When Chuck D said it's the CNN, or the MSNBC, <br> (James chuckles) <br> of hip-hop, let's give MSNBC some love. <br> (audience chuckles) <br> Then I think that hip-hop at its best <br> is telling the truth about realities that we'd rather sweep <br> under the carpet. <br> Had we been listening to a Nas, had we been listening <br> to NWA back in 1988, we wouldn't have been surprised <br> about police brutality and the vicious, arbitrary forms <br> of violence to which we are subjected. <br> - You know, that was amazing. <br> But you know, when you said NWA, at that time, <br> when they was catching so much flak <br> because what they were talking about, <br> I was surprised there wasn't more support <br> from people who would understand them, <br> and I was like, why didn't you listen <br> to what they were saying? <br> I told someone from Australia one time, <br> they asked me about the States and California and Brooklyn, <br> and I'm like, "If you wanna learn about these places, <br> "you gotta listen to Snoop's album. <br> "You wanna learn about Brooklyn, pick up Ready To Die." <br> 'Cause they're gonna tell you <br> what streets not to walk through, <br> and what streets... (audience laughs) <br> They're gonna tell you what's going on. <br> So, history is written by people who wasn't there, <br> for the most part. <br> So we're here, like you said, on the front line, <br> and you too, man, both you guys, <br> we're here on the front lines saying what's going on. <br> Yeah. <br> - I think I only have time probably for a couple more <br> before I have to, but I have a thousand more questions <br> in my head right now, so forgive me for that. <br> I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the future <br> of the music. <br> Obviously, in your career, especially recently, <br> you've been doing different types of music, <br> different collaborations, really trying <br> to explore different things. <br> Where do you see things going in terms of the sound <br> of the music, the content of the music, <br> especially in terms of dealing with some of the issues <br> we've been talking about tonight, social justice issues. <br> And Doc, I would love for you <br> to answer that question as well. <br> - I don't see enough emcees <br> who are brave enough to be honest. <br> (audience applauds) <br> I would like to see more of that-- <br> - Can somebody quote that and tweet that out, please? <br> (audience laughs) <br> Somebody please, right now, live-tweet that quote. <br> Sorry, go ahead. <br> (Nas and Michael chuckle) <br> I'd like to see... <br> There's a lot of good stuff and there's a lot of bad in rap. <br> The socially-conscious stuff can come off sometimes <br> as preachy and whatever, so a lot of people tend <br> to stay away from it, it ain't their bag, <br> it's not what they do. <br> But still, they have some artistic responsibility <br> to do more than what's the latest trend. <br> There's party music, there's more intense music, <br> there's more techno-style rap or whatever, <br> there's a lot of different people experimenting <br> with rap music, and that's great. <br> I got into it when of course, it was different. <br> It was people like Chuck D, Eric B. & Rakim, <br> Slick Rick, and Kool G Rap, and KRS-One, <br> and all of these guys. (Michael and James chuckle) <br> (audience applauds) <br> The list goes on. <br> Brand Nubian, Nice & Smooth, De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest; <br> it's just the list goes on, so imagine me <br> trying to get in that rap game, at 19 years old? <br> It was impossible. <br> It was like I had to do something that mattered <br> or I would not have gotten that respect from them, <br> and if I didn't get that respect from them, it was over. <br> But now, it's a lot easier, and a part of it <br> about it being easier that I like <br> is that there's more poor kids making money. <br> So I love that, and I'm not against that, <br> but I would like to see people remember it's an art form, <br> because the better we all become, we push each other <br> to make the whole art form better, <br> and then we won't have to worry about who won the Grammy, <br> because this is not... <br> (audience applauds) <br> - Although we love the fact that 9th won the Grammy. <br> - Did you win a Grammy? <br> Congratulations to you. <br> And nothing wrong with a Grammy, I love the Grammys. <br> (audience laughs) <br> I love it. <br> - [Michael] He deserved it, no doubt. <br> - And you deserved it, I'm sure. <br> - [James] But that's not the only concern for this brother <br> and it's not the only concern for you. <br> - No, that's my point, it should just really be <br> more of a real... <br> There should be more talent. <br> And socially-conscious stuff was natural <br> from Criminal Minded album, KRS-One, Chuck D. <br> Even Slick Rick, he wasn't preachy <br> when he said Hey Young World. <br> You know, "The world is yours." <br> It was real honest stuff, real good stuff form the heart, <br> and that's missing today, so I'd like to see that come back. <br> (audience applauds) <br> I can't say everybody's not doing it, <br> there's a lot of great rappers-- <br> - But we hope to see more of that going forward. <br> - See more, that's it. <br> Yeah, yeah. <br> - I think, obviously, that's an insider's view, <br> and that's well spoken. <br> I think that often, we get the artists we deserve. <br> Because when you listen to the roll call of the artists <br> that Nas cited, it wasn't just that his level of excellence <br> had to match theirs, though that's critical enough, <br> those artists had to speak to a generation <br> that wanted to hear something deep and profound. <br> So when you're ready, Ralph Ellison appears. <br> When you're ready, Toni Morrison appears. <br> When you're ready, James Baldwin announces himself. <br> Alice Walker comes forth. <br> It's like preaching. <br> You want a great sermon, be a great audience. <br> Be a great congregation. <br> Say amen, give me some support. <br> Have some theology that resonates <br> with my divine orientation, then we can have <br> an imaginative rendezvous between pulpit and pew. <br> So, the same thing with an artist. <br> You want great art? <br> Be a great listener. <br> That's why when I go back, (audience applauds) <br> and I listen to Nas, there's some stuff; <br> I been listening to Nas, 20 years. <br> And there's some stuff that you're still discovering. <br> Like when you go back and look at The Godfather. <br> "Look how they massacred my boy." <br> (audience laughs) <br> It's like, you know, "I didn't see Marlon Brando <br> "do that before! <br> "I didn't see Pacino twist it like that." <br> That's a nuance, 'cause I been watching it, <br> 'cause