By Dana Rubinstein – The Brooklyn Paper Behemoth record label Universal Music Group must change the name of rapper Nas’s new album, “Nigger,” or risk losing $84 million in state investments, a Fort Greene assemblyman said this week.
“[They are] profiting from a racial slur that has been used to dehumanize people of color for centuries,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene), a former entertainment industry big-wig. “It is time for Nas and other hip-hop artists to clean up their act and stop flooding the airwaves with the N-word.”
Jeffries called on Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to withdraw the $84 million that the state pension fund has invested in Universal and its parent company, Vivendi. “It’s a staggering amount of money, which at least justifies a review of the appropriateness of the content that is flooding the public,” said Jeffries. Clinton Miller, of Brown Memorial Baptist Church, and Jill Merritt, a founder of the Abolish the N-Word Project, joined Jeffries in his condemnation of the word.
A recent report by state Sen. Antoine Thompson (D–Buffalo) revealed that the New York State Pension Fund has $2.8 billion invested in 16 major entertainment companies, including Time Warner and Disney. That number did not include the state’s investment in Vivendi.
Universal did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for DiNapoli, who manages the pension fund, said that the comptroller “is concerned about this issue and is intending to contact the company and urge them not to release the album.”The fight to quell the use of the controversial term has been gaining ground lately. In February, the Council passed legislation urging people not to use the repugnant racial slur.
Jeffries, who was an assistant general counsel at CBS and a lawyer at Viacom before he was elected last year, is intent on hitting the industry where it hurts. “The [Council made] an important symbolic step, but I’m more interested in the substantive approach of reviewing the multi-billion-dollar investment that the New York State pension fund makes in the entertainment industry.”