Dead Prez’ Dismisses Ghostwriting for Nas: “That Didn’t Happen”

When news surfaced this week that Nas had reportedly used rebel conscious duo dead prez and fabled lyricist Jay Electronica as ghostwriters for his politically-charged 2008 album Untitled (a.k.a. Nigger), it was like the world had imploded. How could arguably hip-hop’s most celebrated lyricist be exposed as a mere puppet. Indeed, veteran journalist and Jay-Z scribe dream hampton and Frank William Miller Junior of the Rappers I Know blog co-signed the chatter, with Hampton even claiming to hear actual reference tracks. Since then, both Jay and of dead prez have vehemently refuted such talk. But there’s more to the story.

In an exclusive interview, VIBE caught up with to discuss his and partner M1’s role in the making of Untitled. It’s an illuminating interview that not only captures Nas as a fearless artist, but also underlines hip-hop’s at times muddied view of what constitutes as a producer. For stic, the message is clear. “We were the only three in the studio,” he says of dead prez’ experience with recording with Nas. “So it’s kind of like, well, who are all the people that are saying how the record was created? They wasn’t even there.” Read on.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)

VIBE: You dismissed all the talk about dead prez ghostwriting for Nas on your Facebook page. Having produced and contributed to the chorus for “Sly Fox,” what did you make of dream hampton’s comment that you did ghostwriting for Nas?

Stic Man: I don’t know. At the end of the day, I just feel like the people who are saying different things about the process of how that record was created I’m wondering, where were you at? To be totally honest, me and M1 went to Cali at the request of Nas. And we would be in the studio together working on stuff with nobody else there except Nas, who would come in and leave. I think people are making assumptions because of the content of the record. It’s gone from the collaboration that we did with Nas, which involved producing, idea exchanging and writing hooks, which is one thing, to us being ghostwriters.

As a producer can you talk about how you approached your collaboration with Nas?

To me, ghostwriting, as far as I know, is hiring somebody to write words for you to actually say. That didn’t happen. The way we got hired for Nas’ project wasn’t clear up front. M1 was in L.A. before I came to L.A. and he was like, “Nas wants to bring you out here to work on this project.” I remembered thinking we were just going to do a song together. But I later found out we were there to work in general: production, writing and ideas to help develop some of the songs on the album. So of course I’m thinking, “It’s called the Nigger album so that means you want dead prez type songs together, right?” But it was revealed to me that Nas wasn’t looking for that. He didn’t want us to rap. He wanted help with beats and concepts. And that surprised me because I’m thinking, “You want beats??? Of all the people to make beats for, you want us to make beats?” I was like, “Wow.”

So this wasn’t the typical guest spot?
No. To me we were there to make whatever contribution we wanted to make. So I was like, “Shit…I’m playing beats, I’m coming up with some song ideas…I’m going to do whatever.” And this is Nas, so I’m going to give my best and give my all. Me and M started making dead prez songs in some of those sessions because there wasn’t a clear direction of what Nas wanted [laughs]. But later on Nas would come in and say, “I know I want to do something that would get at FOX News.” And he would tell us, “Just play me some shit…what ya’ll got?” We are talking about way beyond “Sly Fox.” There was a moment he even expressed interest in signing dead prez to his company. My impression was we were forming a team. That’s how Nas presented it. But as far as the rumors, people are off-base. They are all based on assumptions because of the content that we are more [associated] with than what Nas does.

Can you talk about a specific instance of how a Nas/dead prez song came together?

Even some of the songs we gave input on, in terms of hooks and phrases, it was Nas’ vision in terms of knowing what he wanted. He’s the one that came up with the concept for FOX News. I would have said, “Fuck FOX News…let’s do a song about something else.” [laughs] But this was a Nas project, so that was the box we were put in terms of how he wanted us to input. He wrote his verses. We just brainstormed about different aspects of FOX News (“Sly Fox”). I work 24/7—so as soon as I knew that, I started writing hooks just to present an idea. Because that’s what a producer does.

Do you think the concept of producing in hip-hop equals—make a beat and give it to a rapper to rap over?
Yeah. But when I produce I compare it to producing a film…that was my role on Untitled. That’s what I took away from the tracks that I worked on. But Nas was the director. It was his vision on everything. My job was simple: can you help make this happen whether it was music or concepts. The only thing is they didn’t want [the standard] dead prez/Nas collaboration. They didn’t want to have me and M on the record with Nas. We were there as producers and collaborators.

So there was no period in time when Nas asked you to write a verse for him?
No. Take “We’re Not Alone.” That was a beat and hook that I already had for dead prez’ Information Age album. But because it was Nas we just felt, “Hey, man…let’s just give our best.” He happened to like “We’re Not Alone” and he wrote verses from his own point of view of what that song was about. My view of “We’re Not Alone” was about our connection to the environment and each other. But Nas’ take on the song was different—he was talking about aliens…he took it there. And that’s why I say I was more of a producer than a director because I would have taken that song to a different place.

