Friday, October 13, 2006

Roundup PT VI

The major news coming from Nas' corner regards the new album, but let's start elsewhere first:
  • Before his own project hits stores, come next Tuesday, October 17th, Nas will be featured on two new releases: Diddy's Press Play (Everything I Love) and Hi-Tek's Hi-Teknology 2 (Music For Life). The version of Music For Life I previously upped featured only Nas, but the retail copy includes a very poignant message left by the late J Dilla and one from Busta Rhymes, as well as a new verse by Common. On Diddy's side of things, he announced that Everything I Love will get the "split video" treatment. Remember what happened last time Nas and Puffy did a video together?
  • Earlier this year, Fat Joe criticized Nas and his partnership with Jay-Z, "I used to look up to Nas a lot, and I don't really respect what he did." Because Misters Escobar and Crack used to be more aligned than not, even collaborating on 1998's John Blaze, this revelation came as a surprise to many. Well, according to the most recent album release schedule, with Nas said to be on Joe's upcoming Me, Myself, & I, whatever discrepancies were momentarily there have supposedly been put aside. UPDATE: Fat Joe's album came out today and Nas is nowhere to be found on it. Maybe there was bad info from the release schedule lineup, maybe the track hit the cutting room floor suddenly, maybe the beef is still there, maybe maybe not.
  • Perhaps more cloudy than the Fat Joe-and-Nas setup is the trio of Rakim-Freddie Foxxx-and-Nas. Now, Foxxx and Rakim have their own issues, going back to earlier Long Island days, where, depending on who you ask, Ra did or did not turn down a challenge from the one Bumpy Knuckles. Later, Rakim got a little touchy when the subject was brought up in an interview; Foxxx then responded, in print and on record. On that record is where Nas, seemingly out of the blue, becomes involved, "Here's the facts / Eric B wanted Nas / Ra said he was wack / Jesus Christ was black / So Nas, you ain't God's Son / 'Cause he won't do the track." This is all a part of the strong-armed MC's portrayal of Rakim as a liar, a phony, and his point that, in this case, whatever respect has been shown to Nas isn't how it really is. (Freddie Foxxx himself is cool with Nas, as the two once recorded Turn Up The Mic together.) However, with the Eric B-Nas connection left as vague as possible and Rakim yet to tell his side of things, this story remains unfinished.
Okay, but the big news now: Hip-Hop Is Dead. Several media entities with press credentials I wish I could pull recently had a chance to preview songs from Nas' upcoming release. These parties include XXL, MTV, and FADER. From reading their write-ups, and also based on earlier reports, here's what we know thus far:
  • Carry the Tradition (Prod. Scott Storch): According to his interview on Radio 1, Nas covers the subject of old school rappers who have been left out of much of Hip-Hop's commercial success, now becoming upset at Nas and his generation of MC's for their good fortune. Fader describes the beat as "pretty."
  • Blunt Ashes (Prod. Chris Webber): That's right, that Chris Webber. If you've been following the concreteloop part of the world, you'd know that Nas and C-Webb have been friends for quite some time now. However, that the power forward is producing a track on one of the most anticipated albums of the year is still a bit surprising. (Word is Chris might have done some ghostproducing before, coming up under the tutelage of Detroit's Kaos & Mystro.) For his part, Nas is said to go through the high's and low's of a laundry list of varying famous people.
  • Hip-Hop Is Dead (Prod. Will.I.Am): This one's just as Rolling Stone reported back in the summer, where "hard drums and crowd chants rule." Moreover, MTV writes that it incorporates Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Salaam Remi previously used the Incredible Bongo Band cover of that classic for Thief's Theme, so we'll have to wait to see how they compare.
  • Play on Playa (Feat. Snoop Dogg) (Prod. Scott Storch): If your memory is good enough, the title "Play on Playa" should sound familiar. This is because, in certain Street's Disciple media coverage, Playa was written up, and even quoted, "throw carnations at my tombstone." On the other hand, a Snoop Dogg appearance was not documented in any press, so that appears to be a recent addition.
