Saturday, February 18, 2006

The 11th Illmatic Track

Miles Davis weaved in and out of clearly defined styles throughout his storied career. Likewise, several unique periods of creative success preserve Picasso's legacy. Now maybe you don't put Illmatic up there with Kind of Blue or The Old Guitarist, but just as those achievements were indicative of artistic stages that would eventually give way to pursuits in other artistic directions, for many, the move from Nasty Nas to Nas Escobar was no minor event.

Perhaps more than any other rapper, Nas has traveled through multiple distinct and definable personal and musical stages. There's overlapping and certain similarities throughout, but major content and stylistic changes are evident. Nasty Nas was the pavement-perched poet with a stoop sensibility and dreams of being a gangster. Escobar was the realization of those dreams, a glitzy griot with a Fortune 500 flair. The I Am-period proved the hubris-driven backlash against critics who "dared" to question Nas' changing intonations, while Nastradamus was all balance thrown off, a schitzo dilemma arising, where identity was momentarily lost amongst gimmicks and complacency. Stillmatic then ushered in a simpler "Nas", with a clearer focus, but ultimately frustrated by what he wanted (everyone's praise), what he expected (everyone's hate), and what he ended up with (enemies). And if Stillmatic, Ether, and notoriously the Power 105 rant were Nas screaming at the world "fuck you, love me", then God's Son was his voice gone hoarse, left melancholy, equally fueled and distracted by grief. Finally, most recently, Street's Disciple read like the emergence of Nasir Jones, the thirty-something man, and the relative downplaying of the rapper side.

Now this is all mundane Beginner's Psychology talk to introduce One On One, or, what is for many, that last breath before Escobar came in, Nasty Nas exited stage left, and the Rotten Apple went from gutter-minded to Manhattan-bound. It's as close to an 11th Illmatic track as has ever been put out and, curiously enough, came to be thanks to Ryu, Chun-Li, and 'em. As part of the Hip-Hop-studded Street Fighter soundtrack and released during that magical year of 1994, One on One also saw Nas injecting a bit of the lighter side into his lyrics: "I brawl with Blanka, caught Bison in a thinker."

All in all, if you want to commemorate a moment before gloss replaced grit, before NY State of Mind went international, when the young city bandit still dedicated scrolls to rolling papers and wrote scenes on street corners, as vocabulary cut through the violence and the 'hood was dissected by its strongest voice, observed with its keenest eye, and phrased in its most poetic truth, One On One is that moment. (And pretend like you don't hear the new jack crooning--it's better that way.)

In the Rotten Apple, take a bite, taste the worm
Embrace the world of reality we're faced to learn:
Coke connects and drug busts, graveyards where thugs rest
I keep my mug blessed, the evil is illegal substance sold
Nas: One on One


Blogger easye7 said...

Hey keep up the good work, it's appreciated, One.

February 19, 2006 1:14 AM  
Anonymous A Nasty nas fan said...

Hey I really like your blog here. Nas being my fav rapper, and you have many unreleased tracks I haven't heard (ie One on One).

Keep it up, I enjoy checking every day.

February 19, 2006 8:11 AM  
Blogger The G Manifesto said...

i like the breakdown of the different phases of nas.

February 20, 2006 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe this song was produced by Chris Large & Mr. Freaknasty, not Large Professor.

February 20, 2006 1:07 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...

To anonymous, you know, I just checked with someone who had the liner notes and it appears I made a mistake.

Having never physically possessed the album myself and going off of just what I've heard, I guess I and other people maybe somehow crossed the brainwaves and credited Ex-P for this, when instead Nas & Large Pro's real last collaboration before the break was the similarly-titled "One Plus One."

I'll change the entry now. thanks

Here's the closest link I could find online to back this up:

February 20, 2006 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Req said...

Great song, thanks for the writeup, but surely Deja Vu or Understanding would make more sense and coherency as candidates for the 11th Illmatic track?

January 03, 2007 12:59 PM  

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