Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Realty Rap

"My own backyard, famous home of rap stars"
--Nas, Destroy & Rebuild

Nas finds home on a vacant block, takes from the best building material of those who came before him, hires out an all-star design team, and fills in the interior to an unparalleled precise detail. Kind of small though. Nevertheless, the foremost real estate commission gives it their highest rating. Everyone wants to move next-door.

Across the way from the Illmatic residence, Nas tracks down some higher-market real estate. With the help of a couple associates, the move is realized, and the house becomes his. Nas decks it out in a glitzy fashion, all done up, with a wardrobe full of pink suits.

After the death of one of his closest neighbors, Nas looks to expand his property share. However, the request for a permit to double his lot size is turned down. These designs are left as scraps for a later day. Nas reacts angrily, letting his architectural vision become clouded with the vain and unfortunate. Then, much to the surprise of everyone, he erects a large cross in his front yard. Friends come over and play.

1999, seven months later
Immediately after the disappointing results of the I Am estate, Nas starts building again. From the onset, the laying of the foundation is hurried. This time he even leaves his original neighborhood entirely, moving in the direction of something more breezy, where the sun makes everything feel light. Unfortunately, he sets up right in the middle of tropical storm You Owe Me. Nas' blueprint is left in shambles, and he hardly has a square to stand upon. People wonder if he'll every make it back.

Nas attempts a return home. However, a confrontational neighbor looks to stifle this comeback, and the tenant's association also initially proves unsupportive. Regardless, a defiant Nas pours a toxic substance into the plumbing of his enemy's pad, and the opposition's stronghold on the land soon begins to crumbles from the inside. Nas is back on the block. A throne is visible from the living room window.

Nas splits time between the funeral home and a U-Haul storage unit full of old breakbeats.

Figuring that he has maintained a generally reputable and longstanding relationship with them, Nas' housing review board allows him to follow through with the long-delayed plans to double his original lot size. Unfortunately, while the first level is maintained with a deal of precision and finesse, that focus and spirit in building are lacking on the second story. Then, when it comes time for an appraisal of the grounds, the estate suffers from failed expectations and low public turnout.

Post-1996, Nas' homes have been betrayed by a number of missing parts. Key support arches have been absent, whole rooms have been boarded up from general access, and essential maintenance work has been ignored. That is to say, Nas has a wealth of Lost Tapes, material that could have otherwise gone to support and further strengthen his respective projects. Sure, the first compilation satisfied desires to hear definitive versions of No Idea's Original or Blaze a 50, but what happened to its rumored sequel? Where are Amongst Kings and My Worst Enemy? Sometimes I Wonder and Serious? Time and Understanding . . .? Somebody needs to give these tapes a home.

Sinful Living is one of those tracks currently feeling through an almost-decade long bachelor status. Unattached and, as essentially a freestyle over the Street Dreams remix beat, most likely to remain as such, this unreleased gem showcases Nas hitting in his signature It Was Written style, with his most dexterous of flows. This is what seperated him from them. A number of rappers may rely on a very basic cadence, almost like every rhyme is delivered in a slugfest fashion, quite deliberately. Then the more agile can mix it up, add in a couple quick jabs between the heavy blows. But at his best, Nas took it one step further, dancing around words like Ali in his prime. During his own prime, Nas' flow was lively, rhymes literally gliding off each other, ricocheting to the next, as if this were a game of tag played with the hands of a magician and the feet of a sprinter. Matched with this rhythmic grace and a number of well-executed double rhymes, Sinful Living is on one hand a technical success.

In addition, content-wise, the unreleased wins again. Throughout his career, while Nas has occasionally captured a lifestyle where money is portrayed as a hollow distraction (One Mic, Gangsta Tears), he too has penned songs that swung more in the opposite direction, towards excess (Hate Me Now, Made You Look). However, here Nas plays to both sides, at his most honest and even fatalistic, "probably when we dead we better, the problems ahead? whatever." This desperate sentiment is then followed by allusions to flowing champagne and large-money pursuits. It's the same feeling as the old-time bank robber who wants one last score, one last dash for cash, that he has to know, in the back of his mind, can only end bad or worse. That's the allure of the light, the dirt you go through to reach the highest highs, and the price you pay when you inevitably hit bottom, Sinful Living.
In this street life, by now the beast might be least white
Stash the heat right, my pops past the peace pipe
And shed light on, he put me right on, to be an icon
'Cause dead niggas got their names wrote up in krylon
Nas: Sinful Living


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dope writeup.... and nice song selection.... Sinful Living is a great song... Sometimes I wish there could have been a better sounding chick on the hook... but I've heard worse...

Cause dead niggas got their names wrote up in krylon

March 30, 2006 5:42 AM  
Blogger Fletch said...

Yeah, the female singer does sound off, like the result of helium and distorted vocals. But because it's a one-verse and she only comes in at the end, I don't mind that much. I think I even have a copy where I edited her out.

And thanks for the spraypaint spelling correction.

March 30, 2006 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This song is great, 1st time I've heard. Sinful Living could have been a hit easily. Is there an extended version?

March 31, 2006 1:30 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...

This one verse version is the only one I've heard.

As to it being a potential hit, as I mentioned, the beat is the same as the Street Dreams remix with R Kelly, which was decently successful.

March 31, 2006 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excuse me fletch, since you're closing the blog to all of our sadness, could you please direct me towards where you get alot of your material. Im desperate for some new stuff and i cant even find Sinful living lol. Thanks

December 28, 2006 1:19 AM  

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