  • QB True G (Feat. The Game) (Prod. Dr. Dre): Although no official word has been sent down yet, Nas has hinted that his collaboration could end up as the "street single" look. From the production's side, MTV relays that "the beat has the feel of the dark party track Dre gave 50 Cent for the Outta Control remix, but [with] a bit more bite." FADER too sizes it up as a left turn, in the sense that Nas is enlisting these big name hitmakers but not so much for their instant Billboard-chart qualities.
  • Still Dreamin' (Feat. Kanye West) (Prod. Kanye West): Having previously used Kanye's production to propel Poppa was a Player, Nas returns with his Chicago brethren, though this time 'Ye handles both rapping and beatmaking duties. Apparently Nas delivers two verses, including a story set on the fast life of a female newscaster caught up in some nasty nasal habits.
  • Unforgettable (Feat. Chrisette Michele) (Prod. Will.I.Am): Based on the Nat King Cole standard of the same name, XXL first reported that "Yvette Michele" was the featured female singer. However, "Chrisette Michele" turns out to be the real "Michele", and also just happens to be a Def Jam artist. MTV makes it out to be a reminisce-type track, which has always been a strength of Nas'.
  • Where Are They Now (Prod. Nas): While write-ups thus far do not mention it, back on Radio 1, Nas broke down this song and his role behind the boards as well. Nas explained how it focuses on today's young rap music audience and their disconnect from the very artists that once inspired him back in his youth.
  • Where Y'all At (Prod. Salaam Remi): Although it was let loose this past summer, Where Y'All At also has not been discussed during the preview reports as of yet, but we can probably assume that's because it's already out there.
That makes nine songs we know the titles, guest lists, and production credits for. Others have also been referenced by XXL, MTV, and FADER, although with some information lacking:
  • Let Me in the Light (Feat. ???) (Prod. Kanye West): XXL suggested that "one of Nas' homies does a good Anthony Hamilton impersonation on the hook" but didn't have a name to offer. Perhaps that means Ill Will Records signee Tre Williams, who does have a quality similar to Anthony Hamilton. Williams was also featured on several tracks from 2005's Living Legends mixtape, including Jackson Street.
  • New York Stomp (Prod. ???): If the aforementioned QB True G is not going to be the single release, a Mixtape Monday interview with Nas has the rapper saying that honor could go to a record named, "New York Stomp." No mention of any such title has been made elsewhere however.
  • White Man's Paper (War) (Feat. Damian Marley) (Prod. ???): The reggae-scented duet between Nas and Marley, in part, concerns "the politics of warfare", as Rolling Stone detailed earlier. The question marks regarding the producer are there because we only know from FADER that "some new African dude" put the work in. Who is that? It's anyone's guess, Africa is kinda big.
  • Title Unknown??? (Prod. Salaam Remi): As the first outlet to hit on this one, FADER tells of the song's stadium-like strings and drums. With Nas striking a bit venomous, apparently the stadium setting takes on an especially Roman coliseum feel. New York Stomp?
  • Title Unknown??? (Feat. Jay-Z) (Prod. L.E.S.): According to XXL, Jay-Z and Nas "knocked out three songs in one night, and one is making [Hip-Hop Is Dead]." This doesn't necessarily mean that all important first collaboration will appear on HHID, but, during the Westwood interview, Nas implied that much. And lucky LES gets the honor (see: pressure).
So you got your Jay-Z collaboration, your Dre and Kanye beats, and nothing that seems to be pining for the TRL market too hard. You got your political Nas, your introspective Nas, your student-of-the-game Nas, and your angry Nas. You got over a dozen tracks and a swelling of anticipation, and yet you may still not be satisfied, "where's Primo?" Well, Nas recently sat down for a partially coherent interview with AHH, where, amongst other things, he kinda sorta told them that DJ Premier was on the album, "some people I've been working with, you know Salaam Remi, L.E.S., you know Dr. Dre, not as much but Dre. Premier, you know." So . . . .
    • Hip-Hop Is Dead . . . The N: December 19, 2006.
    Fat Joe f/ Nas, Big Pun, Raekwon & Jadakiss: John Blaze
    Freddie Foxxx f/ Nas: Turn Up The Mic
    Nas f/ Tre Williams: Jackson Street
    BONUS: Freddie Foxxx: Rakim Diss
    BONUS: Incredible Bongo Band: In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida


    Blogger Aegis865 said...

