How Nas Inspired One VIBE Writer To Pursue A Ph.D In History

I’ll be his daddy if nobody's there to love it. Tell him his name Nasir/Tell him how he got here—Nas “Queens Get The Money"

On Monday (Sept. 12), I went on my first official visit to an Ivy League university as a prospective Ph.D candidate in the History Department at Columbia University. As I walked the halls of this prestigious campus to meet with my prospective dissertation advisor, I snapped a picture of the well-known office of the Institute for Research of African American Studies. It made me think about my homies -- dead or in jail -- and threw me into a zone where I couldn't help but reminisce about the origins of my plans to become a history professor.

Although my dreams of being a public intellectual were birthed in a jail cell, it was Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, A.K.A. Nas, that is responsible for planting the seeds into my brain to become a history professor.

I can’t recall how old I was the first time I heard Nas' music. I was that young. But I remember where I was. I was in our cramped living room, on the floor watching BET, in Windsor Terrace Projects in Columbus, Ohio. Rap City played the video for “One Love.” I wasn’t old enough to fully understand the efficacy of the lyrics. But the song’s visuals reminded me of the same projects where I was living. The guys in jail in the video reminded me of the older kids that I looked up to in my hood. The stoned-faced shorty -- who looked to be only a few years older than me -- that shot up the projects, reminded me of my homies Jerry, Twin and Fatcat. We were all in and out of Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center. And watching "One Love" was the first time that I personally connected to hip-hop. My spirit told me that Nas was something special.

A couple juvenile stints, group home stays, and school expulsions later, I saw the video to his Lauryn Hill-assisted “If I Ruled The Rule.” My connection to Nas grew. Here, he showed me how to think outside of my neighborhood. With "If I Ruled The World," this was the first time that I really learned to use my mind to travel outside of my projects and hope for a better life. He used his imagination to rap about freeing prisoners and sending them to Africa, making Coretta Scott-King mayor and getting fiends off crack. Bruh, to me, those were amazing thoughts. And, I lost my damn mind. I'd never thought like that nor was I was trained to think like that. We were just content with the way things were. 

School didn’t encourage me to use my imagination either. School didn’t relate to what I was dealing with in my community nor did school encourage me to learn about my history, my community or ancestors. But Nas did. Through his songs like “I Want to Talk To You,” “Sly Fox,” “Black Girl Lost,” “A Message To The Feds, We Sincerely the People,” "Doo Rags," among many others. Nas spit unruly, and disrespectful street-hop that made him Nasty Nas. However, his intellect and ideas about saving blacks, and blacks needing to wake up are what attracted me. He was one of us, yet he was looking for a way exit the dire socioeconomic and mental abyss that plagues the ghettos of America. With that, he pushed me to search for answers. 

Whether it was looking up the definition to “Affirmative Action,” or writing a descriptive essay from the POV of crack cocaine (I really did this) -- inspired by his song “I Gave You Power,” where he spoke from the perspective of a gun, Esco moved me to discuss, care and learn about issues that affected my community. This mostly came through books. 

When I first started buying books I selected them by asking myself: “Would Nas read this?” The first book that I ever bought: Marcus Garvey Life and Lessons: A Centennial Companion to the Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement; I bought it because it looked like a book that Nas would read. Now you have to understand; I had no blueprint or guidance on intellectual stuff. Nas fed me information about my history. So, during this time he was my intellectual god. He was the standard. The next book that I purchased: The God Tribe of Shabazz: The True History, I bought it because Nas named dropped it in “If I Ruled the World.” I read Behold A Pale Horse because he named-dropped William Cooper on his song, “Testify." The information that I gleaned from these books were just as informative, entertaining, and insightful as hip-hop. And these books related to what I was experiencing as a Black kid living in the ghetto. One book lead to another book, and I soon grew a passion for reading. This started with Nas. 

And as I maneuvered through life bumping my head doing stupid shit, lessons from Nas like not being afraid of change, always searching for the truth, perseverance and foresight stayed with me. And while I wanted to be like Nas, I couldn't rap. But I knew I loved books, hip-hop and Black folks. After maneuvering some pieces in my personal puzzle, sitting in a jail cell one day I decided that I was going to be the Nas of professors of African American History. Since that day, I haven’t deterred from that path, resulting in me winning several scholarships as well as fellowships.

As I left Columbia University, Nas’ “N.I.G.G.E.R” thumped in my headphones. In a trance, I replayed the good news that my prospective dissertation advisor just told me. Like a kid eager to show off his new toys, I sent out a couple texts and made a phone call to share what just happened here at Columbia.

So Nas breaths life back into the embryo/Let us make man in our image/I'm Huey P in Louis V at the eulogy throwing Molotovs for Emmett.

Walking across the campus that President Barack Obama attended, I wanted to shed a tear while thinking that I'm actually qualified to attend some of the best universities in the world to study Black History. I smiled harder thinking about my upcoming visits to Rutgers and Princeton universities. And just think, all of this started on the living room floor in the Windsor Terrace projects by watching Nas’ "One Love" video.

Happy B-Day, Nas. Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones. God's Son. Esco. Huey P in Louis V. Thug Poet. You've raised an illmatic intellectual. You really are God Body.

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As you wait for the fast-approaching release of his album, now due on May 3, watch the video for "Stop Snitchin" up top.

