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    Thread: 10 Days of Nas

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      10 Days of Nas


      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      10 Days of Nas Pt. 1: Illmatic



      In some moment of brilliance I thought it would be a good idea to look at each and every Nas album starting today with his debut and ending next Friday with his latest release (Untitled). While I have no idea how it's going to go down, I know that Nas is an artists who always illicits a response from his listeners, and Hip Hop fans in general so I'm offering my thoughts up in a effort to see what everyone else thinks. Is Nas a has been who needs to rely on media stunts and controversial album titles to generate fan interest? Or is he the brilliant poet he has always been held up as?

      Where were you when you saw this cover?

      Illmatic is the quintessential Hip Hop album for a multitude of reasons. Nas was so young upon its creation, yet he spoke like someone who was delivering their doctoral theses. And what did he speak on?

      Everything.

      Not afraid to paint pictures of scenes from his life in and around the Queensbridge housing projects, this album – like any good album should – captures a moment in time. But its recording allows it to interact with the generations to come and today we see an album that is full of hidden gems and music that is still 100 percent fresh.

      Nas has always been somewhat of an enigma never quite succeeding in a way that anyone would expect him to. Sure he has had hits and garnered some platinum success but the vision with which he first spoke to us left us all stuck expecting more of the same – which isn't something one should ever ask or expect from an artist.

      On Illmatic we are introduced to an emcee who even in his mock "gangsta" persona couldn't escape his own knowledge and thus delivers a statement about the gangsta life that is at times extravagant, but always brutally honest. By avoiding the typical clichι stereotypes Nas opens a door to a reality often ignored.

      The lyrics here are passionate and I hear something within them that is inspiring. Where Nas often fails is in his overarching attempts to capture people beyond his audience. Here he is fully focused and speaking from the heart – it doesn't matter who hears what he has to say, just that it gets out their for others to understand.

      But that's enough of an ego stroke for Nasir – we all know that it's a dope album. But why do we like it so much? Nas sounds his best here, energized and flowing with ease – nothing is forced, every word seems to be placed exactly where it was meant to be.

      This album also represents an era in beat making I think we would all agree is missed. The crew of producers found here is the best you could ask for. From the opening sounds of the subway cars on the intro into the use of Joe Chambers free jazz piano beautifully chopped and rearranged by Premier to Olu Dara's reluctant horn at the closeing of "Life's A B*tch" this record plays as a soundtrack to life in the city.

      Nas says "I'm an addict for sneakers, 20s of Buddha and b*tches with beepers" and this is a great analysis of what it is that makes this record succeed. Nas takes you on a journey with this album. It's as if for this trip you are just kicking it, watching what goes down and Nas is the narrator. But Nas isn't some superstar rapper here; he is just Nas from around the way.

      Illmatic is the result of a young emcees vision. That emcee happens to be gifted with the art of rhyme and conveys every element of a day in his life to us in a way no one was prepared for. Illmatic might be the greatest rap album ever, it might not. But it is unparalleled as an artistic statement painting a picture that is at all times honest, never losing touch with the hope that things can only ever be better – getting them that way is the journey.




      10 Days of Nas Pt. 2: It Was Written



      And I'm back, keeping this Nas extravaganza alive I'm returning today with a look at the oft dismissed It Was Written. It's something serious y'all!
      Picture
      What you think about it?

      And so it begins. The downfall of Nasir Jones – or at least perceived decline in skill. But as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20 and today It Was Written may not stand up to Illmatic, but it proves to be much less disappointing than so many were so quick to declare upon it's release.

      Much of the "sound" established on his debut is gone here, in exchange for a more crisp, polished typical major label sound – and who can blame him, why would you get in this game if you weren't trying to sell records?

      Many were quick to criticize Nas for his shift to looking for a mainstream appeal, which was in large part due to his partnering with the Trackmasters who were responsible for half of the tracks here. While at the time the difference in styles was obvious, today it would be hard to deny the music held within this album.

      Aside from Poke & Tone, we see Nas team with Dr. Dre for the epic (what Dre production isn't?) "Nas is Coming" which gave Nas a platform to show off his new direction of which Dre speaks on in the songs intro: "Lets get together, make some music and get paid."

      While the Illmatic Nas was still kicking it in the streets with his boys and spitting about things he saw out his window, now we are beginning to see a young man trying to come to grips with his lack of success – even though he was being acclaimed as the greatest to be doing it.

      This search for success gave birth to the gangsta persona Nas Escobar and the super-group The Firm which gets together for their first track here in "Affirmative Action." On this track we see AZ, Cormega, Foxy & Nas all go in and handle themselves proper – which probably didn't help when they went and dropped an album as lame as their debut turned out to be.