    Where is Just Blaze at?I suppose there is no chance of Havoc and Large Professor turning up then.I'm really finding it hard to care about this album.

    October 13, 2006 11:25 AM  
    Blogger Fletch said...

    From the MTV article, "On Hip-Hop Is Dead, he worked with the best, including Dr. Dre, Just Blaze, Kanye West and others." But Just isn't mentioned anywhere else or any other coverage, so who knows.

    But when's the last time Nas worked with Havoc? That's really a deciding factor?

    October 13, 2006 11:30 AM  
    Blogger Aegis865 said...

    No and I didn't expect him to be on this album, I just want Nas to work with Havoc again.Some of his best work has been on Mobb Deep albums and on the second half of It Was Written.

    I was looking forward to hearing Nas and Just Blaze(saying that the Just Blaze/Jay-Z stuff from 'Kingdom Come' is so far weak) working together.Possibly no Just Blaze,Premo not confirmed,no Large Professor,no AZ collab??

    October 13, 2006 11:41 AM  
    Blogger Fletch said...

    Nas will be featured over Just Blaze's production for sure on The Game's album, beyond that, we just have to wait.

    The work Just did w/ Nas on the Biggie's duet album didn't wow we though, especially the sample use, but I would like to see them try again.

    October 13, 2006 11:55 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Me too, I liked the beat Just did for Fat Joe, 'The Incredible'...something along those lines would be nice for Nas, but whatever, Nas is versatile so he could make just about anything work.--Esco

    October 13, 2006 12:21 PM  
    Anonymous Understanding said...

    In response 2 ANONYMOUS ... I thought I was one of the only people out here really feelin' that beat that Just did 4 Fat Joe "THE INCREDIBLE". I absolutely love that beat. Its so mean. But the way I see it even if Just isn't on NAS's album I'm still lookin' 4ward 2 the joint he, NAS and The Game collabo'ed on. A song said 2 be about eight minutes long? whoa. I don't care WHOSE album that joint is on. I'm lookin' 4ward 2 it 4 real.

    October 13, 2006 12:59 PM  
    Anonymous Understanding said...

    Oh and as far as Freddie Foxx ... dude sounds like one of those disgruntled rappers that NAS is addressing in "Carry The Tradition". I just recently got ahold of the NAS-FOXX collabo "Turn Off the Mic" and in that song Foxx refers 2 himself as a "Braveheart" and NAS as "Godson". My guess is that things didn't go the way Foxx wanted them 2 go between he and NAS and so now he's reaching all the way back 2 NAS's beginnings and Rakim's opinion of NAS waaaay back then and trying 2 make it seem as if RAKIM is a hypocrite like 13 yrs later. All it does though is make Foxx look salty and jealous particularly when u take in2 account that RA' and NAS did an MTV interview 2 gether and have done @ least one song that I know of "New York State of Mind Part 3" feat Alicia Keyes and will probably do more. Who knows ... something by the two "God Emcees" may turn up unexpectedly on H.H.I.D. All in all though Foxx is a prime example of Jay-Z's "LINE ITEM 36" reference. He'll drop his album and I predict that it'll go copper.

    October 13, 2006 1:15 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    according to Game on an interview he had to cut the 8 minute track by half, but he will put out the extended version out for his fans to DL--Esco

    P.S. Nas would kill that 'Incredible' beat

    October 13, 2006 2:03 PM  
    Blogger Game Theory said...

    Though its unexpected, I was really hoping he'd get in there with Large Professor. I definitely wasn't one to like that House of Pain track he did on the Biggie CD, so I'm hoping thats not the type of shit were going to get on HHID. Havoc contrib would be dope, but definitely not happening. And I'm assuming they let him know that another UBR is not a good idea...

    October 13, 2006 2:25 PM  
    Anonymous Tar One said...

    Primo about his future work with Nas here (after the Whitney Houston part):

    And I heard about Ra/Nas collabs in both of their next LPs, but who knows what the deal is now...