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Lil Uzi Vert Returns With "That's A Rack" Music Video: Watch

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A post shared by 16 (@liluzivert) on Apr 23, 2019 at 4:28pm PDT

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Beyoncé performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Field on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California.
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Homecoming: The 5 Best Moments Of Beyoncé’s Documentary

Once Beyoncé became the first African-American woman to headline in its nearly 20-year history, we knew Coachella would never the same. To mark the superstar’s historic moment, the 2018 music and arts festival was appropriately dubbed #Beychella and fans went into a frenzy on social media as her illustrious performance was live-streamed by thousands. (Remember when fans recreated her choreographed number to O.T. Genasis’ “Everybody Mad”?)

With a legion of dancers, singers and musicians adorned with gorgeous costumes showcasing custom-made crests, the singer’s whirlwind performance honored black Greek letter organizations, Egyptian queen Nefertiti, and paid homage to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Aside from the essence of black musical subgenres like Houston’s chopped and screwed and Washington D.C.’s go-go music, the entertainer performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as “The Black National Anthem,” and implemented a dancehall number, sampling the legendary Jamaican DJ and singer, Sister Nancy, to show off the versatility of black culture.

One year after #Beychella’s historic set, the insightful concert film, Homecoming, began streaming on Netflix and unveiled the rigorous months of planning that went into the iconic event. The 2-hour 17-minute documentary highlights Beyoncé’s enviable work ethic and dedication to her craft, proving why this performance will be cemented in popular culture forever. Here are the best moments from Beyoncé’s Homecoming documentary.

The Intentional Blackness

“Instead of me bringing out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella.”

Throughout the documentary, Beyoncé made it known that everything and everyone included in the creative process leading up to the annual festival was deliberately chosen. “I personally selected each dancer, every light, the material on the steps, the height of the pyramid, the shape of the pyramid,” says Beyoncé. “Every tiny detail had an intention.” When speaking on black people as a collective the entertainer notes, “The swag is limitless.” Perhaps the most beautiful moments in Homecoming are the shots that focus on the uniqueness of black hair and its versatility. What’s appreciated above all is the singer’s commitment to celebrating the various facets of blackness and detailing why black culture needs to be celebrated on a global scale.

Beyoncé’s Love And Respect For HBCUs

#Beychella — which spanned two consecutive weekends of Coachella’s annual festival — was inspired by elements of HBCU homecomings, so it was no surprise when the singer revealed she always wanted to attend one. “I grew up in Houston, Texas visiting Prairie View. We rehearsed at TSU [Texas Southern University] for many years in Third Ward, and I always dreamed of going to an HBCU. My college was Destiny's Child. My college was traveling around the world and life was my teacher.” Brief vignettes in the film showcased marching bands, drumlines and the majorettes from notable HBCUs that comprise of the black homecoming experience. In the concert flick, one of the dancers affectionately states, “Homecoming for an HBCU is the Super Bowl. It is the Coachella.” However, beyond the outfits that sport a direct resemblance to Greek organizations, Beyoncé communicated an important message that remains a focal point in the film: “There is something incredibly important about the HBCU experience that must be celebrated and protected.”

The Familiar Faces

Despite being joined by hundreds of dancers, musicians and singers on-stage, the entertainer was joined by some familiar faces to share the monumental moment with her. While making a minor appearance in the documentary, her husband and rapper/mogul Jay-Z came out to perform “Deja Vu” with his wife. Next, fans were blessed by the best trio to ever do it as Kelly and Michelle joined the singer with renditions of their hit singles including “Say My Name,” “Soldier,” and more. On top of this star-studded list, Solange Knowles graced the “Beychella” stage and playfully danced with her older sister to the infectious “Get Me Bodied.”

Her Balance Of Being A Mother And A Star

Originally slated to headline the annual festival in 2017, the singer notes that she “got pregnant unexpectedly...and it ended up being twins.” Suffering from preeclampsia, high blood pressure, toxemia and undergoing an emergency C-section, the entertainer candidly details how difficult it was adjusting post-partum and how she had to reconnect with her body after experiencing a traumatizing delivery. “In the beginning, it was so many muscle spasms. Just, internally, my body was not connected. My body was not there.” Rehearsing for a total of 8 months, the singer sacrificed quality time with her children in order to nail the technical elements that came with the preparation for her Coachella set. “I’m limiting myself to no bread, no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol … and I’m hungry.” Somehow, throughout all of this, she still had to be a mom. “My mind wanted to be with my children,” she says. Perhaps one of the most admirable moments in the film was witnessing Beyoncé’s dedication to her family but also to her craft.

The Wise Words From Black Visionaries

Homecoming opens with a quote from the late, Maya Angelou stating, “If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.” The film includes rich and prophetic quotes from the likes of Alice Walker, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, and notable Black thinkers, reaffirming Beyoncé’s decision to highlight black culture. The quotes speak to her womanhood and the entertainer’s undeniable strength as a black woman.

Blue Ivy’s Cuteness

Last, but certainly not least, Blue Ivy‘s appearance in the concert film is nothing short of precious. One of the special moments in the documentary zeroes in on the 7-year-old singing to a group of people whilst Beyoncé sweetly feeds the lyrics into her ears. After finishing, Blue says: “I wanna do that again” with Beyoncé replying with “You wanna be like mommy, huh?” Seen throughout Homecoming rehearsing and mirroring Beyoncé’s moves, Blue just might follow in her mother’s footsteps as she gets older.

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