Terry pulled up on me at the car wash like, “Yooooooooooo!”

“Nas just ended Jay!” he said. “Did you hear ‘Ether?’”

“Impossible,” I replied. “You can’t end Jay-Z. God doesn’t work like that.”

Terry brushed a stack of untitled bootleg CDs off of his passenger seat, and I sat down and witnessed history. I say history, because nobody knew that Nas would deliver one of the most compelling dis tracks ever­­ — most thought the Queens emcee was done after Jay-Z’s “The Takeover.” But they were all wrong. Nas’ comeback was biblical. He was David putting the heaviest rock on the planet inside his sling and slapping Goliath — Jay-Z and the Rockafella empire — in a way that changed hip hop forever.

Nas didn’t finish Jay like Terry said, but he rebooted his career with that track, and left us with the term, “I ethered you!” Being ethered means that you were basically destroyed to the point of no return. Over the weekend Cornel West, who many call the most important living black intellectual, tried to ether Ta-Nehisi Coates, who many also call the most important living black intellectual, in The Guardian, claiming, “Ta-Nehisi Coates is the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle.”

“The disagreement between Coates and me is clear. Any analysis or vision of our world that omits the centrality of Wall Street power, US military policies, and the complex dynamics of class, gender, and sexuality in black America is too narrow and dangerously misleading. So, it is with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ worldview.

Coates rightly highlights the vicious legacy of white supremacy – past and present. He sees it everywhere and ever reminds us of its plundering effects. Unfortunately, he hardly keeps track of our fightback, and never connects this ugly legacy to the predatory capitalist practices, imperial policies (of war, occupation, detention, assassination) or the black elite’s refusal to confront poverty, patriarchy or transphobia.”

Coates clapped back on Twitter, defending his work and highlighting the times he addressed the issues on which West accused him of being quiet. Today, the Associated Press reports Coates has deleted his account, writing, “I didn’t get in it for this.”

The public rift between Coates and West dates back to 2015, when Coates dropped his book “Between The World and Me,” which went on to win the National Book Award. The book lifted Coates’ status from popular writer to America’s number one go-to guy on issues dealing with race — Cornel West’s old job. Toni Morrison wrote of Coates in her blurb for the book:

I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates. The language of Between the World and Me, like Coates’s journey, is visceral, eloquent, and beautifully redemptive. And its examination of the hazards and hopes of black male life is as profound as it is revelatory. This is required reading.

West disagreed with Morrison at the time, on Facebook: “Baldwin was a great writer of profound courage who spoke truth to power. Coates is a clever wordsmith with journalistic talent who avoids any critique of the Black president in power.” This launched the feud.

The internet split — some sided with Coates, others with West — just like we did with the feud between Nas and Jay. New Yorker writer and Columbia University journalism professor Jelani Cobb had the most aggressive response.

More By D. Watkins / Salon

Posted by The NON-Conformist