In a recent interview with Complex Magazine, rapper and singer M.I.A shared some candid thoughts on Jay-Z and Nas’ roads to success.

“Jay became the biggest representation of rap music who’s still alive, started dating Beyoncé, everything was so much bigger and better with Jay-Z. I hope people don’t think that that wins.

The fact that Nas didn’t become all this sort of stuff changes people’s perception about the music and the work he achieved in his lifetime. I don’t wanna say Jay-Z sold out, but I just feel like we have to wait another 10 years to see what happens.

Jay-Z’s ambition was to become like Frank Sinatra, a household name all over the planet, and own a casino in Vegas and stuff like that. And I think Nas was really sticking to knowledge. I still think the biggest point about hip-hop is in there somewhere, what happens to those two artists.”

M.I.A brings up some critical points– much like the commercialization of hip hop, a performance art born out of resistance. Jay-Z and Nas are aware of their distinct styles. The rap kings made it explicitly clear on their reuniting track ‘Black Republican.’ Jay Z said he felt like keeping the money coming in and Nas said he wanted to take over the government. Jay-Z also versed he can’t turn his back on the hood.

These different approaches to Black community development or commitment is a long historic debate dating back to W.E.B. Du Bois v. Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X v. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. among other examples.

Looks like M.I.A is asking us to broaden our idea of success. Jay-Z has gone Hollywood, but does this mean he’s more relevant than Nas?

You be the judge! Has Jay-Z sold out?


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