Best of '05
The following Rolling Stone article has every Internet head this side of a right click exclaiming, "the sky is falling." "Nas is going pop!" "Watch it be his worst album!" "Oh no, gee willikers!" But is it really that serious?
"For his eighth studio album, Queensbridge MC Nas is taking it to the clubs, 'I want it to be bangin',' he says.''And if you want it bangin', you call the dudes with the bangers.' In this case, the dudes are Timbaland, Pharrell, Scott Storch and Dr. Dre and hip-hop's newest 'it' producer Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. 'This one is gonna broaden my audience back up to where it needs to be,' says Nas. It doesn't hurt that he's got rap's reigning king, Jay-Z, behind him; the former foes buried the hatchet, and Hova signed Nas to Def Jam in January. Hard drums and crowd chants rule the Will.i.am-produced title track. On 'War,' a song about the politics of warfare, Nas trades verses with Damian Marley. 'It has the head nod and that rocka bump,' says Nas' co-manager Mark Pitts, who also confirms that Nas has been in touch with Michael Jackson in hopes of recording with him. 'It's gonna show Nas' potential to cross over from hip-hop to pop', says Pitts."
Nas' two best verses from 2005 may be able to shed light on where he'll be going with 2006's so-called Hip-Hop Is Dead.
Bossed Up In Control, from the Dirty Harry mixtape Living Legends, features Nas over Young Jeezy's Soul Survior beat. With Jeezy and Nas now being labelmates at Def Jam, while I do not anticipate any collabos between the two, one has to imagine that Nas will be privy to many of the same producers and beat tapes that his co-worker is, and will be aimed at a similar sound. That sound here allows for the type of bounce that many of the QB rapper's detractors have been asking for as of late, and Nas owns every second of it. With old-school swagger on board, he snipes critics and touts icon status effortlessly. It's brag-heavy, even funny, and, most importantly, well-rhymed. In this way, Bossed Up can be seen as an early version of last month's Where Y'All At.
Riding in my city on haze / eyes on a million and one ways to get paid / and my goose is cooked / rocking gear that some boosters took / either mass market or Target / I maneuver the look / from soul food to Nobu / I'm schooling the cooks / studio old school or pro tools / nigga, I'm O'Douls / that means no booze / I only gets greens / I got a inf beam that lay on the fifth lean / that spray up your click, team / indigenous but frivolous / different whips riding sideways / Nas pay attention to the littlest shit? / mentioned by / itty-bitty rappers with their chitty-chatter / encircle their soul / purple, I smoke O's / perverse verses poke holes / nigga, I birth flows / tatted, fitted hat / savage, y'all aggie / line us up, ask me who fathered their style / I say, "I the pappy" / high in the backseat, flat feet / passerby's think I'm an athlete / Chris Childs or the rapper Lil Scrappy / so I sign their names, just as happy / diamond chain, wrist is flashy / times change, but this nigga's still nasty
Although it's weird that Nas would choose to make songs on consecutive albums both named "War", as reported by Rolling Stone, the inclusion of Damian Marley is rather obvious. The chemistry the two shared on Road To Zion, from Marley's 2005 LP, and what that song brought out of Nas, is undeniable. Zion's medium range beat and dark ambience provides the percise mood Nas was built to write for. Where cops become simply badges and prostitutes become almost militant in their description, Nas hits just the right note of eerie, hopeless, and equally defiant. His verse is political but not a pitch, looking to describe the streets rather than simply indoctrinate them. And if the combo can do it again, even half as good, I'm all for it.
[Road To Zion]
Sometimes I can't help but feel helpless / I'm having daymares in daytime / wide awake, try to relate / this can't be happening / like I'm in a dream while I'm walking / 'cause what I'm seeing is haunting / human beings like ghost and zombies / President Mugabe holding guns to innocent bodies / in Zimbabwe / they make John Pope seem godly / sacrilegious and blasphemous / in my lifetime, I look back at paths I walked / where savages fought and pastors taught / prostitutes stomp in high heel boots / and badges scream at young black children / "stop or I will shoot" / I look back at cooked crack / plush cars that passed by / Jaguars mad fly / and I'm guilty for materialism / blacks are still up in the prison / trust that / so save me your "sorry"s / I'm raising an army / Revolutionary Warfare with Damian Marley / we sparking the irons / marching to Zion / you know how Nas be / NYC state of mind I'm in
Honestly, if Timbaland and Scott Storch come along, based upon Nas' past work with the former and the latter's recent output, I'd be cynical too. If a Will.i.am or a Pharrell are featured more heavily than a DJ Premier or a Large Professor, based upon common sense, I'd also be doubtful. However, I'm not ready to give up hope merely based on a couple surely-out-of-context quotes and a hypothetical producer line-up. What's more, now that Nas is involved with a label that knows his background, legacy, and genre more than Columbia ever seemed to, I'm holding hard on to something resembling faith right now. I'm not going to say this is album will save New York, change Hip-Hop, surpass Illmatic, do headstands in rush hour traffic, or anything of the sort, but I hope it will turn out well, that's all. That's my simple request--it doesn't need to move millions, get 5 Mics, or be heralded a classic. Just make it be quality, and I'll make sure I'm there. Anyway, could dude possibly put out an album worse than Nastradamus? Gee willikers!
Nas: Bossed Up In Control
Damian Marley f/ Nas: Road to Zion