Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Race Matters

The following four verses by Nas are all a part of unreleased songs. They also, in varying ways and to different degrees of depth, approach the subject that Cornell West told you mattered and that Hip-Hop has been influenced by, one way or another, since the South Bronx: race.

Eat These Bullets
Not that the Bravehearts album was one song away from classic status, but, with its old-school beat, above-decent turns by Jungle and Wiz, and Nas' ultra-comfy flow, Eat These Bullets would have surely helped the cause. However, it just might have been what Nas is saying on the track that ultimately got it cut. His declaration that he's turned from sniping the like-skinned, "niggas", to the light-skinned, "crackers", probably got the label's attention. It's a sad kind of funny if this was indeed the case, because, for as many songs as Nas has made where "niggas" are his intended targets, to call out the opposite side once and finally catch heat from the record company, let's you know where their priorities lie.

I don't kill niggas no more, now I kill crackers / Strong as Warren Sapp is, long as a giraffe is / F-150's and F-250's / Governor, order me about two Bentleys / From Rip Kaplan, I don't fuck with Aspens / Too black for that, too tough for Hamptons / Rock Hermes, turn heads / Puff with Rasta hoes and skeet sperm in their dreads / Body whoever leak words to the Feds / My camaraderie from the streets will murder you dead / Flee NYC when it's freezing / To MIA, get this shit / My diamonds come with GIA certificates / Y'all stones is clones, I'm full grown / Hoes call my name on bullhorns / In the middle of a NBA playoff / Whatever nigga, we can face off / Wet a nigga with the AK or-- / Oops, I mean kill a cracker / The truth, I'm the realest rapper / Bravehearts running this shit / Godson, Governor, LES, Jungle and Wiz

Enemy Tomorrow
Most have never heard of Money Ray, Sharp, or the movie the magazine Felon, but somehow Nas got involved with 'em all for the song Enemy Tomorrow. With the mic booth as his pulpit, Nas begins a sermon that quickly becomes shrouded in post 9/11 anxiety. Although he does point out President Bush's particular treatment of Arabs (read: US-Middle Eastern politics), his verse is less race-specific elsewhere. It's the entire world, Nas says, that's frustrated, not necessarily contrasting white versus black, for example. However, given the line about "devils" and the characterization of anthrax as almost a ploy of the executive branch, as well as the fact that the name "Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones" has probably come up on an airport checklist or two, there is, at least, some racial subtext.

The greatest lesson ever learnt is burnt in my skin / Every man is God's child, so God's Son'll begin / The sermon's concerning life, love, misery, death / Death's the freedom, life's the test, God bless / Gripping my cig, dusting my chrome / Thinking that they use this anthrax air to bust in my home / Fucking devils, see, your power's temporary / The last shall be first, the first shall be last / Cops wanna murder me fast / They burning your flag / The world is frustrated, 'fuck waiting's the motto / Niggas tryna be caking in Pradas / When you cake it, then you leave the hood, just feed the wolves / The bigger the man the bigger his mistake, it's all good / Learn and grow, nothing is promised up in the projects / Snakes, snitches hoping you fall / It takes will to progress and open the door / Too many wakes and bodies, hope it's no more / See, everybody got a sad song / Bush did them A-rabs wrong / Look what it's come to / The Art of War by Sun Tzu's needed / I dream about actresses, singers, and models / Waterbed fantasies, nipples and lips then the scene flips / Demonic pictures of niggas with Sigmas, infrared beams and shit / There you have it: life, love, misery, death / In rhyme, 'cause in reality, I ain't finished yet / My enemy's make me swifter / There's more ways to kill than guns / And those ways, yo, I can't reveal / That's top secret, who the fuck got beef, you ain't my size / Forever I'm a Braveheart felon, you touched by Nas

Compared to the relatively aggressive points of view on the previous two tracks, Imagine finds Nas in a "we are the world" type mood. In fact, generally reflecting the message of the John Lennon original, Nas asks for "humans of all colors [to] stand up as one race." Though a bit more developed, it's similar to his take on the All-Star Tribute version of What's Going On. Also, with Imagine being recorded post 9/11, there's an anthrax reference once again. The second verse is then delivered by Pitbull.

Imagine we could all get along / Won't be long till that day comes / Mothers stop cooking, take off your aprons / Fathers stop looking at every sports station / Take a second and think of every poor nation / Making weapons, they can't afford a plate, no proper healthcare / Over here it's Section 8, a lot on welfare / Yo, the wealthy laugh, the market crash, economy's bad / How do we change it? Newsflash about a powder that's dangerous / How do we escape these brainless acts of terror? / I'll tell you how, if Jesus ever comes, I'm not no better / Put our hearts in the right place, humans of all colors will stand up as one race / I promise you one day . . . Imagine that

Never Too Late
Because of its point about the Amadou Diallo verdict, where NYC police officers were found not guilty for the killing of an unarmed Guinean immigrant, Never Too Late was most likely recorded mid-to-late 2000. The Diallo case, the "racist white judge" Nas describes, and an apparent conspiracy "to kill black boys" are especially interesting next to Nas' final lines. Although he's talking specifically about skyscrapers and how everything that's come to be was sparked by a mere thought in someone's head, in describing a system where the odds are so seemingly stacked against blacks, in a way, he's illustrating that white supremacy itself began as just a crude idea centuries ago. An earlier mention of slavery further solidifies this point.