there are goodies hidden there. <br> So when we hear Nas, <br> ♫ I woke up early on my born day, I'm 20, the essence <br> ♫ Of adolescence leaves my body <br> I mean, you go back and listen to that, like, "Damn. <br> "Okay, he's in response to..." <br> My brother on the phone yesterday, from prison, <br> said, "Tell the god I said hello." <br> He said, "He'll know what I'm talking about," <br> 'cause he's in, not Nation of Islam, but he's... <br> And not Five Percenter, but he's Dyson Bey. <br> So his Moorish Temple analysis of the world <br> through the prism of his own religious identity <br> resonated with a guy 20 years ago who spoke directly <br> to the crises, existential and political and social, <br> that these young people are enduring. <br> So, to me, we get the artists we deserve. <br> If we get this pablum, this souped-up nonsense <br> that some people putting out. <br> "Superman that;" well. <br> (audience laughs) <br> Sorry. <br> Didn't mean to cite anything. <br> (chuckles) <br> But, you know, you get what you deserve, <br> and if we're willing to be rigorous and demanding <br> of ourselves, and you can't just get over <br> 'cause you positive. <br> 'Cause you could be positively wack. <br> You know what I'm saying? <br> So you gotta have something to say. <br> (audience applauds) <br> And I'll end by saying this: it's like in the church <br> when people say, "I've been saved. <br> "I no longer do the Devil's music." <br> I'll tell you, the Devil had better beats than you, <br> as a Christian. <br> Why does God get the wack stuff <br> and the Devil gets the hot stuff? <br> (Nas laughs) <br> What I loved about this, this wasn't preaching at me <br> like boom, but when I listened to what he's saying, <br> that contains such serious, insightful engagement <br> with the world as we know it, and he demanded a certain kind <br> of excellence and rigor, artistically, <br> that went along with his progressive politics, <br> 'cause you can have progressive politics but weak artistry, <br> ain't nobody gon' listen to you. <br> You could have wack politics and great artistry, <br> everybody'll hear you. <br> But if you join them together like Nas did, <br> "Whose world is this? <br> "The world is yours." <br> (audience applauds) <br> - Another thing that you both have in common <br> is that you both have influenced an entire generation, <br> for you, of other artists who are deeply influenced <br> by your work, you, of other scholars, <br> many of whom are right here. <br> How many people have taken a class with this guy here? <br> (audience members cheer) <br> But I wonder how, and Nas, you can take this first, <br> I wonder how you-- <br> - [Audience Member] What's up Nas! <br> (James chuckles) <br> - I wonder how you process that. <br> - [Audience Member] What's up Nas! <br> (audience laughs) <br> - [Nas] What's up? <br> - We are gonna open up soon, I promise. <br> - [Michael] We got the Holy Ghost out there. <br> - I wonder how you process... (audience laughs) <br> - Speaking in tongues! <br> (audience laughs) <br> I'm sorry. - Can I? <br> - Thank you, sir, thank you. <br> I wonder how you process that, the influence that you've had <br> on artists, or for you, the influence that you've had <br> on a whole generation of young people. <br> - Man, I tell you, I tell you, I'm really humbled <br> by my man right now, and what he's saying. <br> I process what I've had on other artists? <br> I get it; you know why? <br> Because the ones that came before me, what they did for me. <br> So it's only natural that somebody's gonna hear me <br> and say, "Yo, that inspired me," <br> because that's what we're here to do, inspire each other. <br> If I haven't done that, I'm not doing anything. <br> But it's still really humbling to run into a few artists <br> that I've run into, that are really into what I was doing, <br> and I tell them, "Yo, I didn't have a stylist. <br> "I didn't have a budget." <br> I had somewhat of a budget; I didn't have big videos, <br> I wasn't guaranteed a video play. <br> This was a different time period, so I didn't know <br> that it would catch on to mainstream. <br> I didn't know. <br> I knew that somewhat of the hip-hop community would know <br> this was some good music, but I didn't know <br> that it would become this. <br> So, I tell them to block out the love, <br> the commercial success, that love and all of that, <br> and just go into where you were going. <br> Don't watch him too much doing this thing, <br> and don't watch that guy too much doing that thing, <br> 'cause I saw a lot of guys before me fall like that. <br> I saw them start to dress up like Biggie, <br> put on the hats and the Versace glasses <br> and that was never their style. <br> So I would say, just stick to what you're doing, <br> and you'll be surprised what's in you, <br> the more that's in you that you have to get out there <br> that we need. <br> That I need from these young artists, <br> because they inspire me too. <br> So, it's all reciprocal. <br> We give to each other, we just give and take, <br> and keep the cycle going. <br> But it's a lot of people that could listen to you <br> and really learn a thing or two. <br> (James laughs) <br> - Well, no, I mean, <br> "I let Nas down"? - I learned... <br> - Right? <br> "I let Nas down"? <br> (audience applauds) <br> - Yeah. <br> (James chuckles) <br> Yeah, yeah. <br> J. Cole, yeah. <br> Aw, man. (audience applauds) <br> He's someone who's incredible that I hear <br> and I'm like, "Damn." <br> This dude, he's incredible. <br> But there's so many good ones. <br> - Yeah, but the thing it brings out about that, <br> is that of all the rappers, I let Nas down, <br> 'cause Nas is the benchmark. <br> Nas is the standard. <br> Nas is the lyrical genius. <br> Nas is the rhetorical creator, and if I let him down, <br> that's the ideal I have in my mind, <br> that's imprinted in my brain. <br> That's burned into my consciousness. <br> - [James] And everyone can identify with it. <br> - Everybody knows immediately what it means <br> when I let Nas... <br> Boom. You knew what that meant. <br> That I capitulated to culture, or capitulated <br> to commercial interests, or capitulated to record design <br> or some A&R; person trying to tell me what to talk about, <br> as opposed to speaking about what comes from my heart. <br> So, that level of intense devotion to craft, <br> again, is extraordinary. <br> But when I see young people that I've had the fortune <br> of engaging with, like you. <br> I see you on TV, I'm like you, I was like, "Damn. <br> "You killing it, man. <br> "I go back and dust up on my thing," <br> because the way you're spitting it, so calmly, <br> I'm more of an aggressively emotional Negro. <br> (audience