      Primo is here for only one track this time, but it's a stellar track on both the beat (was this even a question?) and lyric tip. "I Gave You Power" may rank as one of Nas' best concept tracks in which he details the power a gun holds both in this world and in a persons hand. Addressing the problems with violence in the inner city and throughout society this song is bound to make you press rewind.

      And while the Escobar persona is present throughout this album we still see Nas doing what he does best and that is telling stories trying to open some minds and spread the word. His flow is still just as precise and the content might be even more focused. From the lead single with Ms. Hill chasing dreams of better circumstances for everyone to "Black Girl Lost" trying to provide a voice of positive reason to a generation of young woman who have never had the support they deserved, Nas proves the nasty didn't go anywhere.

      While It Was Written does show the decision to create a more broadly appealing album, and Nas shot himself in the foot creating such a perfect vision with his first, the focus here is still on the lyrics and trying to empower the listener.

      Go back and listen.



      10 Days of Nas Pt. 3: I Am...



      Oh 90s rap album covers... don't ya miss em?

      Nas continues his path towards fame and success with the long waited for I Am…. Even with the three year intermission this picks up exactly where It Was Written left off, except he takes it up a notch in pop appeal and down a notch in quality Hip Hop.

      After an intro filled with snippets of random classic Nas songs Jungle (Nas brother) is heard talking about a bunch of nonsense with a few other guys over a loud beat with some spooky piano work. At one point Jungle says "It's the third time… And this time gon' be the worst time." This couldn't prove to be a truer statement.

      But before the record slips away into the abyss that was so much Hip Hop of the late 90s we are treated to some of the strongest songs of Nas catalog. I know you probably thinking "didn't he just call this the worst album of Nas career?" To this point yes it fails miserably in comparison to the past two efforts, however I think the project we were delivered was far different from that which was originally scheduled for release.

      While the bootleggers made their mark on Nas career, he was the one who chose what to record and release. Luckily he didn't completely forget what it is we all love about a Nas record: Dope DJ Premier beats. Giving us N.Y. State of Mind Pt. 2, he & Primo come back together for some of that magic that we had been guests to five years before. Primo's reworking of the original beat is an impressive update of his original track and kicks this album off on a grimier tone than we had seen from Nas in a minute

      The album keeps the energy up high for the start with epic anthems and beats that are as much ready for the DJ to blow up the club as they are for the crew on the block to bang all night long. Poke and Tone are in effect on this project once again, and even with their credits scaled back the overall aesthetic is very much attributable to them.

      From the epic strings on "Hate Me Now" to the use of Kenny Loggins on the hook of "We Will Survive" – a song that would almost be dope if it didn't feel as though it was created just to be your typical conscious uplifting Nas track – Poke and Tone further the journey that is Nas trip to industry, and therefore financial success.

      While the early tracks get you hype and expecting so much from the rest of the album, the energy quickly fades away as the middle of the project gets bogged down with clichι gangsta references and generic beats that sound as though they could have been made in a matter of minutes in any studio, USA.

      While Nas still displays moments of the brilliance we know him for, and his flow remains impressive it is with this album that we can see an obvious deterioration in quality. Songs like "Life is what you Make It" and "I Want to talk to you" seem well intentioned with a message that I'm not going to argue with, but when the hooks come in and the spirit behind the verses is gone all that is left is simplistic rhetoric.

      Unfortunately simplistic rhetoric does not make for a powerful impact. And in considering how I feel about this album after twenty four hours of constant listening only one word comes to mind: mediocre. The good tracks are amazing, but they don't last and everything else isn't anything more than something I can only shake my head at in disappointment.




      10 Days of Nas Pt. 4: Nastradamus




      Prophet or Profit?

      "Nasty Nas, to Esco, to Escobar now he is Nastradamus"

      Four albums deep and a different persona for every single one, how's that for an evolution? Nas came out on top and had to backtrack to find his path. Debuting with Illmatic meant that as fans we were bound to witness some new sounds. Those sounds progressed to a level of commercialism that few of those original fans cared to embrace. The emcee once crowned the second coming of Rakim was now just another in a long line of generic rappers popping Cristal (you know he was the first to talk about it in his rhymes) and talking hard.

      But Nas earned that endorsement for a reason and even if he had to try some things it would be a mistake to ever discount him. Nastradamus, for all its critical hate, is an extremely listenable record. Yes the commercial attempts are still here, but in a refined fashion that works on every level. Hate on the Ginuwine assisted, Timbaland produced "You Owe Me" all you want – it is far from the norm on this release.

      This album is dark and somber almost exclusively. Aside from "You Owe Me" and the title track, nothing here could be defined as upbeat or happy. That's not to say the record is depressing, just filled with serious subject matter and a host who knows how to deliver his rhymes.

