Earlier this week, allegations surfaced that Nas’ latest track, “Surviving The Game” was conceptually and musically “lifted” from self-proclaimed underground Baltimore rapper Wordsmith’s track “As the Art Fades Away.”
Through statements made online, including to HipHopDX, Wordsmith claimed to have recorded and posted his track, via Myspace, in late 2006. The song, produced by Montreal beat-maker Strada, featured an uncleared sample from the 1978 Motown soundtrack of The Wiz, “What Would I Do?” by late entertainer Nipsey Russell. Nas’ “Surviving The Times” will be a new song included on his upcoming Greatest Hits collection. The track was produced by former NBA star Chris Webber, who had worked with Nas previously.
Thursday evening, HipHopDX held a conference call including Wordsmith, Strada and Nas’ A&R Mike Brinkley to discuss the matter. “I saw a headline that said Nas stole something from another emcee, which is a harsh allegation to put out there. I want to get to the facts,” began Brinkley, in the calm discussion between the two parties.
Wordsmith’s argument stemmed from the fact that he had knowledge of Chris Webber’s awareness of his track. “[Chris] does know my music and has heard my track, as far back as May,” said Wordsmith, with a mutual friend of his and Webber’s, confirming this. Brinkley stated that the track, as it was produced, was something drawn upon by Nas, “Nas is a movie-head. We were talking about [The Wiz], and it came in from there.”
Discrepancies between the two parties furthered, as both agreed that both versions of the song rely heavily on the original sample, not added arrangements. Wordsmith still maintained, “When a producer produces a track, it’s hard for me to believe it would be the exact same way my producer produced it. You’re gonna flip it another way, that’s why it’s a sample. It wasn’t flipped any other way.” Brinkley’s comment was that since the sample was not cleared by Wordsmith, he was unjust in claiming stolen music or ideas. As Nas’ A&R, and a fan of music, Brinkley added that the same record had been sampled before. “What Would I Do?” has indeed been sampled and interpolated to the likes of Jean Grae and others.
The conference took an interesting turn when Wordsmith pitched the idea of a unifying remix collaboration between himself and Nas. Brinkley immediately waved off the idea, interrupting, “Nah, that’s not gonna happen,” before adding, “To me, this seems like some kind of a publicity stunt.”
Ultimately, Wordsmith agreed to retract his statement, which he adds was a headline, not his initial words, about Nas’ stealing. “I will definitely retract the statement; I have no problem doing it. I want peace in this issue,” said the emcee, who stated that he will be touring with G-Unit in November. “I am a huge Nas fan, and I will continue to support Nas. This was not a publicity stunt. I’d rather do it own my own; I’ve been working hard on my own without using this situation,” he added, before turning to the fans for the ultimate word. He closed in saying, “Let the people say whatever they’re going to say when they read this story. Either they’ll be like, ‘Words, you’re a fake; you did a publicity stunt.’ I accept that. I’m a man. I know why I made a statement. Everybody gotta deal with controversy. I accept whatever comes to me.”
Prior to the conference call, Wordsmith admitted that he and Strada had redone “As the Art Fades Away” without the sample, which will be made available for digital download on December 1st.
A full transcript of the discussion, moderated by HipHopDX, can be found by clicking here.