Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hip-Hop Honors

I'm not sure the exact point when you could begin to mention Nas' name in company with some of Hip-Hop's elite old-school legends and have it not be blasphemy. Maybe it was Illmatic that crystallized his clout, maybe it was soaring to multi-platinum heights with It Was Written, maybe it was earning his battle stripes with Ether, maybe it was proving he could last longer than a couple albums and some trends, maybe it was resurrecting the breakbeat aesthetic on Made You Look, or maybe it was showing that Hip-Hop could grow with relative grace into its and his third decade. Then again, maybe it's really a combination of all these achievements. However, you'd also have to factor in that Nas has never shied away from a) giving respect to his elders b) working with these very same MC's. In the process, these collaborations have helped older artists receive some attention from a newer set of fans, but also bolstered Nas' status from the p.o.v. of these very same artists, to the point that you could consider him in their class without causing too much fallout. Three such acts Nas has worked with are Run-D.M.C., Scarface, and Slick Rick.

Run-D.M.C. f/ Nas, Prodigy: Queens Day
As much as any other one location, Queens, New York is responsible for some of the most important music and moments in Hip-Hop's history. In particular, Run-D.M.C. can lay claim to a bulk of these moments. Because of this, when Nas came through with '94's Illmatic, though the projects of QB were given his specific attention, on a larger scale, he was also carrying on the tradition that Run-D.M.C., amongst others, had helped etch out. Fittingly, when the Hollis trio released their first LP since before Illmatic, 2001's Crown Royal, Nas came along to represent for the second generation of Queens Hip-Hop. Over a Primoesque beat, he appropriately tripped back to memory lane with a verse that honored those days of the 80's when the likes of Run-D.M.C. ruled:

A lot of ghost towns and memories, bad blood and enemies
So many died with the same gangsta pride that entered me
Peace to them old timers, they who taught us
How to stand strong and pass it on to the sons and daughters
Scarface f/ Nas: In Between Us
You may be wondering why Scarface is included here in the same company as Rev. Run and 'em, from a chronological perspective at least. However, the first Geto Boys album did come out in '88, although, admittedly, that may not be strict "old school" by a purist's standards; regardless, I've always grouped him in with the N.W.A. and Kool G Rap league of Hip-Hop, that Reagan era, menacing, unrelenting, and ultra-violent approach to lyricism. But maybe that's part of Scarface's greatness, that he could come up in a class of rappers now considered vets and still maintain a consistent level of respect and relevance in the game to also be seen as a peer of 2Pac, Nas, Jay-Z, and even Beanie Siegel. He's accomplished as much as any other Hip-Hop artist, from business to the music side of things, and, in 2002, proved he could still hang around in his third different decade of recording on a 5-Mic level. That album, The Fix, also paired the South Acres MC with QB's own, Nas, for an ode to "O.G. knowledge."

Slick Rick f/ Nas: Me & Nas Bring It to You Hardest
It takes some guts to get on a bragging track with Slick Rick. While Nas' storytelling abilities are worthy enough to be compared to the pioneer legacy left by MC Ricky D, he's never been quite the brag artist, at least not to equal one of the greats. This is especially evident on the song in question, Me & Nas Bring It to You Hardest, where, despite being more than a decade removed from his Great Adventures debut, Rick the Ruler provides his trademark combination of conceitedness plus charisma, "when I step into a room, pimps hide they hoes ." Enhanced by his UK stylings, Me & Nas is another example of Slick Rick as the original aristocrat MC, whose asshole tendencies were balanced with the right amount of wit to win over even the crumbs.

Run-D.M.C. f/ Nas, Prodigy: Queens Day
Scarface f/ Nas: In Between Us
Slick Rick f/ Nas: Me & Nas Bring It to You Hardest


Blogger 44 Sports said...

"In Between Us" is one of my favorite guest verses of all time. Nas comes so energized right from the first line on that one.

Also, as far as collabs with old school acts, my favorite is that "Fast Life" joint with G Rap

October 19, 2006 7:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love 'Fast Life' and 'Me and Nas' I cant wait for that Nas and Rakim Collab, "streets of NY" featuring Nas and Rakim was pretty good.--Esco

October 19, 2006 10:53 AM  
Blogger Game Theory said...

I can definitely agree with that "In Between Us" verse. That and "Stay Chizzled"(if Large Pro counts)are probably my favorite Nas guest verses. Large Pro had the full Nas version on his Myspace a while ago with a totally different beat and it was dope.

October 19, 2006 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Colin said...

No love for his GOAT guest verse on "Verbal Intercourse"? But I do love "In Between Us" as well. And "Favor For A Favor", although not as much as their second collab.

October 19, 2006 9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's obviously no coincidence that most of Nas' best guest verses were recorded during 1995 (such as eye for an eye, Mo Money Mo Murder and the two aforemetioned songs fast life and verbal intercourse) just as Nas created that Ecsobar persona.

Never liked Favour for a Favour much, the lyrical game brought by Nas was a bit lackluster and this is probably one of the examples of Nas' poor beat selection (generic use of strings etc..)

October 20, 2006 3:22 AM  

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