laughs) <br> I would be old Sharpton, you would be new Obama. <br> (Nas and James chuckle) <br> And, you know, just killing 'em, and I was like, <br> "Alright. <br> "Peterson is just killing 'em softly, I like that. <br> "He's just murdering them." <br> And I'm so proud of you. <br> I see Professor Paul Farber out here, <br> taking it to the next level, in terms of what he's doing <br> with pop culture and writing, <br> and fusing entertainment journalism with the best theory, <br> and Professor Monica Miller, who's written one <br> of the most brilliant books on religion in hip-hop <br> that you wanna check out, both of these young people <br> who both have written about you, <br> but just brilliant scholarship. <br> So when I see young people produced, I feel proud. <br> One of the greatest compliments is when somebody says, <br> "I don't know, those your students, but they getting you." <br> Good! <br> That's what I'm trying to do. <br> I'm trying to hoist them up. <br> I'm trying to lift them higher. <br> So that they see further, so that they teach me. <br> And I learn from you, I learn from Farber, <br> I learn from Miller. <br> I learn. <br> Look, my stylist is here. <br> (James laughs) <br> I'm sorry, I ain't got no budget, but I got a stylist. <br> I'm balling on a budget. <br> My man Marv the Barb, who's my barber, he be spitting too! <br> He be in the chair, just giving me lines, man. <br> I was like, "I'm gon' have to steal, okay. <br> "I'ma have to steal that." <br> My driver, who was telling me, "You know what Dr. Dyson, <br> "we have to have a transition hustle." <br> I said, "Excuse me? <br> "Say that again?" <br> He said, "We have to have a transition hustle. <br> "Going from one thing to another, can't stay static." <br> I said, "I'm ripping that off, I'm borrowing it. <br> "I'm going to give you credit the first two times, <br> "but after that..." <br> (audience laughs) <br> It's a Dysonian moment. <br> "Yes, the transition hustle is critical." <br> (audience laughs) <br> The thing is, if you're open, you learn from everybody, <br> and when you see your students, and you see people <br> that you've had the good fortune of influencing, <br> like Nas said, then you learn from these people. <br> We give back by giving to others, who then can give <br> to others, and we keep that cycle going, so I'm proud <br> of the people that I've had that opportunity to influence. <br> - You know what? <br> It makes me think of something I said. <br> Someone asked me, "Yo, how do you write? <br> "What inspires you to write?" <br> I said, "Well, everybody I meet writes my material." <br> Everybody I meet. <br> People are singing songs to me and they don't know it. <br> So I'm listening while you're talking, <br> and I do the same thing. <br> I walk down the street, somebody says something <br> and it just registers, and I'm like, "That's a song." <br> You know what I mean? <br> It happens all the time. <br> - Yes sir. <br> So, next album, Transition Hustle Part One? <br> (audience laughs) <br> ♫ I'ma come and spit with you, get with you <br> Okay, I'm sorry. <br> (audience laughs) <br> - Okay, we now need to open-- - He's definitely a emcee. <br> (Michael laughs) - Yes he is, he is! <br> - He's definitely a emcee. <br> - He's a emcee in a preacher's body. <br> - Yes. <br> - [Michael] Thank you, sir. <br> Appreciate that. <br> - We need to open this up now. <br> Again, there are people from Georgetown Programming <br> who have mics, you need to raise your hand. <br> Please, let me just say this. <br> We would like to try to get as many questions in <br> as possible, so please make sure <br> you have a question; (audience titters) <br> I'm serious, please make sure you have a question, <br> and then they'll bring the mic. <br> You don't have to stand up, just keep your hand up, <br> and they'll bring the mic to you. <br> They'll bring the mic to you <br> so that you can ask your question. <br> We have one in the back, I believe. <br> Shh. <br> - Alright, my name is Lusiyo. <br> Seventh grade. <br> - [James] Good evening, sir. <br> (audience applauds) <br> - I met Dr. Dyson one time through my granddad Dick Gregory, <br> so I'm just happy to see you again. <br> - Wow. - Alright. <br> - [James] Big ups to your grandfather as well. <br> - [Michael] Yeah, one of the great ones. <br> - Yeah, he's my hero. <br> Your granddad. <br> - So, one of my questions for Nas was, <br> how has the change the hip-hop affected <br> how you look at hip-hop, from the lens of being <br> one of the greatest in the, not the beginning, <br> but early stages. <br> (audience laughs) <br> - Yes sir. <br> Yes sir; good, good question. <br> That was kinda deep. <br> (audience laughs) <br> - Dick Gregory, sir, Dick Gregory. <br> That's Dick Gregory. - "Through the lens." <br> - Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. <br> If you take care of yourself, <br> you might wind up sticking around for a few years. <br> And that's what happened to me. <br> I just knew when not to go to certain places, <br> and I was lucky. <br> That's what happened, I was just lucky. <br> And part of that luck was the old thing I had in me <br> where I didn't want to disappoint my moms <br> by getting arrested. <br> That stayed with me. <br> I feared my moms more than the cops. <br> (audience chuckles) <br> (audience applauds) <br> That stayed with me even as an adult, <br> and she's in Heaven now, but I'm still, "I'd better behave." <br> You know what I'm saying? <br> So really, that's what it was for me. <br> I thought, "Just stick around, <br> "and you might wind up somewhere cool <br> "if you just stay out of trouble." <br> And so far, so good. <br> Hope that kinda answered the deep question you had, brother. <br> - Oh, okay. <br> First of all, thank you so much for coming tonight. <br> I was just wondering, we all know that your father <br> is an accomplished jazz musician, <br> and you've collaborated with him on several occasions. <br> I was just wondering, in your development <br> as an emcee, how jazz as a genre, <br> and your father as a jazz musician, influenced you. <br> - You said what about jazz? <br> - Sorry. <br> How jazz as a genre, and your father being a jazz musician, <br> how that influenced you in your development as an emcee. <br> - I used to hate jazz. <br> (audience laughs) <br> I used to hate it. <br> Not hate it, I won't say hate it. <br> It wasn't my thing, when I was a kid. <br> But it had a cool thing about it that I did respect, <br> and it just felt like older people music, <br> so it kinda made me feel more mature, in a good way, <br> more mature than the rest of my friends, <br> 'cause their fathers wasn't jazz players or nothing, <br> so I had that advantage in the