In the end, what has this whole Nas “ghostwriting” talk taught you?
People don’t understand what [traditional] producing is. I’m kind of still like, “Wow.” I’m trying to understand what’s the big deal and where it’s coming from. It’s weird. I’m like, “Hmmm…what’s going on here?”

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Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ Is Expected To Make $64 Million Opening Weekend

Thanks to Us, Jordan Peele has another blockbuster on his hands. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the highly-anticipated horror flick starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, is expected to have a $64 million opening weekend at the domestic box office.

Peele’s sophomore horror film earned an impressive $7.4 million on Thursday (March 21) night previews, and is forecasted to take in about $27 million from Friday sales. The film is also on pace to knock Captain Marvel out of the No. 1 spot at the box office.

Once final numbers are tallied, Us will likely snatch the third-best opening weekend record for an R-rated horror film behind It, which brought in a whopping $123.4 million, followed by Halloween’s $76.2 million opening weekend last year.

Aside from rave reviews and a genius promo run that included simultaneous screenings in major media markets, Us earned a 95 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film, set in the mid-1980s centers around a family of four who set off on a vacation that finds them confronting some familiar faces.

Peele recently spoke to VIBE about casting Duke (our April 2019 cover star) in the role of patriarch, Gabe Wilson. “I have to have somebody voice what the audience was saying,” he said. “In the case of Get Out, it’s Rod, like, ‘How have you not left yet?’ [In Us], Winston is largely that voice. There’s one moment where Lupita [Nyong’o] takes a step into the unknown, where black people [will think], ‘I don’t know.’ But to have Winston say, ‘Aaaand she left. Your mother just walked out of the car.’ That’s all we need.”

Duke also opened up about the intricacies of his character. “His function isn’t to see through the veil. His function is to tell the absolute truth how he sees it,” explained the 32-year-old actor. “He’s sometimes there to say the things that other people don’t want to say, but he’s also there to make fun of things to keep it from not getting too heavy, even though it’s real. That was my job. [Peele] respected that. I like to lean into functions. If I’m going to be your antagonist, I’m gonna really push you. If I’m gonna be your clown, funny guy, I’m gonna do that.”

Click here to read VIBE’s April 2019 cover story.

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Cardi B Explains Why She Wants To Trademark “Okurrr”

Cardi B hopes to secure as many “bags” as possible. In response to backlash and burning questions surrounding her decision to file to trademark “okurrr,” the 26-year-old rapper took to social media Friday (March 22) to defend her latest money move.

Since people tend to ask Bardi to use what has become her signature catch phrase, she figured that it was time to cash in. “You think I ain’t gonna’ profit off this sh*t? B*tch white folks do it all the motherf**king time,” she said. “So you gon’ be mad at me ‘cuz I want to get some motherf**king money?

“While I’m still hear I’ma secure all the fucking bags,” Cardi continued before adding that there are a “lot of ways to get rich” in 2019.

The Bronx native caught heat for wanting to trademark the word because she wasn’t the first to say “okurrr.” Cardi already revealed that she started using it after she heard Khloe Kardashian saying it, but the word was originally popularized in drag culture -- most notably by Rupaul’s Drage Race contestant Laganja Estranja, in 2014.

However, Rupaul attributed the word to Broadway actress, Laura Bell Bundy, who used it in YouTube skits dating back to 2010. In the skits, Bundy pretends to be a hairdresser named “Shocantelle Brown.”

Although Bundy caught criticism for her little character, which was deemed racist, she typically gets credit for bringing “okrrr” (different spelling) to the internet a full decade before Cardi made it mainstream.

No matter the origin, it looks like Cardi will be the only one profiting off of “okurrr.”


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Kanye West, EMI Working Towards Private Settlement

Kanye West and EMI could be close to settling their legal drama. Each party filed documents requesting a stay of the case to “explore the potential for a resolution,” The Blast reports.

West sued EMI in an effort to “gain freedom” from his contract, and to own his publishing. In the lawsuit, ‘Ye argued that his contract ended in 2010 under California law, which bars entertainers from being tethered to an agreement for more than seven years. The multi-Grammy winner, who signed the deal back in 2003, also accused the company of slavery because the contract doesn’t allow him to retire.

“Even if the contract were not lopsided in EMI’s favor (it is), even if its terms valued Mr. West’s artistic contributions in line with the spectacular success he has achieved for EMI (they do not), and even if EMI had not underpaid Mr. West what it owes him (EMI has), he would be entitled to be set free from its bonds,” the lawsuit reads.

EMI hit back with a countersuit filed in New York, instead of California. The suit pointed out that the 41-year-old rapper signed multiple contract extensions, in addition to accepting millions in advances.

According to The Blast, West and EMI now feel that putting a hold on the legal proceedings will be beneficial to both sides “and the Court by enabling the parties to engage in meaningful discussions in an attempt to resolve this action without having to incur the burden and expense of litigation and motion practice.”

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