      This shift in sound has to be due to the lack of involvement from the Trackmasters. After working with them for the last two albums Poke & Tone are completely absent from this release. In their place are longtime collaborator and friend L.E.S., who is the only producer to sample here, and Dame Grease who at the time was making noise working with DMX and the Ruff Ryders camp. Primo shows up for another one off classic collabo between the two – listening to them together has got me thinking that Nas might be better on a Premier beat than Guru, what do you think?

      The chemistry between L.E.S. and Nas is history and doesn't really even need to be questioned – I think he is the only producer to be involved in every project Nasir Jones has released. But the surprise here is Dame Grease. He was responsible for my least favorite beat on I Am..., which while initially worrying proves to be a mute subject as he has obviously stepped up his game. Still relying on synths he has found better quality sounds to work with and his drum programming is guaranteed to induce a serious head nod.

      While Nas has always been pretty selective when it comes to guests on his albums, here we see some great work with an assortment of artists. He keeps it in the family when it comes to guest rappers with Mobb Deep, The Bravehearts and Nashawn each coming through to lace a verse. The guest to steal the show however is Ronald Isley on "Project Windows." As Nas speaks over a beautiful piano riff and some fitting drums laid down by the Hitmen, Isley is there in the background adlibbing in a way only someone of his class could. An inspiring song about looking for hope where many would say there is none, this is vintage Nas styled street poetry.

      As Nas has grown up he has found his voice and what works for him. Where I Am… failed wasn't so much in his presence, but in his lack of focus. Instead of looking for the "in" sound to appeal to, we see him create his own sound that is as much part mainstream rap as it is his own style. After all, how many emcees do you know claiming to be spitting the "last words of a hanging slave?"

      --



      10 Days of Nas Pt. 5: Stillmatic



      Still the Poet, Still the Prophet, Stillmatic

      It's the half way point and the record most likely responsible for why Untitled is dropping. After much chart success, the fans and critics were growing tired of what Nas had become and it seemed like he was destined for the side of the milk carton (© XXL). But ya'll know the story. Jay took it to him and Nas had to handle his business, which culminated with the release of Stillmatic.

      This record was hailed as the second coming. The title, with it's obvious reference to his untouchable debut meant that expectations were high and room for error was minimal. While it was held as a return to grace then, almost seven years ago, today Stillmatic is a solid record from a continually changing emcee.

      The triumphant feel of the intro is one of the greatest beats to ever begin a record! Nas sounds hungry and ready to take it to anyone, which of course gives us "Ether." But what do I really gotta say about it? "KRS already made an album called Blueprint" or "I rock hoes y'all rock fellas" – the whole song is a quotable and he did it with what feels like such ease, I'm a Jay fan (some might even call me a stan) but Nas killed him without question.

      We are treated to another epic banger courtesy of Megahurtz, before the album slows down a bit and Nas starts getting serious on us. While I've often heard "Smokin" dismissed as a weak link here I respect Nas for it's inclusion as it continues to show his drive to control what he releases – it's a beat by him and is completely on it's own in terms of content and style

      Hearing Nas and Large Pro back together again is probably my favorite thing about this record. Sure the Primo match ups are always great, but this pairing cannot be touched. "You're Da Man" is slow moving with the subtle vocal sample and minimalist sound creating the perfect atmosphere for Nas to spit deep about his legacy and what it is he wants to achieve. "Rewind" on the other hand is a more traditional Extra P beat with the funky drums knocking throughout while Nas tells us a story, but in a fashion no one had ever up to that point, nor since, tired.

      The last Primo collaboration is here in "2nd Childhood" and yet again we are treated to a great example of two men who love their work and bring the best out in each other. Nas gets behind the boards one more time teaming up with Hitman alum Chucky Thompson for the ever classic "One Mic" – which yet again demonstrates Nas vision to push boundaries and try new sounds as he progressively increases his volume over the course of the verse getting to a point of almost screaming during the chorus.

      The beef theme comes back around in "Destroy & Rebuild" this time attacking his fam from the QB. Except where "Ether" is an obvious attack, here it feels more like Nas is the elder statesman getting all the kids in line so they can stand stronger together. It's a great demonstration of the love he holds for his home and the artists he has nurtured along the way, along with the realization that with his position comes a responsibility – something too many rappers seem to ignore.

      In the vein of reuniting we see AZ come through for a verse alongside the man who gave him his career on "The Flyest." Once again AZ kicks it off first and he sounds as good as ever here with his smooth voice blending well with the laidback L.E.S. track. Hearing them together makes me wish for their rumored, but never gonna happen collaborative album – I guess we got the tracks they have done together and this one fits in with the rest perfectly.

      The Trackmasters come through after taking an album off and deliver the forgotten about first single "Rule" featuring Amerie. Nas addresses the issues of control within the world and the struggle for power between men. While Poke & Tone usually deliver hip club tracks, this goes against the grain with its live instrumentation and Amerie might actually steal the show!