    I'm confident about this album and i'm sure that he'll come with a couple of big surprises. I feel that the buzz get bigger and bigger, especially from last weeks after a disturbing silence and Jay very disturbing egomania comeback fest. I just hope that he got enough power and taste to avoid the usual shitty mellow commercial tracks with wack RnB hooks of the average Def Jam/Major companies releases

    Keep doin'the good job, Peace.

    October 14, 2006 7:33 AM  
    Blogger MiThRaZoR said...

    This is straight up gay... I don't want Nas collabing with these people. He needs to collab with dope people. Rakim would have been nice. And what happened to having a solo album? Almost every song has someone featured.

    Come on Nas, atleast have some similarities to your past work.

    October 15, 2006 12:33 AM  
    Anonymous Understanding said...

    In response 2 MITHRAZOR ... why should he have "Some similarities 2 his past work?" Come on now. I thought u knew NAS. He's all about change and why should he continue 2 have albums with next 2 no guest appearances or features? He's been doin' that for years 4 whatever reason and now that dude has reached a new level of maturity and a new comfort level ... he's reachin' out and workin' with cats. I mean STREETS DISCIPLE was a 2-disc set and what well-known artists did dude have on there besides Busta'? And on GODSON he had next 2 no guest appearances. I'm actually glad that he's workin' with some of these cats that are gonna appear on the album cuz' I believe that in being in the studio with them ... it served 2 bring out the best in him and got the competitive juices flowin'. He's a professional and he knows that a lot is riding on this album so why not reach 2 some cats he respects? I mean The Game, Jay-Z, posibly Rakim, plus dude said that he had just finished up recording a joint with a "big Queens MC" and that when people hear it there're gonna be surprised. I think this is good 4 NAS and good 4 hip-hop. Just my two cents though.

    October 15, 2006 8:38 AM  
    Blogger Fletch said...

    Understanding, I have a feeling that "big queens MC" record isn't gonna be on HHID, but otherwise I'll give a strong cosign to the idea that working with an array of rappers will help get "competitive juices flowin'" for Nas.

    But to Mith, c'mon now. . . I actually thought about deleting your reply but didn't because 1) You're a regular, right, so I know this isn't some random "fuck nas" internet hit-and-run 2) Apparently pre-album nervousness / disappointment has been going around.

    First of all, "I don't want Nas collabing with these people" sounds like some really misguided fanboy cry. R&B singers aside, which have been a staple of Nas' last couple albums, who do we have?

    Snoop Dogg? Admittedly, this Play on Playa track is probably the one I'm most apprehensive about, but that's because it was cut off of Street's Disciple, which is just really curious. And yes, the Snoop Dogg appearance was a surprise, but he and Nas are similar, at least to an extent: 1) Both burst through the gates off of a handful of legendary guest appearances and then dropped two of the best debut albums the genre's ever seen, in the process giving people a whole new look at "flow" 2) Both are famous weedheads . . . But here's the thing, Snoop is one of a small number of rappers (maybe one of four) who has sounded comfortable over essentially ANY type of beat you give him, so I don't think he'll seem out of place over whatever Storch cooks up, at least. Also, if you listened to Outkast's Hollywood Divorce, you'd hear a surprising verse from him, perhaps proof that if you put Snoop in certain company, he can show a different side, "Take our game / Take our name / Give us a little fame / And then they kick us to the curb, that's a cold thang." Finally, FADER says he and Nas both spit about 32 bars each, twice normal, so I'd think there's got to be a good reason behind that, like it's worth the 32.

    The Game? I know a lot of people have taken to the cause of cracking on dude, but I own The Documentary with no regrets, listened to the Black Wall Street mixtape without skipping ahead much either, and probably will end up purchasing Doctor's Advocate first week as well. Yes, the name-dropping gets out of hand at times, but he's got a great voice, above average rhyming skills, and has to his credit more than a couple quotable-for-the-right-reason lines, intensity, some humor, especially hubris, a perfectly capable B-movie western star. Moreover, the track he did with Nas for his own album I think I'm actually anticipating more than any other song of the year. I mean, if the centerpiece of your all important sophomore LP is supposedly a nine minute track with a rapper who hasn't had a genuine hit in four years, but you're still riding with him 'cause he's a legend, you get a little more of my respect.