household, <br> the musical advantage. <br> It worked out real good for me, <br> because I got to look at his albums, <br> and break his albums, and mess up the album covers, <br> but I did look at the labels, the record label names, <br> the names of the artists, and it just started to seem <br> like this really heavy thing, that these guys <br> were playing instruments, and by playing instruments, <br> they were painting pictures without words, <br> and it was cool to listen to music without words. <br> 'Cause sometimes, with the words, they tell you <br> what to think, they tell you what your mood should be, <br> but without it, you just go into your own thing. <br> I started to appreciate it later. <br> and I then read a book on Miles Davis, <br> his autobiography is pretty crazy, and I started to find out <br> about John Coltrane. <br> But not only jazz, he let me hear Fela Kuti. <br> (audience applauds) <br> And the rhythms, those rhythms in his music, <br> and the oppression in Nigeria, and the freedom he demanded, <br> and his poetics was crazy to me, <br> so it helped me in a big way. <br> It helped me big time, yeah. <br> Hey. <br> - You tweeted recently, yes I'm that girl, <br> that feminism is the women's mafia, <br> and as someone who self-identifies as a feminist <br> and often has to justify her love of hip-hop, <br> I actually see a lot of messages within hip-hop <br> that resonate a lot with the feminist movement, <br> letting the haters hate, or turning pain into power, <br> and I was wondering if you could extrapolate <br> on what you meant by that, and specifically, <br> if that relates to maybe issues within mainstream feminism? <br> There's a lot of talk recently, for example, <br> about upper-class white-women's feminism. <br> Leaning in, or getting women into the corporate boardroom, <br> as opposed to talking about the fact <br> that 2/3 of minimum-wage jobs are held by women. <br> So, just wondering if you could extrapolate on that. <br> - Yeah. <br> I don't like extremists. <br> Not that feminists are extremists, <br> but when I say that's the women's mafia, <br> everybody needs an army. <br> Every organization, group, is gonna get grimy and bloody <br> at some point, and everybody needs a mafia, <br> and I heard there was a lot of people that wanted to know <br> what I meant by that, but it was simple hip-hop jargon. <br> When we say mafia, that's a good thing. <br> (audience laughs) <br> (audience applauds) <br> We have to know this. <br> When a hip-hop artist says mafia, <br> I've said it about myself, Biggie said Junior M.A.F.I.A., <br> so when we say it's the women's mafia, to me, <br> that's like, "Right on." <br> A lot of people didn't understand what I meant. <br> I was kinda saying everyone needs an army, <br> and I meant it in a positive way. <br> I'm sure there are feminists that I don't really agree with, <br> 'cause it seems like there's layers that go... <br> In anything, there's Black nationalism that people have <br> points of views in that that I'm probably not with, <br> I'm sure I'm not with. <br> But women who don't get a fair share, <br> in corporate world and in many worlds, <br> and the court system, with rape alone, <br> how much you have to go through <br> to prove that you actually were raped, is a shame. <br> (audience applauds) <br> So, I don't like mistreatment of women. <br> I have a daughter, and if you guys gotta squad up, <br> squad up. (audience laughs) <br> (audience cheers and applauds) <br> - I just wanna say real quick, I appreciate you <br> clearing that up, but I also just wanna add to that <br> that you tweeted that out within days <br> of having sat down with and met Angela Davis, <br> who is legitimately a don in the feminist movement. <br> - Right. <br> I love Angela Davis. <br> Angela Davis is one of the reasons we're here <br> to have a voice, that you're here. <br> She's my hero. <br> She's one of my heroes. <br> I wasn't even thinking about her. <br> I was having a conversation with a bunch of cool people. <br> We were drinking some good wine, and I said, <br> (audience laughs) <br> hold up! <br> I tweeted first, "Just because a bottle <br> "is the most expensive bottle doesn't mean it's the best." <br> Because we had an expensive bottle of wine <br> that taste like shit. <br> (audience laughs) <br> So I really tweeted it, it was literal. <br> The next thing we got into was a whole bunch of stuff <br> and feminism was one. <br> So I kinda thought, "Damn, you guys need guns." <br> You guys need a crew, like you gotta really get the things <br> that you want out here, and make people recognize. <br> So feminism, you guys have your own mafia, <br> that's how I meant it, and of course, the next morning, <br> it was like, "Yo!" <br> (audience chuckles) <br> It was like, "Yo!" <br> Yeah, it was crazy. <br> So, much respect to Angela Davis, I support her. <br> If she call me right now, I'll jump on a plane <br> and go wherever she's at, I support her a million percent. <br> - Beautiful. <br> Beautiful. <br> - [Audience Member] Is the mic on? <br> Hello? <br> Hey. <br> Alright, sorry. <br> How you doing, Mr. Jones? <br> - [Nas] Hey. <br> How you doing, sir? (audience chuckles) <br> - That's Mississippi. <br> - [Audience Member] Many people don't know... <br> - He's up there. <br> Who are we going to, are we here or up there? <br> Balcony first. <br> Hold on for one second. <br> I love that t-shirt though, hold on. <br> - I don't know if you can hear; alright, here we go. <br> - It's very hard for us to see you guys, <br> 'cause the lights are shining in our faces, <br> so, sorry, but go ahead. <br> - Alright. <br> Nas, from all the wisdom and the knowledge <br> that you've gained over your career, <br> what's something you would tell Ether Nas, <br> or Illmatic Nas, what's some advice you would give him? <br> Looking back, what's some advice you would give <br> your younger self, just about life and career aspirations? <br> - It's so crazy to hear you say I have knowledge and wisdom. <br> (audience laughs) <br> I know some people who would beg to differ, man. <br> It's amazing. <br> Thanks, man. <br> Wow. <br> That's like... <br> No. <br> You know, I'd say... <br> What would I tell the old guy? <br> The young guy? <br> My young guy? <br> I would say stay on course. <br> Don't worry about nothing. <br> We worry about small things, and when you do that, <br> they turn to big things. <br> So just stay focused, keep going straight forward, <br> and you're good; it's not that hard. <br> You create your own problems. <br> We are attached to illusions. <br> You might be attached to something <br> that you're really not attached to but you think you are, <br> something that happened five years ago <br> that you're still attached to, and it's not even there, <br> but only to you. <br> So, just go forward. <br> Keep going, have a good time, laugh, smile, <br> laugh as much as you can, and focus and go forward. <br> - That's wisdom. <br> (audience applauds) <br> I think we... <br> Did you lose the mic over here, young blood? <br> Ah, okay. <br> - [Audience Member] How you doing? <br> - No no, he was next though, he was next. <br> He was next right here. (audience speaks all at once) <br> He was next. <br> He was next. <br> - Everyone... <br> - Stop, wait, hold up. <br> My man is next. <br> It's alright. <br> - Come on. <br> We gon' try to get through as many questions as possible. <br> - Alright, so many people don't know that your father <br> is from Natchez, Mississippi, and I'm myself, <br> I'm from Yazoo City, Mississippi. <br> So, first of all, you're a true hero to me, <br> and even more so, a hero to my father, <br> who was 20 when the bible came out, <br> (audience chuckles) <br> and as J. Cole has said, when the bible came out, <br> and I won't see my father 'til Christmas, <br> and it would mean a lot if you would just sign Illmatic. <br> - [Nas] Of course. <br> I got you. <br> (audience applauds) <br> - I love that he brought the album. <br> - Yeah, yeah, yeah. <br> - Also, who called this the bible was J. Cole, <br> and where do you see J. Cole in 10 years? <br> (audience laughs) <br> - J. Cole in 10 years? <br> (sucks teeth) <br> - [Audience Member] He'll make Nas proud! <br> (Michael laughs) <br> - J. Cole is great now. <br> So to think 10 years is like, (blows air). <br> J. Cole is great now, and I think he's only gonna get <br> better and better. <br> I can only imagine. <br> He's someone who takes the art form really serious. <br> Every time I see him, he hits me up for stories. <br> "Yo, so what happened when," <br> and I love telling him the stories. <br> He's someone that's paying attention, <br> so he really cares about this thing. <br> He'll be at the top, for sure. <br> He'll be up way, way, way at the top, <br> he'll probably be number one. <br> But before 10 years, I think, he should be there. <br> - [Michael] Will you still be rapping in 10 years? <br> (audience laughs) <br> You gotta give a 55-year-old hope; <br> come on, say yes. <br> - You know what? I would. <br> You know what, 'cause a friend of mine had asked me that <br> when we were in our 20s. <br> He said, "You gon' still rap when you 30?" <br> (James and Michael chuckle) <br> And I was like, "Yeah, yeah, 30, yeah. <br> "30's good." <br> So I would, because I would love to come out <br> and you guys be there in the audience, and we all older, <br> and we remember times like this, <br> (audience laughing) <br> and I could put on a suit and walk a little slower, <br> (James and Michael laugh) <br> have my glass in my hand, a little cigar. <br> That's G shit right there. (James and Michael laugh) <br> (audience applauds) <br> So, yeah! <br> - Yes. Yes. - Yes. <br> - [James] Hilarious. <br> Are we back in the balcony? <br> - [Audience Member] I'ma try the second time. <br> - Yes. <br> - [Audience Member] I grew up with my dad, listening to NWA, <br> Pac, obviously you, and for me, hip-hop was always <br> about a rebellious nature, illuminating the American dream <br> and the flaws within it, but as hip-hop has become part <br> of the mainstream of all culture, <br> do you think it's lost its rebellious undertone, <br> has it lost its responsibility <br> to point out the flaws of the American dream? <br> Do you see that being what it is today? <br> - Yeah, for sure. <br> For sure. <br> Definitely. <br> Because the things that were around then are hitting now. <br> A lot of the things that were going on back then <br> when NWA and Pac was rapping, times changed, <br> but the problems are still here, so there's still a need <br> for people to address those situations. <br> But it's just not. <br> - One two. <br> Hey. <br> Nas, big big fan, man. <br> My kids grew up on you and everything. <br> - [Nas] Thank you. <br> - But one of the questions that I had to ask you was this. <br> The Lost Tapes. <br> One of my favorite albums, dude. <br> What was your mind state, in terms of, <br> those were recorded back when you was doing the Nastradamus <br> and all that. <br> Was there a reason why you didn't want <br> to put those songs out? <br> 'Cause those songs was deep, dude, and they was all banging, <br> all the way through, and I'm just curious, <br> is there a reason why you didn't want to put them out <br> during that time? <br> - Biggie had put out his double album, Life After Death, <br> and Pray For My Downfall, Mo' Money Mo' Problems, <br> What's Beef, Ten Crack Commandments, <br> it blew my mind, so I wanted to do a double album. <br> It was a status thing too, like could you do a double album <br> and charge people double? <br> (audience laughs) <br> 'Cause you're that important, right? <br> Oh, you're that dope that people would buy a double, <br> 'cause it was unheard of to do a double album in hip-hop, <br> and Biggie did it. <br> Too bad he didn't live, really, to see what would happen <br> with this great music. <br> So, I wanted to do it, and what happened is, <br> part of that album started to leak. <br> A song called Project Windows, <br> a couple of songs started to leak out-- <br> - [Michael] Poppa Was A Playa. <br> - Poppa Was A Playa, yes sir. <br> A lot of these songs were leaking out, <br> and I was like, once they leaked, they ruined the plan. <br> 'Cause I was still working on those songs, <br> and I was still trying to figure out <br> what my double album would be. <br> So, once it leaked, I scrapped it and just moved on, <br> but then I still had these songs. <br> And then I called Ron Isley come to the studio to sing <br> on Project Windows, and it just took on another form, <br> and then it's just like... <br> Wait. <br> Yeah, Project Windows. <br> (audience chuckles) <br> I don't know if Project Windows is on the Lost Tapes. <br> - [Audience Member] No. <br> - It's not. <br> I put it on Nastradamus. <br> So, those songs... <br> (audience laughs) <br> - It's a lot of records. <br> It's a big repertoire, bruh. <br> (audience member speaks away from mic) <br> - You're right, my man. <br> (audience laughs) <br> You right, you right. <br> Some of it landed on Nastradamus, <br> some of it-- - Doo Rags. <br> - Doo Rags, all that stuff. <br> - [Michael] Purple. <br> - Purple, yeah yeah, that's all Lost Tapes. <br> - That's one of the illest ever. <br> - I needed a place to put it out. <br> - So there will be a Lost Tapes 2. <br> (Michael sings melody) (audience applauds) <br> - [Audience Member] Hi. <br> Can y'all hear me? <br> Oh, hi. <br> Okay. <br> I know that