I sip the blood of Christ from a gold cup / I love this life / My soldiers smoke you, no price / Dead men in graves roll over / I'm part Apache slave master African, who asked me / Fans tear my clothes, bitches try to trap me / 30,000 seats rise to their feet to hear me flow / Got two mansions on the East Coast / Models deep throat / I heard about them kidnap dudes, had dinner with some / Shake hands with killers just to see who really was one / Study his moves, how he look fake - but that's the trick to it / Now we turn you to bait / The street shit I stick to it / Rappers hate me, bitches saying, "how did he start?" / They go to psychics asking 'em for my astrology chart / I'm the righteous thug, fight for Mumia / Racist white judge - made Diallo's murderers free / See, they don't like us / And what about conspiracies to kill black boys / But y'all ain't hearing me, worship the planet like asteroids / Look around and everything you see was once an idea / From somebody's thoughts who turned into reality clear / Look at the tallest sky scrapers, it just didn't appear / Somebody thought it up and built it up and put it right there

Nas, Pitbull: Imagine
Nas f/ The Bravehearts: Eat These Bullets
Nas f/ The Bravehearts: Never Too Late
Nas f/ Money Ray, Sharp: Enemy Tomorrow
Bonus: All-Star Tribute: What's Going On


Anonymous Anonymous said...

as always, A+ writing and songs

August 29, 2006 10:25 PM  
Blogger Esco said...

Im hooked on your site...need my fix. Good writing, I bet you have tons of unreleased songs, is there a way I can get some from you?

August 30, 2006 5:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a shame that those perfectly good songs are ruined by those other artists.

August 30, 2006 4:02 PM  
Anonymous stu top dude said...

lost those tracks... been lookin for them for awhile... Enemy Tomorrow's not workin for me... reup?

August 30, 2006 6:14 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...

Esco, best way to get unreleased Nas songs from me? Keeping coming back here. lol . . . that's all I can tell ya.

And Stu, ZSHARE seems to be down right now . . . if it's still down in the morning, I'll put in new links.

August 30, 2006 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Dreamah said...

Another quality blog. Thanks for the excellent write-up and the songs. I was missing two of them, and love hearing new (to me) Nas shit.

August 31, 2006 8:08 PM  
Blogger MiThRaZoR said...

Man, Nas' verse and all is good. Looks like he dumbed some songs down like "Eat These Bullets"

I liked "Never Too Late". Song is pretty good.

But most of these sound like Mainstream sound. Nas' verse is good but them other verses dumb his shit down.

"Enemy Tommorow" did something right. Nice start. Whoever was rapping the first verse. It's a good song just damn long.

September 02, 2006 7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FELON is a street magazine, not a soundtrack, they put out a compilation a few years back...

September 06, 2006 1:01 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...

Anoynmous, thanks for the correction. The change has been noted.

September 06, 2006 3:13 PM  
Anonymous pyrex morgan said...

these sample verse demonstrate why it's hard to take nas seriously. even in the throes of social commentary, he dawdles absentmindedly into unrelated tangents involving materialism or sexual conquest. i'm not suggesting that nasir is lowering the ethical plateau of his verse by discussing more shallow or base pursuits; instead, i believe this illustrates that most of his routine political posturing is little more than a customized brand of "i'm a bad man" rhetoric. of course, those who view jones as an edifying force in hip-hop interpret his quasi-political piss-drops as nuggets of bold bullion.

September 19, 2006 12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

aww shit, im so late, please could you reup eat these bullets and imagine some day? love the blog, keep it up.

September 21, 2006 6:10 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...


"It's hard to take Nas seriously" as . . .? A person who puts rhymes together on beats? A politician? Your church deacon? Like I've said a million times over, if I listen to rap music for the how more so than the what, how a rapper puts his words together, not necessarily their intended message, for example, then I don't even begin to take Nas as anything but an MC. If he went out and came back with the most coherent exposition of democracy in post-colonial Africa, and that shit didn't rhyme well, I'm pressing skip regardless. (If I can get the how AND the what, then that's preferred, of course, but the latter should never be supersede the former.)

That's my general response. And if Nas contradicts himself, okay, go find that Whitman quote.

It's also interesting that we always look at it like the materialism riffs are tangential and the politics is central. Because whatever "social commentary" there is on Never Too Late and Eat These Bullets seems to be more of an aside than the "I'm a bad man" theme running throughout. So if we flip how we view these songs, then I think the objections that follow would be different, if at all.

Thanks for the nugget though.

September 21, 2006 9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a long time listener to Nas, he quicky grew up the ranks as one of my favourate mcs. But hearing him use the term "cracker" so vehemently on a track...I don't know I think I lost all respect for him. Eminem makes a few adolescent tapes of rascist comments and he's lampooned. If by "cracker" Nas means the corporate offices guys, then he's shooting his money. In case black artist didn't know there "bling" comes from a very rich white guy. It gets me, that these artists are so adamantly against conformity when the subscride to shallow possessions that the west clings to. Jeez...oh and by the way, where are all of your mp3s????

November 30, 2006 4:29 AM  

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