      After all this you want so much for the album to just pull through and finish as strong as it's been throughout but unfortunately it falters, however minimally. "My Country" and "Every Ghetto" are not bad, but the beats rely a little to heavily on cheap drums and Nas' presence isn't as capturing as he has demonstrated he can be. On the other hand "What Goes Around" is maybe the lost gem here. Marking the first time Salaam Remi got together with Nas, we see a chemistry that is natural and fresh foreshadowing much of the work we would see from Nas in the coming years.

      And that is Stillmatic for ya! I'm not normally one to break down every track, but that was what had to be done here. Nas had a lot to prove and while I think the next project beats this, this was what got us to it and everything else he has released in the last seven years – rest assured if this had flopped in any sense Nas wouldn't be here today. Respect is due, but not no five mics!

      10 Days of Nas Pt. 5: Stillmatic

      I guess I didn't quite make it for my NY heads... But I don't think I'm there yet so it's all good! But before I go any further I gotta send a big shout out and thank you to DeVon & D Black at Sport N Life for puttin on a great show last night. Bringing Freeway out was a great look and something I won't soon forget! Thank You.
      Picture
      Still the Poet, Still the Prophet, Stillmatic

      It's the half way point and the record most likely responsible for why Untitled is dropping. After much chart success, the fans and critics were growing tired of what Nas had become and it seemed like he was destined for the side of the milk carton (© XXL). But ya'll know the story. Jay took it to him and Nas had to handle his business, which culminated with the release of Stillmatic.

      This record was hailed as the second coming. The title, with it's obvious reference to his untouchable debut meant that expectations were high and room for error was minimal. While it was held as a return to grace then, almost seven years ago, today Stillmatic is a solid record from a continually changing emcee.

      The triumphant feel of the intro is one of the greatest beats to ever begin a record! Nas sounds hungry and ready to take it to anyone, which of course gives us "Ether." But what do I really gotta say about it? "KRS already made an album called Blueprint" or "I rock hoes y'all rock fellas" – the whole song is a quotable and he did it with what feels like such ease, I'm a Jay fan (some might even call me a stan) but Nas killed him without question.

      We are treated to another epic banger courtesy of Megahurtz, before the album slows down a bit and Nas starts getting serious on us. While I've often heard "Smokin" dismissed as a weak link here I respect Nas for it's inclusion as it continues to show his drive to control what he releases – it's a beat by him and is completely on it's own in terms of content and style

      Hearing Nas and Large Pro back together again is probably my favorite thing about this record. Sure the Primo match ups are always great, but this pairing cannot be touched. "You're Da Man" is slow moving with the subtle vocal sample and minimalist sound creating the perfect atmosphere for Nas to spit deep about his legacy and what it is he wants to achieve. "Rewind" on the other hand is a more traditional Extra P beat with the funky drums knocking throughout while Nas tells us a story, but in a fashion no one had ever up to that point, nor since, tired.

      The last Primo collaboration is here in "2nd Childhood" and yet again we are treated to a great example of two men who love their work and bring the best out in each other. Nas gets behind the boards one more time teaming up with Hitman alum Chucky Thompson for the ever classic "One Mic" – which yet again demonstrates Nas vision to push boundaries and try new sounds as he progressively increases his volume over the course of the verse getting to a point of almost screaming during the chorus.

      The beef theme comes back around in "Destroy & Rebuild" this time attacking his fam from the QB. Except where "Ether" is an obvious attack, here it feels more like Nas is the elder statesman getting all the kids in line so they can stand stronger together. It's a great demonstration of the love he holds for his home and the artists he has nurtured along the way, along with the realization that with his position comes a responsibility – something too many rappers seem to ignore.

      In the vein of reuniting we see AZ come through for a verse alongside the man who gave him his career on "The Flyest." Once again AZ kicks it off first and he sounds as good as ever here with his smooth voice blending well with the laidback L.E.S. track. Hearing them together makes me wish for their rumored, but never gonna happen collaborative album – I guess we got the tracks they have done together and this one fits in with the rest perfectly.

      The Trackmasters come through after taking an album off and deliver the forgotten about first single "Rule" featuring Amerie. Nas addresses the issues of control within the world and the struggle for power between men. While Poke & Tone usually deliver hip club tracks, this goes against the grain with its live instrumentation and Amerie might actually steal the show!

      After all this you want so much for the album to just pull through and finish as strong as it's been throughout but unfortunately it falters, however minimally. "My Country" and "Every Ghetto" are not bad, but the beats rely a little to heavily on cheap drums and Nas' presence isn't as capturing as he has demonstrated he can be. On the other hand "What Goes Around" is maybe the lost gem here. Marking the first time Salaam Remi got together with Nas, we see a chemistry that is natural and fresh foreshadowing much of the work we would see from Nas in the coming years.