we're discussing the future of hip-hop <br> and you were talking about hip-hop in academia <br> and in the classroom, and I wanted to know <br> what your opinion is. <br> We kinda touched on this, but your opinion on trap music, <br> and would you teach a class about Migos and Chief Keef <br> and French Montana, or do you think it doesn't have a place? <br> - [Michael] You're talking to me? <br> - Yeah. <br> - [Michael] Oh, you're talking to me. <br> - I want Nas's opinion too, yeah. <br> - Let me get back in it. <br> - That's a Dyson question. <br> (Michael laughs) <br> Although, not to say that Nas couldn't teach a class. <br> - You know what? <br> How 'bout me and Nas teaching the class together, <br> would y'all dig that? <br> (audience cheers and applauds) <br> - [Nas] Dope. <br> - That's so funny, because Colleen passed along a message <br> from the Tribune today, calling me to ask me <br> about Chief Keef. <br> Look, I'm a fan of a lot of people <br> that people think I shouldn't be a fan of. <br> Unapologetically. <br> So, I'm a Rick Ross fan. <br> (audience murmurs) <br> I'm sorry. <br> (James chuckles) <br> ♫ From my nigga Diddy's view <br> Okay. <br> So, trap music, to me, as all forms of indiginous, <br> local, regional music, have to be paid attention to. <br> For me, one of the greatest slept-on artists <br> of all time is Scarface. <br> (audience cheers and applauds) <br> - [James] Trap music before trap music. <br> - Trap music before trap music. <br> The kind of psychological drama, the existential crisis, <br> and the very beats themselves reflect the kind, <br> I mean, listen to it, trap music. <br> What does that even mean? <br> Think about 2Pac in terms of being, "I'm trapped," <br> on his first album. <br> Think about the logistics, the mechanics, <br> the kind of interesting lyrical derivations <br> from the beats themselves. <br> So yeah, for me, I think about trap music, <br> I think about Southern culture, <br> I think about regional culture. <br> I think that hip-hop is so deep and profound, <br> and as Nas so brilliantly said, full of words. <br> Think about that. <br> The wording of the world. <br> "In the beginning, there was the word." <br> So that logos is the seminal creative force <br> that articulates a universe. <br> So when I think about the power and the beauty <br> of what happens there, every form of music itself <br> has produced some interesting stuff. <br> And some trash. <br> But look, every form of music has some trash. <br> There's some trashy opera. <br> (James chuckles) <br> It is! <br> It's basically gangsta rap in Italian. <br> (audience laughs) <br> Alright. <br> So the point is that yes, I would definitely <br> pay attention to and teach classes on a wide variety <br> of things because of the density of literacy <br> that characterizes rap at its best, <br> and hip-hop culture at its best. <br> So yes, I think that there are classes <br> that need to be taught on that, on Southern culture <br> and its relationship to hip-hop music, <br> on the West Coast and what it's done; <br> think about Ralph Waldo Emerson said, <br> that geography is destiny. <br> Now, whether you ultimately buy that or not, <br> the geographic underpinnings of particular aesthetic forms <br> need to be paid strict attention to. <br> So yeah, I think all of that stuff is grist for the mill <br> and legitimate for those who can link them, <br> that kind of music, to broader issues in culture, <br> and to broader themes in American society. <br> - And I want to just add; that was beautifully put. <br> We need trap music, because Chief Keef is telling us <br> what's up in Chicago. <br> Like I was saying earlier. <br> We could ignore it all we want, hip-hop is always gon' be <br> the voice, and Chief Keef is an example, <br> he's a living example of the outcry that's happening <br> in Chicago, like, "We need help in Chicago." <br> - [James] Yes. <br> (audience members applaud) - And he's saying, <br> "Don't sweep it under the rug, CNN." <br> If you do, hip-hop, through Chief Keef, <br> is screaming at you that we need help here. <br> - [Audience Member] Yes sir! <br> - And, the French president is learning gangsta rap <br> for his speech skills right now, this is in the press. <br> He's being taught by a specialist in gangsta rap <br> how to boost up his speeches. <br> So this is really a crazy thing that's happening right now <br> through gangsta rap, where the French president needs <br> to be heard more, so he wants to know how to do gangsta rap. <br> (audience chuckles) <br> - [Michael] Snoop Dogg on us. <br> - This is real. <br> - That's beautiful. <br> ♫ Falling back on that ass, with a hellafied... <br> - [Audience Member] Is this mic on? <br> Oh, here we go. <br> Excuse me Mr. Jones, I'm Marcus, from Oakland, California. <br> Shout out H13. <br> I just wanted to ask you about Ether, <br> because Ether is the best diss track of all time, <br> and I just... (audience members applaud) <br> Yeah, give it up for the man, <br> give it up for the man. (audience applauds) <br> So, I just want to know about your emotion, <br> both when you were writing that, <br> and then as you look back on it now. <br> (audience laughs) <br> - Wow. <br> That's the nature of rap. <br> There's competition, rap is competitive. <br> Or the nature of it, it used to be <br> really, really competitive. <br> Emcees battling, and it was just a battle <br> with one of the greatest lyricists <br> who ever graced this planet, and I think <br> you probably reacted to it because that was the battle of... <br> For me, I kinda missed the Busy Bee versus Kool Moe Dee, <br> I was a little young, but I heard about it, <br> I heard about that battle. <br> I lived through MC Shan and KRS-One. <br> So the fact that I would be <br> in probably the next great battle of rap, <br> I didn't know that would happen. <br> It just shows you, it's just like you take it serious <br> as an art; I take it serious as an art, <br> so that's the way I approached the song. <br> Taking hip-hop serious in a battle <br> is what you're supposed to do, so that's what I did. <br> - [Audience Member] Peace. <br> Yeah, yeah. <br> Peace, god. <br> - Peace. <br> - First of all, thank you for the inspiration <br> that you've been to all the DC emcees, <br> I'm repping Southeast, but my question to you is, <br> back in '09, you made a collaboration album <br> with one of my favorite reggae artists, Damian Marley. <br> Distant Relatives. (audience cheers and applauds) <br> And so, that album, for me, showed me the power <br> of Black nationalism and spiritual unification as a people. <br> I was watching this interview with Kendrick Lamar, <br> and he said that he wanted you on his tracks <br> Sing For Me, Dying