In an open letter delivered through Mass Appeal, Nasir Jones laid out a scathing indictment of the Trump administration and the political apparatus in general, on Tuesday, May 30. In prototypical Nas fashion, he brought readers through the ages, as 43-year-old Black American artist reflecting on the harsh realities imposed on his people by politicians in this country for as long as he could remember; who now embraces his power with the word as his means of arming those who came up like him, to fight the power.
"I don’t pay attention to politics at the moment. For what? There’s no reason. For me, it doesn’t make any sense. We all know a racist is in office," Nas writes in Action Speaks Louder Than Words: No time for lippin' in the so-called "Trump era." He opens up the piece suggesting that Black people learn to disassociate themselves with their identity if they want to be successful in America, even if it means surviving in a system that will set you up for prison or death in any case. He provided the case of a lynching that was ruled a suicide and cited O.J. as a prime example of how avoiding your Blackness will not save you from facing the ramifications of being Black in society. With Trump in office, Nas infers, this truth is as affirmed as it ever was by the highest reigns of power.
It is with this knowledge that Nas says that in this time he sees it as fit as any time in his life, to weaponize his word, which he's been doing for more than 25 years. Only now, he is prepared to shine a light on his music as something amounting to more than rhythmic tunes. "I talked about it all. I thought about most of the shit somebody could think of. I move through action. My music is action. What I’m giving you through my music is my actions," wrote Nas. From the crack epidemic to mass incarceration, he's seen it all, and now he tells it, for the youth to learn their way around it and to pick up where he leaves off with it.
Read the entire letter here:
The only way the black man gets a little piece in America is if he takes the O.J. stance: “I’m not black, I’m O.J.” When you ignore the shit that’s happening to people you can live in this fantasy, this American fantasy that you belong to… who? You ignore what’s happening, and that gives you peace. Because what’s going on is enough to make people insane.
Some guy lynched in a tree at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Georgia, and the cops rule it a suicide. Now, don’t get me wrong—suicides happen. There are blacks suffering from mental illness just like whites suffering from mental illness, except that whites who suffer from mental illness and have interactions with the cops, they end up living. Blacks, we get killed. So if you want to sit back and ignore all that, go the O.J. route. Just remember, even he got dealt with at the end of the day.
So where do I stand? I stand just as a man, doing what I have to do. Doing what I was born to do. No one can tell me who I am. No one can tell me where I can go and cannot go.
No one can tell me what’s right based on what works for their system, and have me believe it. Nah.
The Creator put us here to do our thing, so I do my thing. And I don’t pay attention to politics at the moment. For what? There’s no reason. For me, it doesn’t make any sense. We all know a racist is in office. People can talk their shit. Comedians can sound racist. People can go through their moments of that shit, but when you have the responsibility of being President and you carry on like that, you send a strong message to people outside of your group that they ain’t worth shit.
So why would I focus on that unless I’m in the political game? Unless I’m running for office I don’t have to pay attention to know that. If I ever vote again—when it’s time to vote again, and I feel like voting again—I don’t have to follow the news to know who I’m voting against. But then you wind up saying “Who’s the next motherfucker coming in, and how does that help?”
My way of addressing these issues is through my work. Whatever president may be in office doesn’t affect my work directly. The way he affects people is what affects me. I observe what’s going on and that goes into my creative process. The person himself, I’m not caught up with. I don’t even have time for Trump or Pence. I don’t give a fuck.
My focus is on what’s happening with real people in their everyday lives. How they behave, the decisions they make, and how that affects families. I grew up in a single-parent household, so I was affected by that life. But it didn’t stop me. So I speak to the everyday people. I speak to everybody. If the people are bothered by it, I speak on it. If the people are bothered and want change, I speak on that.
It’s the same way I felt as a youngster when Ronald Reagan was in office. My voice at that point didn’t fuckin’ matter to anybody. I didn’t care. You know what’s different today? I’m older, that means I’m more responsible. That means paying attention to what’s happening to my country.
But in reality, art is gonna thrive regardless. Whether it’s affected by who’s in office or not, art thrives. I live in that—I live in those walls, I live in those wires, I live in those pencils and papers, and that sound. I’m not caught up in politics. I saw Gerald Ford and his vice president Nelson Rockefeller. I saw Jimmy Carter. I saw Ronald Reagan, and I saw George Bush, Sr. I saw Bill Clinton, George Bush, Jr., and Barack Obama. I’m good.
I got my own things to say and I been saying how I feel on the mic. Sometimes people ask me “Why you didn’t say this?” or “Why you didn’t talk about that?” You got a million people out here with a million different views and I heard it all. I talked about it all. I thought about most of the shit somebody could think of. I move through action. My music is action. What I’m giving you through my music is my actions.
I might have a song I want to deliver and then do things around that song that represents that song. And that can represent people and change and help with the education of young people. I like those ideas. I like ideas about helping kids in the inner city want to learn. Helping them want to be more. I’m all about being what you can be, because you never know.
That position, the presidency, seems so far away. But Barack Obama changed the game so that now, whether you’re a woman or Latino or whoever, you can feel that running for office can be a real goal. Winning the election could be real for someone in this country, if that’s what you want. As a kid, at one point I thought I wanted to go to film school. It was gonna be films or music. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas—those were big names for me coming up.
I’m doing all the things I ever dreamed of, even though there was a Ronald Reagan, even though there was laws that ruthlessly destroyed the black community, put tons of us in prison on trumped-up charges, and put us in jail for a long time over crimes that other people get a smack on the hand for. It’s basically slavery. It’s like the top of Sacha Jenkins’ documentary, Burn, Motherfucker Burn! where this guy says “I see blacks as a superior pet.” You know what I’m talking about?
From when I was born, people have enforced laws targeting so-called minorities to keep us enslaved, in a way. I survived that.
I read Eastern philosophy as a teen, so I see balance in everything, I have a cooler head because of it. If I could do that then, now we can save many more, ya dig? Especially in this day and age with all the resources we have, all the information of the Information Age, And that’s whether Trump’s in office or not. So, I don’t got time for lippin’. I got time for actions. Anytime I’m speaking it’s action.