Young, Gifted, and Black
What do you do when giving Medusa shotguns in Hell just isn't bringing in the kind of sales you had hoped for? You draw from The Eurythmics and Kurtis Blow and take on the surname of the most notorious cocaine kingpin ever, Pablo Escobar.
It Was Written seems to keep getting pushed closer and closer to classic status every year, though older heads still balk at the notion of Nas leaving army jackets behind for pink suits. But say what you will about that change in dress, changing managers, from MC Serch to Steve Stoute, changing beatmakers, from Large Professor to the Trackmasters, and even changing video shoot locations, from snowy ghetto scenes to flatbeds in the middle of Manhattan, lyrically, It Was Written was not a 180 flip from Illmatic. The only difference was that the world that Nas was having dreams of in '94, now, in '96, he was living. Otherwise, tracks like Shootouts or Suspect or The Message still offer 5-mic rhymes, a lively cadence not yet broken down by years of blunt abuse, and success for a guy who had clearly earned it on the LP before.
However, today's featured song isn't from It Was Written at all; it's just a loose track, unreleased, but a high point of that Escobar era, The Foulness. Differentiating between parts 3 & 4 of the Foulness series, both of which guest star a hungry Nature, episodes 1 & 2, never separated and sometimes called Livin' the Life, showcase Nas dropping gram-bag wisdom and storytelling gems, all while jackin' for beats. He flows over a combination of Big Daddy Kane's Young, Gifted and Black, Biz Markie's Nobody Beats The Biz, and EPMD's You Gots To Chill. It's the kind of stuff that would make Cube proud.
Your gats don't bust, them crabs you trustA point that I feel obliged to make is this idea of Nas' "Street Dreamin'" ("Nigga never sold aspirin, how you Escobar?"). Now, of course, if rappers didn't have a great tendency to exaggerate or just plain lie, then the suburbs wouldn't get their fill of escapism. And if everything rappers said was 100% truth, then the FBI would get evidence real easy. But even Nas here has a curious take on his rap game /crack game balance: "If you ain't sellin' weight, motherfucker, then what the fuck is you doing? But fuck that drug shit, it's all about this Hip-Hop shit right here." What do you think?
Can fuck around and pass you dust
Have you on point, then blast you up
Leaking like Henny through plastic cups
Nas: The Foulness