      And that is Stillmatic for ya! I'm not normally one to break down every track, but that was what had to be done here. Nas had a lot to prove and while I think the next project beats this, this was what got us to it and everything else he has released in the last seven years – rest assured if this had flopped in any sense Nas wouldn't be here today. Respect is due, but not no five mics!

      10 Days of Nas Pt. 6: The Lost Tapes





      Here we go again for round 6! Untitled drops tomorrow - you gonna cop it? I'm finishin up the last few albums this week, but I'm also gonna be out of town (just gotta escape sometimes, you know?) for a couple of days. I should have internet access regardless so I'll keep 'em coming when I can. And oh, did I mention how dope Freeway was on Saturday?
      Picture
      No Hype, No Cameos, No Bullshit

      How did these tracks, some of the most personal and introspective of Nas' career end up getting scrapped for some of the most commercial tracks he has ever made? It's a mystery of the record industry why we don't support serious music. But that's enough of the soapbox; you're here to see what the verdict is on this here record called The Lost Tapes.

      This served as the first release after his momentous comeback and the precursor to his next studio album. As an interim release it's easy to forget about, but from the opening keys courtesy of Precision on "Doo Rags" you won't regret taking the time, or spending the dollars, to listen to this album.

      I like listening to Nas when he isn't struggling to flow. At times he can get on a beat, or over think the song and it sounds forced, but here everything is laidback and relaxing. I get the feeling they went into the lab late at night after an evening of drinks and blunts and sparked up a few more while listening to beats and writing rhymes.

      Often times an album created from different sessions will feel like it was cut and pasted together, but even with the assortment of producers each track flows into the next like they were meant to be played back to back. Lots of pianos and some well placed soul samples abound along with some hard drums and of course some of that dusty NYC boom bap only producers like The Alchemist and L.E.S. can deliver.

      A surprise here is the inclusion of an early Kanye track, although it is credited to his then mentor D-Dot. "Poppa was a Playa" is a pretty typical Kanye track for this era, which I won't complain about as 'Ye was on another level with his chops and his use of the Eddie Kendrick's sample is perfect. Nas lays down a powerful biographic tale about his dad and his creeping ways. It's a strong song on the content alone, but Nas adds his own analysis to it and gives his dad a pass because he was still in the house to raise his kids, which Nas points out was rare around his way.

      While Nas has released some questionable material, I have always held a level of respect for his ability to do what he wants to do. Sure he caved a little bit with the new record, but I'm not gonna hate on it – with the way records are selling today you gotta be in as many stores as possible! To this end Nas addresses the haters, the fans and everyone in between on "My Way" speaking about his drive to do exactly what he wants to do and paying tribute to his labels namesake Ill Will.

      It's also interesting to note the inclusion of the Trackmasters again as we have seen them come in and out of Nas recording career. Here they are in go mode as they provide the soundtrack to two of the most eye opening songs. The beat for "Drunk By Myself" captures that mentality perfectly, with a drum pattern that is fast but slow moving strings in the background to create a feeling of rushed anxiety.

      Poke and Tone are also responsible for the albums closer and another in a long line of grand concept songs from Nas. "Fetus" is Nas tale of what he experienced while in the womb of his mother. Even if it's completely subjective, he tells a great story and pays respect to both of his parents in an original manner. The beat is another demonstration of the live instrumentation feel the Trackmasters have been experimenting with for a while and it works well, with the subtle and quite organ work in the background setting the somber tone Nas rhymes for himself, meaning you can hear the love in his voice – this is a song with a purpose far beyond any of us as fans will ever fully understand.

      The Lost Tapes serve as a great precursor to what came next in God's Son as we see the introspection continue and we begin to experience a grown up man taking his art serious, looking for purpose with what it is he is doing. Gone are the days of mock gangsta posturing, now it's time to stand up and educate with his words – to bad this didn't drop when it was meant to.



      10 Days of Nas Pt. 7: God's Son




      It's the day! Everyone getting out to cop Untitled today? I'm holding out to see if it shows up on wax, not to mention I don't think I can find it here! This was an interesting record to look at while out at the beach... call me lame but something about the ocean and sand dunes always gets me reflective, which Nas was def experienceing here.

      Spirtual record, Spirtual cover?

      God's Son is a fun record to listen to. It marks yet another significant change in sound and style for the ever evolving emcee and it's the first project Nas released after the death of his mother - something that obviously influenced much of the content of his rhymes here as he pays tribute to her out right on "Dance" and acknowledges her role in his life on other tracks.

      After seeing Salaam Remi team up with Nas for one of the better, if overlooked, tracks from Stillmatic here he is in full effect producing five tracks. Remi is a talented producer whose style is about as broad as you can get and still manage to remain relevant to yourself. From the opening reworking of "The Boss" by James Brown into "Get Down" to yet another flip of "Apache" on "Made You Look" to the no sample synthed out "Paul Revere" inspired "Zone Out" Remi out does himself at every turn. Remi was also responsible for the biggest hit off the record in "I Can" which gave Nas a platform to continue his concious side, but in a way that worked for MTV and radio as well schools and youth centers around the country.

