Mos Def, performing under his Yasiin Bey stage name, took a shot at turning “Ni**as in Paris,” the most recent single off Kanye West and Jay-Z’s joint album Watch the Throne, into a piece of biting social commentary:
I don’t necessarily think that “Ni**as in Paris,” which is pretty obviously about the distorting influence of wealth, needed a socially conscious-remix as an antidote. That said, the riffs on the original are pretty funny, turning a bathroom hook up into a parody of Cosby-like concern with how young black men present themselves; a joke about lesbians into a commentary on fast food and diabetes; and I pretty much lost it at “Prince Williams ain’t do it right if you ask me / If I was him I’d put some black up in my family.” I’m less compelled by the slightly apocalyptic stuff towards the end, but it’s a pretty comprehensive and clever inversion of the song.
And it’s also part of a noble semi-tradition of other rappers poking Kanye and Jay-Z about their politics. Kanye may have gone socially-conscious on his remix of his own song, “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” but the line that everyone remembers from that song is Jay-Z declaring that “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” It took Lupe Fiasco to drop actual knowledge about the history of the contemporary diamond trade and talk jewelry depreciation: