Carmen Bryan: Behind Enemy Lines, Pt 1

Some call Carmen Bryan “the Hip-Hop Helen of Troy,” and if you know anything about Greek mythology, you know why. In a nutshell, it is one of the most dramatic love stories of all time – several Greek gods waged war in Helen’s honor while tearing apart most of Greece. Some ancient sources sight Helen as being castigated for being a loose woman and say she was universally hated. But then it’s also said that her actions did not demonstrate her to be a particularly bad woman, sometimes a little selfish or misguided, but not the evil whore many accuse her of being.

Now take Carmen Bryan, put her next to two of Hip-Hop’s biggest icons – Nas and Jay-Z – watch one of the biggest lyrical wars of all time transpire in the middle of New York, and the resemblance becomes apparent. Once the long-time girlfriend to rapper Nas, while seeing Jay-Z on the side, when word spread that Carmen had been unfaithful, she found herself in the middle of a very public rap war. Her personal business was aired to the whole Hip-Hop community.

In her tell-all autobiography, It’s No Secret :From Nas to Jay-Z, from Seduction to Scandal, A Hip-Hop Helen of Troy Tells All, Carmen puts her cards on the table. She is aware that people may not have good things to say about her, but the silence is broken – and there’s nothing that can hold back her side of the story anymore.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: You’ve been promoting your book for a few weeks now. Have the feedback and the interviews been everything you’d imagined they’d be?

Carmen Bryan: Yes. Honestly the public’s perception of me hasn’t changed at all. People tend to forget that they were aware of my situation way before my book dropped, and way before word that my book was dropping. People had made up their mind about me from the songs. I was minding my business. I was doing me, and next thing I knew there were these horrible songs being aired on the radio; my name is being dropped my daughter’s name being disrespected. Nas and I was going through real life situations. Aside from the beef and the word play [Nas] was dealing with real life emotions, and people were losing sleep over this. I think that was something that the public never bothered to take into consideration.

And then of course, anytime a woman does something that is ground breaking, something that’s new, or something that society that doesn’t deem as acceptable or appropriate, you get ostracized for that. And that’s just the society in which we live in. There is a double standard, but I just refused to be a victim of that double standard. I was tired of the speculation, and this is my resolution to the problem. People wanted to know but now they’re acting like, “Why are you putting this book out?” You google search my name and there are website blogs full of requests. They want to know truth. The fans were enticed through these songs they asked questions, they wanted to know. There was a demand for the information, and I pretty much tell my side of the story and fill in the gaps. I had no idea people would be so emotional and attached to my story. It’s been crazy!

AHHA: We’ve seen and read other interviews that you’ve done. It seems that people have a wide variety of questions and a lot of different things to say about you. You’ve been ridiculed mostly and have gotten a lot of mixed reactions. You have to be somewhat drained at this point.

Carmen: Yeah, but at the same time it’s definitely a spiritual exercise for me. If I can keep a straight head and maintain my being without being disturbed through all of this, then I’ve advanced on some level – and that’s actually my ultimate goal throughout this whole thing. Some people come at me saying that I’m doing this for the money. Money does not shape emotion. It does not make you happy – and I say that in the book. The gratifying thing to me with this book is closure. I was tired of it – the questions, the speculations. Now if you have a question, it’s in the book. You want an answer, it’s in the book. I’d rather the public assess their own perception of me through my story as opposed to someone else. If you still want to think that I’m a ‘ho, that’s fine, but let me at least be the one to tell my story. No one can tell my story better than me.

Half of the people that come up with these negative perceptions haven’t even read my book. They just assume that it’s another Karrine Steffans book, but it’s not – and I support Karrine 100% because it’s hard to get out there and stay true to your values while being vilified. It’s a courageous thing to actually document details of your life. I mean the world could be reading my book right now and I think people fail to realize that it’s a choice. Karrine’s book was a cautionary tale saying, “You saw what I did, don’t do it.” My book is a reactionary tale, “You don’t have to sit there and take it, if you’re attacked take action. There are outlets. You can defend yourself.” And I exercised that verdict.

AHHA: What’s your opinion of Karrine Stephans book?

Carmen: Like I said , I support Karrine 100% for having the courage to tell her story and tell other females to not do what she did. But then she apologizes for her actions and says she’s sorry, and from what I understand, now she’s doing the same thing again. My thing is no, you don’t have to defend your actions. Own up to them, stand by them. Be who you are, live life to the fullest despite public scrutiny. Don’t live your life according to others and their judgments and standards, because there double standards at that.

I’ve come a long way. I used to be that girl that was so worried about her reputation and what people thought about me. When I first got with Nas, as far as hearing things about me, I heard a lot of things about me that were completely untrue. Guys were saying that said that were with me to boost their own egos, and deep inside I knew it was false and it hurt, but then I got to the point where I just didn’t care. Things that were said that weren’t true didn’t bother me one way or another. And I love that place now, and I can’t help to be any other way. It just doesn’t bother me, I’m not trying to fit in.

AHHA: In reading the preface of your book you give kudos to 50 Cent for helping you get published. How did that come about?

Carmen: Like I said, I self-published in 2005 and ended up doing a few interviews regarding the book. One in particular was for the XXL DVD magazine that was released in January of this year. Following that, the Deputy Editor of XXL, Vanessa Satten, told me that she had bumped in to 50 Cent and he was interested in the book and wanted to take a look at it. He had his own imprint that he had just got through Simon and Schuster after dropping his autobiography, so I said, “Sure, no problem.”

Then I got a call from 50 and Vanessa via 3-way. He had read the book and loved the story, and said he would love for this book to be the first on his imprint. We then had a meeting and I was a little hesitant at first because I was skeptical of Corporate America and how they could possibly change my story. I wanted to have control, but then I had to realize that my story would reach the masses if I took the deal. I also knew that 50 had a good reputation for success, so how could I go wrong. So I called him back and accepted the deal, and it’s been on and poppin’ every since.

AHHA: Did you think that 50 Cent had any underlying intentions with helping you out since him and Nas are rivals?

Carmen: Of course, and it worked in my favor.

AHHA: So you really think his resentment for Nas had something to do with it?

Carmen: Hell yeah!

AHHA: What does your family think about your book?

Carmen: My family is very supportive. My mom understands there are some songs out there and that I’m doing what I have to do to not only protect myself but my daughter. That song “Super Ugly,” the line were Jay-Z is making reference to throwing a used condom in my daughters car seat, that hurt.

AHHA: Was that something that actually happened, or was that something that Jay-Z made up?

Carmen: It was definitely something he made up. He has never been in any of my vehicles. We never had sex in the car, let alone my car. That was a complete lie and a blow below the belt.

AHHA: That had to be extremely hurtful, considering the relationship that you and Jay-Z had a one point, and seeing that you thought he was way more mature than that.

Carmen: I couldn’t understand why he had to include an innocent child in the middle of an adult situation. After all what did my daughter Destiny have to do with any of it? I guess he felt like he was in a losing battle and was desperate, and that was the only way to beat Nas. He tried to do to Nas what Tupac did to Biggie with the whole Faith thing, but it backfired. Nas crushed him with “Ether,” and I turned around and wrote a book about it.

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