      The feud between Jay and Nas had culiminated with "Ether" and Jay's weak freestyle response "Supa Ugly" - which he actually apologized for after being called out by his mother for it's content. While it was and will always be debated who won, Nas took the cue from the fans and rather than launching another attack addreses the issue perfectly with a history lesson of his beefs in the city with everyone from Rae and Ghost to Biggie and Puff before throwing a couple closing lines at Hova, closing the chapter that was Jay vs. Nas for good.

      While it's easy to criticize many of the beats here, and I'll be the first to admit they are different and not at all what was "in" at the time, this goes along with everything else Nas has tried throughout his career: push the boundaries and see what kind of tracks you might come up with.

      With this idea in mind we are given yet another cool concept driven track on the Alchemist produced "Book of Rhymes" in which Nas goes through a number of old books finding snippets of old things he jotted down (and a number for a chick) and as he goes through the pages he comments on what he was writting, acknowledging his weak and strong moments alike. ALC hooks up a fresh banger for Nas to rock these rhymes to, even if it's weaker than what we know Al for it works.

      The death of Nas mother, she died in his arms no less, weighs heavily here as we see him looking at himself and what it is he has done along with what the future might hold. This atmosphere provides the perfect setting for the "Thugz Mansion" NY version featuring two verses from Nas and one from 2Pac. With a soothing acoustic guitar riff in place the song is a beautiful, and spirtual, experience that will leave you looking for that place where everything is good. I'm not a religious person, but this song will touch the heart of even the most ardent atheist, or at least it should. Just peep the hook laid down with vocal precision by J. Phoenix:

      Every corner, every city
      There is a place where lifes a little easy
      Little Henesy, laid back and cool
      Every hour cause it's all good
      Leave all the stress from the world outside
      Every wrong done will be alright
      Nothing but peace, love, street passion
      Every ghetto needs a thug mansion

      The theme of empowerment and perseverance continues with the Alicia Keys produced "Warrior Song." With its up tempo beat and Ms. Keys on the hook the song is ready for Nas to spit over and that he does. Rhyming with the confidence and hunger we have come to expect from a legend of Nas status he speaks on the fight we all survive everyday: life. Seaking about the experiences of his ancestors up to his own challenges with raising his daughter and burying his mother, this song will get you excited and ready to attack whatever that latest project is you have been putting off.

      Before bringing the album to a close on a somber and serious tip with two tracks directed specifically to his mothers passing, Alchemist stops by again for "Revolutionary Warfare" along with Lake guesting on the rhymes. Yet another in a long line of young emcees from the QB Nas has put on a track, we hear great potential from the kid who holds his own next to the heavywight as they both attack the systems in place attempting to create their own lyrical revolution. Unfortunatly Lake hasn't lived up to the high expectations this song might have raised, but his collorbative LP with Cormega (another Nas protege) had some shinning moments that make it worth checking.

      While this album doesn't wholly feel down like some of these Nas albums have, he still has to speak to his mother and the Chucky Thompson beat for "Dance" provides him the oppurtunity to do just that. Constructed as his goodbye letter to her, the song begs the question to have just one more "dance" with her. Detailing his relationship and love for her the passion is evident in his drive bury her ghost once and for all. The most touching part maybe the inclusion of Olu Dara playing his trumpet at the end in an extended tribute from husband to wife - even if no words are spoken.

      God's Son is personal and more of what Nas wants to do. The beats don't always bang in the sterotypical sense, but in an era when rap was as stale as it had ever been this record will catch you off guard, while Nas gets deeper than he ever has before. It's not Illmatic, nor is it Stillmatic or any other record he has released. It's God's Son, it's own record with it's own purpose, and that should be enough for any fan of God's son, Nasir Jones.



      10 Days of Nas Pt. 8: Street's Disciple

      Gettin down to it! Street's Disciple was actually responsible for all of this as I found the sprawling 8 disc set on vinyl last week. Listening to it along with the new album inspired me to go back and look at everything else. Thanks to everyone who has been checking out the reviews! Let's get it going.
      Picture
      Street's disciple my raps are trifle I shoot slugs out my brain like a rifle

      In the intro to the track "These Are Our Hero's" Nas says "This ain't for everybody." While that serves as a worthwhile precursor to a track that attacks "the coons on UPN 9 & WB who yes massa on TV" it also can serve as a great warning to his epic double disc effort Street's Disciple.

      While by definition any double disc rap album has to be filled with too much music, Nas enters into a tradition of artists who strive for perfection over an extended period of time. While I'm not going to argue that he doesn't fall short I will say that this album is an impressive overall realization of the phases of Nas career.

