Nas is like… Part 2

15 Jul

Ray: There’s so much to say about the Queensbridge, NY native. The guy who made having a chipped tooth cool for a while. The guy who dropped one of hip hop’s greatest albums, Illmatic, in 1994 at the age of 18. Ever since then, Nas has proven himself to be timeless and indestructable.

Most people wouldn’t consider Nas to be a founding father of rap music but to me, that’s exactly what he is. He definitely wasn’t the first to start rhyming over instrumentals, but in 50 to 100 years, people will probably look to him as one of the few who shaped hip hop forever.

Nas’s music has always been different. Through out his career, he’s tread the line of being a “conscious rapper” or a “gangster rapper”. The results; vivid images of street life painted with a flurry of analogies, similes, and metaphors. In one rhyme, he could refer to seeing life from the roof tops of New York housing projects while contemplating pyramids sitting on ancient land in Egypt. He was capable of delivering the most potent battle rap of all time, “Ether”, to defeat a righteous nemesis in Jay-Z. But he was also just as capable of discussing the ills that affect Black women in the song, “Black Girl Lost”.

Personally, Nas officially won me over as a fan when I heard the song, “We will survive”, which served as a tribute to the late rappers Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac Shakur. After hearing that for the first time as a young kid, I realized back then that this wasn’t the typical gimmicky rapper that I was used to. Nas was deep. He’s always been deep.

Two years ago, he challenged his rap industry peers by proclaiming that hip hop was dead. While many rappers and industry insiders took that as an insult, the consensus amongst fans of the culture was that Nas wasn’t far from the truth. The formula for success for today’s rapper is largely based on their ability to make a simplified beat, write a simplified hook, and top it all off with a trendy new dance. Generally, hip hop fans don’t have a problem with that. The problem is that this simplification of the music lead to an over exploitation of the culture while artists that had real music and real messages to deliver were shunned in favor of the next popular “ring-tone” artist. When Nas challenged hip hop, he sparked a conversation that made us look within ourselves to demand better music, better content, and higher standards of artistry.

Today, the world is watching as America’s first Black Democratic candidate for President is maneuvering through a historic campaign. As expected, issues concerning race in America have been brought to the forefront and has made everyone a bit uncomfortable. One of the issues that has been in the spot light is the use of the word “nigger”. And just like any super-hero would do, Nas comes just in time to deliver what promises to be an extremely thought provoking approach to the subject.

Nas’ 9th album, originally titled “Nigger” but later changed to Untitled (more store-shelf friendly) comes at a time when Black America isn’t really sure what to do with the word. As an extremely influential rap artist, Nas has decided to insert himself as part of the next generation of Black leaders. He certainly has the ability to connect with millions of people around the world and for the most part, his message discusses self-responsibility and the need to progress through life with a cerebral understanding of the world.

“There’s still so much wrong in the whole world with people — poor people, people of color — I just felt like a nice watch couldn’t take that away, make me forget about that. A nice day on a yacht with rich friends couldn’t make me forget about reality, what’s going on,” he said. “That’s why I named the album that — not just that the word is horrible, but the history behind the word, and how it relates to me, how it’s affected me, offended me.” – Nas

I don’t know how affective Nas would be in the political realm, but musically he’s one of rap music’s greatest treasures. The prophetic emcee. Thug poet. The slave and the master. The son of a blues player. Nas is indeed like all of these…

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