    Kanye West? Grammy Family is in my top five 2006 rap singles so far. Would I rather Kanye produce two tracks and not rap on any? Okay, but, again, I'm not mad at him being along. Kanye knows what a Nas album is, I have faith.

    Damian Marley? Road to Zion, nuff said.

    Jay-Z? You didn't think this was coming? I don't believe their particular styles synch up the way some see 'em, but if the collaboration can provide even 1/4 of the excitement and response their "I Declare War" show first did, it'll win.

    "And what happened to having a solo album? Almost every song has someone featured."

    Nastradamus only had three tracks with featured rappers.

    However, the single most important reason why not to jump ship so quickly is simply we haven't heard a single one of these songs yet, really.

    October 15, 2006 12:02 PM  
    Blogger Game Theory said...

    Fletch, I'm really happy you made those comments about the Game. I think drama aside, he's definitely an MC to contend with for the same reasons you listed, and thats something people continue to set aside because of the publics obsessions with beef. There are not many rappers who can come out and spit 100 bars and keep your attention the whole time, and he did a solid 300. Not to sound like a stan, but I'd rather see people pay more attention to music than all the WWF-ish drama that follows it.

    October 15, 2006 1:26 PM  
    Anonymous understanding said...

    FLETCH ... I with u on really, really anticipating that Game-Nas collabo off of The Game's album. While I obviosuly prefer 2 hear the uncut eight-nine minute version ... I'll take what I can get 4 the time being. I believe u wrote that The Game is gonna release the uncut version 4 us 2 download? If so cool. They need 2 give the people what they want. I'm just really lookin' 4 ward 2 hearin' that particularly with it bein' produced by Just_Blaze. If the beat is as ill as I hope it is it might actually give the Dr. Dre produced NAS-Game joint on Nas's album a run 4 its money. And as far as the joint with him and Hov' ... man I've been anxiously awaitin' that joint ever since I heard the two "God MC's" made peace. I mean that's straight up history we're talkin' about. In my opinion that's gonna be one of those "Do-U-Remember-Where-U-Were- When-U-First-Heard-It" type joints. History man. 2 say I can't wait is an understatement 4 real 4 real. And if the album does indeed feature a NAS-RAKIM collabo too ... then this joint may end up bein' the illest NAS album ever.

    October 15, 2006 4:20 PM  
    Blogger Aegis865 said...

    As alreday said, Snoop does guestspots better then most.Hollywood Divorce was basicaly the best track on the messy but good Idlewild,and both Snoop and Wayne outdid both Big Boi and Andre.Snoop's being doing guestspots brilliantly for years(check out the last Beanie album)and his delivery is one of the best out there.Kanye is annoying but his production is brilliant.Check 'The Cool' from Lupe's debut-incredible beat.

    October 16, 2006 2:53 AM  
    Blogger Fletch said...

    There was a listening session in New York last night, where, again, certain members of the press with credentials I can't pull were graced with free drinks and new music. Of those songs they previewed from Hip-Hop Is Dead, a lot of what we already know was confirmed, but some new stuff was covered as well.

    Prefix Mag
    Miss Info
    All Hip-Hop

    Here's what we learned:

    Let Me In The Light may be titled Let There Be Light

    Unforgettable may be titled Can't Forget About You

    Plus, Won't Go Back and You Mean The World To Me, unless they're earlier songs that went through name changes as well, could be two new ones. The former track is described by AHH as having "sleepy keys and hard drums" with "some smooth humming and singing from some singing dude." You Mean The World To Me is written up as being full of an "airy organ." For his part, Nas, reportedly, "tells a tales of girlfriend and baby daddy drama."

    Also, on DJ Clue's show last night, Nas mentioned a track with Quan in the works. He wasn't guaranteeing that it would get done and have the official okay, but that's something else to look for.

    November 10, 2006 6:00 PM  
    Blogger Fletch said...

    From a November interview with DJ Premier, "I don't even have one song on the album."

    Something had been planned, everything from the particular beat to the rhymes, but it never got recorded.

    November 12, 2006 1:16 AM  
    Blogger Fletch said...

    Here's one more listening session write-up . . . so good, I had to swipe the entire thing.

