And how did that make you feel, Nasir Jones?
In the hypermasculine world of urban music, there are things that you just don’t do. You do not cry; you rage. You do not whine; you brood. (Here’s looking at you, Drake.) And you absolutely do not seek counselling – leave that to relative wusses like Tony Soprano or the members of Metallica.
Unless you are the illustrious American rapper known as Nas.
On his new album Life is Good, which debuted at No. 1 on the charts this week, the rhythmic rhymer opens up about his failed marriage with Kelis Rogers, the singer identified mononymously as Kelis. The album’s cover shows our man with his ex-wife’s green wedding dress – a symbol of the past.
On the song Bye Baby, Nas reminisces about better times – “when we walked to the altar that was an awesome day” – but ultimately delivers a scathing kiss-off: “Should’ve saw the man in angry black women/ Ashes of a demon, I’m leaving.” On the track’s second line – “Did counselling, couldn’t force me to stay” Nas seemingly admits to marriage therapy (which is not, in the parlance, a straight-up gangsta thing to do)
The couch-based conclusion that he reaches – “something happens when you say I do” – is neither precise nor particularly clinical. But it does show a willingness on his part to consider what went wrong, and a candid disclosure of his seeking outside help in a bid to save his marriage – something a lot of men don’t talk about, let alone rap about.
In a interview with the Wall Street Journal, Toronto hip-hop star Drake spoke about urban music and the genre’s disdain for the sensitive male. “I don’t know if people are getting more and more disconnected, and therefore I seem like the most emotional character in this whole scene,” explained the former child actor. “My favourite artists always documented emotion... People poke fun, but I’m just not ashamed.”
Nas isn’t the first rap artist to admit to therapy. Eminem, who went public with his mother issues on the scathing 2002 hit single Cleanin’ Out My Closet, in 2009 released Recovery, his winning follow-up to Relapse. The Recovery album was praised not only by Rolling Stone magazine, but by Psychology Today. Still, as a matter of course, male hip-hoppers avoid such intimate disclosures. It isn’t likely for Jay-Z to be all “Beyonce never listens, about my day/ shrink be chargin’, hell to pay” any time soon.
The title of Nas’s Life is Good speaks to his bright outlook and new found happiness – this from an artist whose mantra from 1994 ‘s game-changing Illmatic debut was “life’s a bitch and then you die.”
The material obviously resonates, with nearly 150,000 albums sold in its first week.
As for the non-believers in the more mature and stand-up lifestyle, Nas has an answer for the “selfish cowards,” the ones who live with their “babymoms” and avoid matrimony, characterizing those men as frauds who “ain’t even alive.”
And so, Drake is unashamed of his emotions, and Nas undergoes, and raps about, marriage counselling. I think we’re making progress here.