      Within the linear notes of the album – yes some of us still like the tangible product that is music – Nas gives us a picture that deserves some serious consideration. Before us, we see a scene that could be interpreted as the Last Super with every character being a different form of Nas himself. This lends itself well to explaining the vision Nas was aiming for with this project.

      From beginning to end we see every imaginable side one could possibly see Nas having. There are the righteous political tracks, the serious introspective tracks on life, the party tracks that only Nas can tell with such vivid detail and an assortment of other takes on life in general.

      From messages about living your life to the fullest to the tales of sexual exploits Nas is taking us on a journey. Sure it's bloated and distorted, but this is his moment to say everything on his mind and he is going to do just that whether it's what you're looking for or not.

      Throughout his entire career he has tried to find the mold that people would most accept from him and he has always been too good – hurting himself in the process. But even in his most blatantly obvious shouts for commercial success he was always still Nasty Nas – the word play couldn't be denied and the passion to create couldn't be stifled.

      This desire has grown up in the music industry and upon deliverance of Street's Disciple he was caught up in his romance with Kelis and two years out of the headspace that was his mothers' death. We see him focus often on issues surrounding fulfillment within life and questioning what it is he is doing with his time. His life is changing and this overly ambitious album is Nas' attempt to analyze what he sees happening around him – once again he is writing about staring out the window, except now the window happens to look upon the good life.

      But instead of flashy boastful moments about how grand everything is Nas addresses the real life issues he has overseen on his path to where he sits today. The happiness of the moment is here, but a somber tone is in order to pay tribute to those who have been lost and those who we must remember.

      With the grand scope of this album it is only to be expected that Nas would team up with his father once again to create some family magic. While Olu Dara is smooth on the hook with his musings about his son on the title track it's on the lead single "Bridging the Gap" that we really experience what it is that Nas is striving for. Where so many rappers approach this music as a business transaction in which one person purchases a beat and delivers a rhyme over it Nas has ideas that must be allowed to grow and transform into something bigger. His music is more than just words to a beat, it's his instrument and this is what he had to say.


      10 Days of Nas Pt. 9: Hip Hop is Dead



      Hip Hop is DEAD!

      After dropping the sprawling project that was Street's Disciple Nas had to regroup. He left his career long label to join forces with his one time enemy Jay-Z at Def Jam. While the expectations were high that Jay would help get Nas to yet another level, I don't think it was Jay who needed to inspire Nas – he has always known what he needed to do and with this project he has yet again demonstrated a great display of skill along with just enough of his own flavor to keep everyone guessing.

      Over the course of all these Nas albums one thing that we have seen is his reliance on producers for a project, or two, to help him create a sound or vision he had in mind. For this record he found that in Will.I.Am who, after delivering some of the most uninspiring commercially driven Hip Pop tracks with his group Black Eyed Peas, was looking to prove that he was still the same producer Eazy-E once singed to Ruthless.

      This desire to get his name back into the hearts and minds of the heads led to the creation of the lead single and title track, utilizing several of the most sampled songs in Hip Hop's history to create the perfect obituary for that which we love. Nas attacks the state of the art and the society that has influenced it, raising the everlasting question does life imitate art or does art imitate life? I would tend to think the latter, and I think when it comes to Hip Hop Nas would be in agreement.

      Along with Will.I.Am, Nas brings in both familiar and new faces here to give him the tracks he was looking for. L.E.S. remains present here delivering the perfect opening to the record in "Money Over Bullsh*t" with it's pounding drums and haunting keys. Nas spits hard speaking to everyone about the contradictions within the industry and the hypocrites who attacked Nas for the title, but spend all their time rhyming about the BS.

      After joining Kanye on "We Major" and coming over to his "team" it was to be expected that they would connect again and this time the chemistry is perfected as 'Ye laces Nas with a beautiful track in "Still Dreaming" with the heavily underrated Chrisette Michele singing in the background. This song was the first track to make me repeat and it still catches my attention from the opening guitar plucks to the drum track that fades in with Kanye's verse, everything here will get you in the right mood to dream just a little bit.

      Along with an a list set of producers, Nas also lined up some of the best features from guest emcees that we have seen on an album of his so far. The Game and Nas continue to work together and here the pair rocks hard over the first Dre beat Nas has touched in ages. Keeping the west coast connected to him, Nas teams up with Snoop for what is remarkably the first pairing of the two legends with "Play on Playa." Scott Storch lays down the best beat we've heard from him since he left the Roots crew setting the vibe perfectly for these two smokers to spit some intoxicating rhymes.

      In this same spirit we also get "Blunt Ashes" in which Nas rocks a Chris Webber (guess dude wanted a retirement plan?) beat! Sitting back telling stories is Nas' trademark and here he does it with precision, paying tribute to some of our most respected artists of days past. Webber may catch heat for being a little simplistic with his beat (the drums are weak) but he caught the mood for the topic of discussion well and Nas knows how to keep you listening.

