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Nas is Not Your Old Droog: The Life & Death of an Internet Conspiracy Theory
The first email came on Thursday from Wyatt.
"Yo Nathan. I stumbled on a post on Reddit claiming Nas is using the pseudonym Your Old Droog. They have a crazy similar sound and Droog is the Russian word for friend so his name would be "Your Old Friend." Not sure if its Nas or not but regardless it's dope and would be a great discussion for RHN..."
At the time I was busy
Here's what I found:
1) On June 3, someone named Your Old Droog uploads his EP to SoundCloud. Like 97.89% of hip-hop EPs from new (allegedly new!) rappers, it goes essentially unnoticed.
2) On June 13, a comment thread on Reddit pops up proposing that Droog is an alter-ego of Nas, and "Your Old Droog" is a new secret Nas project that Nas undertook to, as the theory went, get back to his hip-hop roots without any of the pressure that would inevitably come with an official Nas release.
3) Also submitted as evidence...now that I'm listening to it again, the dude does sound like Nas, Mass Appeal - a magazine run by Nas - wrote about him one time, Your Old Droog means "your old friend" in Russian (and isn't Nas an old friend to us all?), when sped up Droog sounds even more Nas, very little was known about this alleged Your Old Droog, and Nas had yet to acknowledge the growing controversy. Hmmm...why won't you address the issue on Twitter Nas....UNLESS YOU'VE GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE!.
By Friday the conspiracy theory had gone from Reddit thread to full blown internet phenomenon. More and more outlets picked up the story as the growing consensus seemed to be that this was, indeed, Nas. Obviously. And of course the "story" blew up because, if you even care the tiniest bit about hip-hop, how could you possibly not try to figure out if one of the greatest rappers of all-time just dropped a secret project? When given the choice between "holy shit Nas just dropped a secret project!!!" and "this guy who kind of sounds like Nas who no one cared about 24 hours ago dropped an EP," how much more fun is it to believe that Droog is actually Nas? How fucking awesome would it be to discover a new secret Nas project? And here, it was actually happening!
Except it wasn't actually happening.
I won't front, by no means was I immune to the allure of the Nas = Your Old Droog story. Because I'm an old, jaded internet rap conspiracy veteran (never forget who broke the Pulitzer winning Krispy Kreme is a hoax story), my instincts said there was no way this was Nas. But then time and hope began to wear away at me. Now that you mention it, he does sound a lot like Nas. And crazier things have turned out to be true; before it really happened, what were the chances of Beyonce, the most famous and lucrative star on the planet, dropping a surprise album with absolutely no leaks or warning? In comparison, Nas recording an EP under an alias seemed almost ordinary.
I couldn't stop thinking about it. So even though I almost never write on the weekends, I opened up ye olde laptop on Saturday morning and set out to write a "holy shit I think this is Nas" article. Before I did, I checked
Well then...there went my article. I threw out a Tweet and called it a day:
And that's when I realized just how far from reality the internet had taken us. Dharmic had actually met Droog, in real life, like not on the internet, multiple times, and that "evidence" wasn't enough compared to the already elaborate web of connections that had been woven safely inside the bubble of virtual reality. In the span of 24 hours sites went from headlines like "Confirmed: Your Old Droog is Nas", that "confirmation" being a Tweet that later turned out to be a hoax of its own, to claiming their special insider source had "confirmed" that it wasn't actually Nas. So yeah.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. When a site could go from a definitive headline like "Confirmed: Your Old Droog is Nas" to later issue a series of updates that essentially confirms that no, Nas isn't Old Droog, how could anyone tease out the real from the fake in such a schizophrenic environment? If you had already seen a hundred confirmations and retractions, how could you trust that this random guy - what's his name, Dharmic X? - was himself legit? Maybe he was just part of the conspiracy. And the pitch corrected audio? DON'T FORGET THE PITCH CORRECTED AUDIO! We were now in moon landing territory.
I might have even thought the same thing, except I actually know Dharmic, and it was balls crazy to think that pitch audio uploaded by the esteemed user1402886 somehow trumped him just straight up saying he'd met Droog. So I called him, and we talked about it:
As far as I'm concerned, that's it. There's no "might not be Nas" or "maybe isn't Nas" qualifiers necessary anymore. Droog isn't Nas in the same way that a spoon isn't a fork and the sun isn't a cat. Maybe in another month it'll turn out I'm wrong and Dharmic was brain washed by the Illuminati and I unknowningly participated in a conspiracy cover up and everything we've ever believed is a lie. But probably not.
I have to say, though, I am disappointed. The fantasy that this was actually a project from Nas was way more fun than the decidedly mundane reality that Droog is some kid who's not Nas. Believe me, I would have much rather been writing an article about where Nas' secret alias EP ranks among his albums than this breakdown of a digital conspiracy. And it was awesome chasing the tail of this conspiracy. If someone had played me the "Your Old Droog" EP out of context, I don't know if I would have said he sounded like Nas. But when I heard it in the context of "this might be Nas," well then yeah, now that you mention it, he does sound like Nas...suspiciously so. (By the same token, once I tell you that 50 Cent is saying "talking bout hittin him with this dick" right here, you won't be able to unhear it.)
The whole Nas' alter-ego ride wave was good times, I wish it was true. But this is reality, and your reality is what it is, not what you want it to be. Even on the internet.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth, the proprietor of RefinedHype, and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]
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