Nas Is Like… Part 1

15 Jul

In recognition of Nas’ 9th studio album which drops today, I offer meager insight into the career of one of hip-hop’s greatest of all time. His career spans over 15 years andhas had both highs and lows. His debut album, Illmatic remains one of the greatest albums ever in hip-hop and I think the best debut album to date. However, if I were to choose, I would say Stillmatic is his best (and my favorite) album.

The album starts with an intro that shares its title with the album. And right out the gate, he comes hard!

Ay yo the brother’s stillmatic
I crawled up out of that grave, wipin the dirt, cleanin my shirt
They thought I’d make another “Illmatic”
But it’s always forward I’m movin
Never backwards stupid here’s another classic

And the beat’s crazy too. It is actually the perfect intro, and really gets you excited for what’s coming next. And track 2 doesn’t disappoint!!!

Ether. Nas vs. Jay-Z. We all know now that Nas won that battle, but back in 01 (I was a senior in high school) I was definitely in Nas’ corner, oftentimes finding myself outnumbered. Regardless, like he says on the track the whole world was “impatiently waiting” this track and CD. Literally and figuratively, Nas killed Jay andtook his crown with this track. Flow is crazy, hook is crazy, beat is crazy.

I embrace y’all with napalm
Blows up, no guts, left chest, face gone
How could Nas be garbage?
Semi-autos at your cartilage
Burner at the side of your dome, come outta my throne
I got this, locked since 9-1

Next is Got Ur Self A… This track seems to have been intended to be the original 2nd track on this album. Targeted to critics, doubters, and anyone else who thought his career was over. Solid track.

Smokin’ and You’re Da Man are the next two tracks. Tight beats, and the kind of songs you listen to and nod. You’ll notice the recurring theme of Nas addressing other rappers who are “throwing stones at the throne” is particularly obvious in these two songs.

Track 6 is Rewind. For me, tracks 6-10 are truly the heart of the CD and where most of his creative energy was focused. In Rewind, he chronicles a day where he and his crew go after a guy for whatever reason. In his own words, “I spit a story backwards, it starts at the ending.” at 2:13, it’s the shortest song on the CD (expect the intro) and isn’t lyrically one of the stars of Stillmatic, but his objective of showcasing his creative juices is definitely met.

Next is One Mic. This was probably the most popular song off the CD, and with good reason. The song is a vivid picture of what Nas sees in his hood, the conflicts, the struggle, the pain. It’s also his search for peace from backstabbing friends, unfaithful women and materialism. Through his dramatic lyrics and tone you can feel the urgency and the trials of daily life. It’s a great song, and really shines on this CD.

Following One Mic is 2nd Childhood. Production by Premo, say no more! If you’re a true hip-hop fan I don’t need to say anything else about him, but Nas hasn’t had him do on his album since this song. Listen to the song, lyrics are dope and again, he’s just talking about what he sees in the hood. A guy who is “31 and can’t give his youth up” anda girl who is 27 but hasn’t matured past the age of 12, both in their “2nd childhood.” He also offers commentary on the public school system (Junior high school dropout, teachers never cared/They was paid just to show up and leave, no one succeeds), illicit drug use (I know, right?), and the lack of pride and ambition in many of the same people who listen to his music.

Destroy & Rebuild is in essence an ode to his hood (we the strongest hood but it’s just cowards that kill us) and an exposé of sorts on those cowards, namely Cormega, Nature (both former members of The Firm) and Prodigy. At the end of the song he gives those three big bear hugs and gives them some pearls of wisdom.

The Flyest is a good track. Featuring AZ, it’s a track I really dig. Good production, it has a feel that I like. I’m always a fan of their work together and this is one of my favorite songs off the album.

Braveheart Party is next. Um, every album has one of these. Just skip it. Because of some misunderstandingwith Mary J. Blige who is on the hook, it isn’t actually included on any CD that wasn’t in the first group of mass replications (pressing).

Rule was actually the first single from the album although it wasn’t widely promoted. Featuring Amerie (one of Raysean’s crushes) it’s a political track in which he talks about racism, war, poverty, and the prospect of him being president. Good track. Amerie sounds nice.

My Country tells the story of a drug dealer on his way to Riker’s Island. The prisoner tells the story of his upbringing (father killed early, mother an addict) and his struggle to provide for his younger siblings. The guest appearance by Millennium Thug could have been omitted, but he’s probably an old friend of Nas, who doesn’t do his best work on this song. Take it or leave it.

What Goes Around is a strong song at the end of the disc. Nas’ flow is back on point and he’s back to telling us the poison in society, including soda and fast food, doctors quick to prescribe unneccesary medicine, “religion misoverstood,” and, again, public school. He goes on to tell the story of a man who got herpes through engaging in some risky behaviors while in prison, andinfects women he sleeps with. It comes back to him when he sleeps with the wrong woman and gets AIDS. He contemplates the world upside-down, when the haves become the have nots. What a thought, right?

In closing, minus a few misses, this is a really strong offering by Nas. What makes it so potent was the battle with Jay-Z and strong criticism concerning his previous albums. If you don’t own it, to truly appreciate this man and rap music, you need to get it.

Bonus Video: Classic Nas. Forget commercialism, this is hip-hop.


One Response to “Nas Is Like… Part 1”

  1. Charlie July 16, 2008 at 5:28 pm #

    Nas is the greatest rapper alive. I look forward to hearing his new album.

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