      And then of course there is the epic collaboration we were all waiting so patiently for, "Black Republican." Produced by L.E.S. and featuring a sample from the Godfather score this track is indeed epic. Jay and Nas sound good together, whether it be due to their history or just the fact that they are two of the best to have ever done it, a bad track from these two wasn't likely. However a great track is far from what we get, peep "Success" from Jay's American Gangster for that. This track just wasn't quite ready to be made at this point. Nas may have won the battle, but by getting signed to Def Jam he to the L and here you can still sense a bit of hostility that hasn't quite subsided into friendly rivalry, which is where you feel them at on "Success."

      While many of Nas' peers made moves to launch their own labels, clothing lines or any number of other business ventures, Nas has kept himself in this game solely off the strength of his records. Maybe not always what the public was looking for and often times not what his fans wanted, he still delivered music of substance to an industry that has progressively turned its back on anything with even a hint of depth. Hip Hop is Dead is another notch in his belt and another fresh take on who Nasir Jones just might be.

      10 Days of Nas Pt. 10: Untitled (You know the name)



      What did Nas do now? Well I'm just getting into it myself but as I'm sitting with it I'm feeling inspired and in awe. The project seemed destined to fail. No one seemed to think Nas had it in him to deliver a project with the title of "N*gger" and then he flipped and changed the name. I was mad, but to hear him on "Hero" you know that he doesn't care and we shouldn't either:

      Newsweek article startled big wigs
      They said Nas why is you trying it
      My lawyers only see the billboard charts as winning
      Forgetting Nas the only true rebel since the beginning
      Still in musical prison in jail for the flow
      Try telling Bob Dylan, Bruce or Billy Joel they can't sing what's in they soul
      So untitled it is
      I never changed nothing

      While almost a decade ago Nas sounded awkward and misplaced on a beat tailor made for the clubs here he rocks the sparkling Polow Da Don beat perfectly all the while maintaining a level of content that will provoke your mind as well as your hips.

      This upbeat feel is present throughout the record, even on the serious cuts when he is speaking directly to the issue of racism and how it has shaped our country. Cool & Dre link up with Nas, Game and Chris Brown for "Make the World go Round" where they celebrate people of all walks of life as equals. The Nas and Game pairing continues to impress and I think Games hunger has inspired Nas - you hear it not just on this track, but throughout his voice and flow across the album.

      Salaam Remi gives Nas a touch of that classic Hip Hop sound he's so nice over on "You Can't Stop Us Now" with Eben Thomas of the Stylistics crooning the hook over a mesmerizing bass line and guitar loop. Nas brings in the Last Poets here who challenge conceptions and ask you to open your mind.

      That, it seems, is the number one goal of this project. It isn't to brainwash you into any particular train of thought or to make everyone start saying "n*gger." Over the last several records we have seen Nas develop himself into an artist who can't be challenged. He is rap royalty and he doesn't even need it. He isn't out for the status anymore, he is trying to speak to the people and push some change into our lives.

      Along with the intensity of the lyrics, we see Nas join forces with a number of new producers, including a trifecta of beats from dead prez's own stic.man. Regardless of how you feel about dead prez, stic knows what he is doing behind the boards giving Nas some of the most powerful music he has here. The rock inspired guitars on "Sly Fox" give Nas the space he needed to address the network we all love to hate and a certain personality who needs to learn to leave that which he doesn't understand alone.

      "We're Not Alone" demonstrates a whole other side to stic's production with a slow moving track filled with live piano, drums and a great singer in Mykel. Nas gets on his conspiracy theory game, talking about his own sighting of a UFO and the government's desire to hide the truth from us. While it may sound a little silly, Nas keeps it all together questioning the existence of god or evolution and considers that which seems impossible: How can we be alone in this universe?

      Don't be scared though, Nas didn't get all X-Files on us. Busta Rhymes comes through on the Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse's producer) laced "Fried Chicken." As America continues to see issues of obesity and poor health decisions plague our population Nas and Busta create a great tribute to one of the best (tastiest) meals that should be eaten as little as possible all the while declaring their own love for it and the challenge they face to keep away from it.

      This record gives you a lot to think about, which could very well keep it in rotation for a long time. But beyond the edutainment found here, Nas delivered a project that is socially relevant and at the same time sounds good. The music is great, the lyrics are as on point as ever and it's still Nas doing his own thing. If you have rode this long for Nas, there won't be anything here to disappoint, you might actually be impressed. I am, and I've already prepared myself to come back to it so as to see how it ages, cause after all the only test of a classic is time.


      America.................
      Last edited by H Rap Brown; 01-01-2009 at 09:05 PM.


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