Of Thirst, and he couldn't contact you, <br> but my question would be, there's so many artists out here <br> with lyrical abilities, like Joey Badass and Kendrick, <br> and I wanna know if there's anybody in the rap game <br> right now that you see yourself collaborating with, <br> and if so, can it please be on some Garveyite stuff? <br> - Wow. <br> (Michael laughs) Okay. <br> I'm a fan of Garvey, too. - Up, ye mighty race. <br> - Yeah, yeah, fan of Garvey. <br> That's different. <br> To collaborate on that subject matter. <br> It all depends on who I'm collaborating with <br> and if they have the same love for him that I might have, <br> or maybe they might have a different idea. <br> I would really like to work with, <br> well... <br> I like everybody you named. <br> A collaboration, for me, though, <br> would probably be Andre 3000. <br> (audience cheers and applauds) <br> - [Michael] That's one of the coldest. <br> - [James] Yeah, he's one of the coldest. <br> - Okay, we only have time for two more questions, I'm sorry. <br> Two more questions. <br> (audience members shouting) <br> Hold on. <br> - Wait a minute, who's saying we gotta go? <br> - Colleen is. <br> - Where is she? <br> - Listen, folks. <br> You're gonna talk up the time that we have <br> to get a couple more questions. <br> - Where's Colleen? <br> - Colleen is right here. <br> - Do we have to leave? <br> - [James] That's what she's saying. <br> - [Audience Member] Can I say something <br> without a mic, please? <br> - [James] Hold on, hold on. <br> Where's Miss Colleen, though? <br> - Where's Miss Colleen? <br> (audience members talking away from mic) <br> - Everyone, please, please. <br> - [Audience Member] Hi Nas, thank you for coming. <br> - [Nas] Thank you. <br> - My question is... <br> I'm sorry. <br> My question is, what's next for you? <br> Hold on, I'm sorry. <br> We all know you're one of the greatest emcees of all time, <br> but outside of music, what feeds you? <br> What are your interests, or what do you do outside of music <br> that keeps you going? <br> - Jamaican food. <br> (audience laughs) <br> - [Michael] What'd he say? <br> - [James] Jamaican food. <br> - [Michael] Oh, we had some great food today. <br> - We just had some good food. (Michael laughs) <br> - [Michael] It was righteous. <br> - What feeds me? <br> My son, he's hilarious. <br> He's four. <br> Just talked to him on the FaceTime. <br> With his shades on. <br> (Michael laughs) <br> What else? <br> What feeds me? <br> Man. <br> Movies kinda talk to me; <br> books, I just read something by James Baldwin <br> that really blew me away. <br> Original thinkers. <br> People with new ways of thinking <br> and offering different things, that inspires me. <br> I'm working on some TV stuff right now, <br> producing some stuff, hopefully. <br> - [Audience Member] How's the startups? <br> - Technology startups, I've now got into <br> investing into technology. <br> I spend a lot of time in Silicon Valley now, <br> and I'm learning about how to get more kids <br> from where I'm from into computer programming, <br> and into investing, I wanna teach them <br> how to do what I'm doing. <br> I'm invested in over 40 companies, various different things <br> that interest me. <br> 'Cause I believe in these startup companies, <br> I believe that they are writing the future for us. <br> So yeah, there's different little things I'm into. <br> It's the first time I've probably really spoke <br> in front of people about that thing. <br> Thank you for that. <br> But that's something I wanna talk about more. <br> (audience member speaks away from mic) <br> What do you wanna...? <br> - One thing before we get to these last couple questions, <br> is there any way we can get another balcony question <br> and I don't think we have any questions up front. <br> (audience members speaking away from mic) <br> - Let me just say this before we do. <br> Nas is gonna, he's already said he's gonna come back. <br> So I know you gonna feel disappointed that you didn't get <br> a chance to talk to him tonight, <br> but when his schedule permits it, <br> we'll get a even bigger venue, fill it again, <br> and then we'll get a chance to chat with him then, alright? <br> (audience member speaks away from mic) <br> - [Nas] Hi. <br> What's up? <br> - Right up here. <br> Up here in the balcony, right in front of you. <br> - [Michael] We got you. <br> - Right in front of you. <br> - [Michael] It's blinding us baby, go on. <br> - Thank you. <br> My name is Rhonda Humphries, I'm a highly effective educator <br> in the District of Columbia public school system <br> and an emerging leader. <br> (audience applauds) <br> Thank you. <br> Earlier on in the conversation, you were talking <br> about penetrating the minds of young youths, <br> and everyday I go inside and I try and penetrate the minds <br> of 10-, 11-, 12-, 13-year-olds. <br> What advice do you have to keep us motivated, <br> 'cause we have a lot of educators in this building <br> who wanna go back and implement that. <br> For Dr. Dyson, and also for you, Nas. <br> - Right. <br> Man. <br> For me, it was different. <br> The way I kinda educated myself, if you will, <br> I started to get into the history of the country. <br> I wanted to know why things were the way they were, <br> and you might wanna start with asking them, <br> "Do you know how you got here? <br> "How did your grandparents get here? <br> "Are you cool with your grandparents? <br> "Do you respect them? <br> "Do you know what they went through to get you here? <br> "Do you know what your grandparents' grandparents <br> "went through to get you here? <br> "You're here for a reason. <br> "You made it through something. <br> "You made it through one of the worst storms <br> "in human history, and you're here because they said, <br> "'I'm not giving up,' 'cause those grandparents <br> "and great-grandparents said, 'We gotta make it, <br> "'and we gotta feed our kids,' who became your grandparents, <br> "and your grandparents said, 'I'm gonna feed these kids,' <br> "who became your parents. <br> "So, what do you owe back to that legacy? <br> "What do you owe back, and what do you care, even, <br> "about that legacy, and do you know who you are? <br> "Let's start there, young man or young lady. <br> "Do you know who you are and where you come from? <br> "And what your job is now, because we don't have <br> "any more time. <br> "So we have to start now with you, young man, <br> "you, young lady. <br> "I'm not letting you out of my sight until I see a change. <br> "Period." <br> (audience applauds) <br> - Yeah, that's... <br> - Do we have a startup company over here? <br> What is that? <br> (audience member speaks away from mic) <br> (audience members applaud) <br> Ayo, Gabe, let's see what he's talking about after this. <br> (audience cheers and applauds) <br> (Michael chuckles) <br> - [Michael] Yeah, I'm not mad. <br> Oh my God. (audience applauds) <br> Alright. <br> So I would say, as an educator, besides the wonderful <br> and really foundational questions that Nas talked about, <br> sometimes teachers get burned out, <br> and they get frustrated because the fight is so big, <br> you're on the front lines, too. <br> So I would say, first of all, always understand <br> you should take what you do with deadly seriousness, <br> but you should never take yourself too seriously. <br> - [Nas] Aw, man. <br> I always say. (audience applauds) <br> Yes. <br> - So, the struggle is real, <br> the war you're raging is concrete, <br> and you have to really use everything at your disposal <br> to change young people, but you can't think <br> you're the only person left to do it. <br> Because if that's the case, you burn yourself out, <br> you exaggerate the obstacle, and devalue your ability <br> to challenge it. <br> So, that's what I mean by taking what you do <br> with deadly seriousness, but yourself not so much. <br> Go to movies, listen to music, <br> eat Jamaican food, have fun, FaceTime with your babies. <br> So the point is that you have to feed <br> and regenerate your soul in order to face <br> another day's battle. <br> That's number one in terms of self-maintenance. <br> Gandhi said, "If I don't take care of myself, <br> "I can't help you." <br> And if Gandhi said that, and Gandhi transformed the world, <br> we should pay attention; that's number one. <br> Number two, I think, teach your kids stuff that excites you. <br> If it ain't exciting you, it ain't gon' excite them. <br> 'Cause if you ain't excited about it, <br> they not gon' be excited to hear it. <br> So you've got to find ways in which you challenge yourself <br> to think, as Nas said in terms of self-teaching, <br> what we call autodidacticism, in technical terms. <br> When I was out in LA, I remember, I would go <br> to Eso Won Bookstore, they said, "Nas just left here <br> "five minutes ago with a bag full of books, <br> "filled up his car." <br> That was constant, constant story. <br> So the thing is, when you're constantly feeding your mind, <br> when you're constantly reading and replenishing the source, <br> then you get a sense of the largeness <br> of the world you occupy, and some of the resources you have <br> at your disposal. <br> So I think it's very critical for you to be on target <br> in terms of what you have at your disposal. <br> And then thirdly, I think that you always got to remember. <br> My pastor used to tell me, "We have already come through <br> "what we have come to." <br> That is to say, things used to be a lot worse <br> than they are now. <br> So before we start bellyaching and kvetching <br> about the problems we confront now, <br> let's remember that there were people <br> that faced enormous odds, and were able to overcome. <br> Howard Thurman, the great mystic, said this: <br> "Never reduce your dreams to the level of the event <br> "which is your immediate experience." <br> The thing you're confronting now must not exhaust <br> the palette of colors from which you draw <br> in order to paint your picture on the canvas of history. <br> Never reduce your dreams to what you're facing now, <br> because he said our slave foreparents said, <br> "This will not last always." <br> So you've got to see beyond that. <br> Never get caught, never become a prisoner of the moment, <br> but become a prisoner of hope and vision. <br> And then finally, I think, <br> always hang around young people, too. <br> The beautiful thing I love about teaching undergraduates, <br> and many of my undergraduates, Shannon and my brother <br> from Mississippi and other people who were here, <br> Mashonna Garcey is here as a graduate student, <br> one of the things I love about teaching young people <br> is that I learn so much. <br> If you wanna learn something, teach it. <br> If you wanna learn something, teach it. <br> If you wanna learn yourself, be a teacher. <br> And so for me, other people say, "Well, you can't do <br> "what you wanna do, therefore you teach." <br> That's not true. <br> Teaching is a first-order business of engaging <br> in the process of exposing new minds and fresh souls <br> to the potential to expand, and if you take that seriously, <br> what you do is just as important as a nuclear physicist, <br> as a rapper, as a singer, as a dancer, <br> and any other entertainer on this world. <br> You are doing something more important than anything. <br> You are giving new minds fresh opportunity <br> to live inside their own dreams, <br> and if you do that correctly, you can change the world. <br> (audience applauds) <br> - Do they know about the book you wrote about me? <br> Do they know? <br> You know this man wrote a book called Born To Use Mics? <br> Anybody know it's his? - It's here, isn't it? <br> - [Michael] It should be here. <br> Is Born To Use Mics here? <br> - [James] You can buy it right outside. <br> - Oh, cool. <br> That book is about me, man. <br> (James and Michael laugh) <br> It's the only book ever written about me, man. <br> So this is my man right here, because it wasn't just fluff, <br> it wasn't just, you know what I mean? <br> I never finished the book, I was just telling him, <br> because it's so heavy that I was learning about myself <br> reading the man's book. <br> I had to put it down, 'cause I couldn't even handle me. <br> (audience laughs) <br> I couldn't even handle the way he broke down what I, <br> I couldn't even deal with it. <br> I didn't know you have it here, <br> I need a new one. <br> - Oh, my man. <br> Will we sign a couple of them before we leave, you think? <br> - Anything for you, man. <br> Anything. <br> - We're gonna sign some books here. <br> - I would like to thank Georgetown University, <br> President DeGeoia-- (audience applauds) <br> - [Michael] President DeGeoia. <br> - President DeGeoia. - President DeGeoia. <br> - I wanna thank the Georgetown Programming Board <br> that helped to organize this and ran the mics. <br> I want to thank 9th Wonder. <br> (audience cheers and applauds) <br> - [Michael] Can you spin some more music? <br> - And 9th, will you spin a little bit? <br> Also, listen. <br> I think we would be remiss if we didn't thank <br> the Kennedy Center for helping us <br> to organize this place together, <br> and last but not least, I would like to thank <br> Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and Nasir Jones. <br> (audience cheers and applauds) <br> - Thanks, man. <br> Thanks. <br>   

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