    Hip-Hop Is Dead finds Nas flirting with greatness, and if not capturing it, more impressively, embodying it. This is as precise as greatness renders itself over the span of 12 or so tracks.

    1.) "QB True G" (feat. The Game) - A finely tuned, high screeching violin serves as the backdrop while both Game and Nas alternate delivering methodically militant lines. The chorus witnesses a sort of Compton-Queensbridge alliance: "You a Compton, Compton OG, I'm a QB, QB, true G." For once Game's excessive and fanatical Illmatic references find reason and fit. Game says something about buying Illmatic instead of Doggystyle and all that sappy stuff he says on The Documentary. It's a great collaboration and even greater example of the partnership between an apprentice and master; student and teacher.

    2.)"Won't Go Back feat" - Nas gets introspective on this, with help from a drowning piano riff. Think of what Nas' rendition of Jay-Z's "Lost One" would sound like, well this is it. It also features a mysterious verse, some speculate Quan, I thought Young Jeezy. To cap off, there is a teary, soulful chorus that says something about "already going this way" but not liking "this way". The chorus completes this track.

    3.) "You Mean the World To Me" - A big record that splashes in the playground puddles of 1994. This has a vintage, old-school feel that will have you thinking of "The World Is Yours". This track serves as an ode to Nas' favorite woman.

    4.) "Play on Playa" (feat Snoop Dogg) - For purposes of categorization, I guess this would be the club record. It has all the attributes: produced by Scott Storch, features Snoop Dogg, and after all is called "Play on Playa." Still, this record manages not to be a club record. It's sleek and smooth with a solid verse from Snoop. Nas says something like "swallow my protein like an Ovaltine (?) shake".

    5.)"Where Are They Now" - This was the turning point of the session. A radically schizophrenic beat that sounds at first like a violent harmonica, but what later reveals to be sharp electric guitar screeches. It sounds like a car revving up its engine. Nas declares that there will be "no gangbanging in NY, tonight" and uses this track to reflect on forgotten comrades.

    6.)"Carry on Tradition" Nas keeps it diplomatic on this track behind light snaps and focused organs. Nas seems to care less about who's listening, if anyone; he does one of those looking-in-the-mirror rhymes that will scare you as much as it will impress. The track finds Nas searching within, telling us of his vision of Hip Hop, "Let me crown you// when you rise up// take your position // carry on tradition." This doubles as the chorus.

    7.)Normally, according to the tracklist, the title track should have followed, but something completely iconic occurred a spaceship landed in the room, if you will. "Black Republicans" began to play. About 5 seconds in, the soundman cut the music, which prompted a heavy rain of jeers; the soundman gave it another try, only to stop again. The third time was just torture as the track stopped as quickly as it began. From what I heard, it sounded like something cataclysmic that was disrupting the order of space. A rolling ball of fire that when it reached its climax even had Jay assessing the situation: "I know you can feel the magic". Other than that, Hip Hop is dead (the single, that is) became a moot point.

    8.)"Blunt Ashes" (note: on the tracklist this is incorrectly labeled as "Still Dreamin'")- This track did its best to put an even more downcast vibe. The track wasn't bad, just the timing was. It's a misty, airy beat provided by Chris Webber (yes, the basketball player). Nas gets very somber on the chorus almost musing to himself: I could see my whole life past me // Did I keep it gangsta or classy." Nas does this thing where each word is assigned one syllable. Well, at least it sounded like that.

    9.)"Still Dreamin'" (feat Kanye West) While, this track features Kanye both on the mike and behind the boards, many people told me Kanye also, is behind another track on Hip-Hop Is Dead. Your guess is as good as mine. Naturally, this is a sample-heavy track. Kanye tells us "n***as so cold, you gotta bring the mink out". Nas and Kanye share the chorus, "Some dreams stay dreams, some dreams come true".

    10.)"Let There Be Light" - Before the drums and cymbals take over, this track begins with the naked "We Will Rock You" rhythm and erupts into this freak of nature. Another old-school vintage sound that sounds more 50-ish than anything with the R&B crooning.

    11.) "Can't Forget About You" (feat Chrisette Michelle) - This is an absolute final gem. It was for good reason that the Def Jam official instructed us to "pay attention" to this track. It's a whirlwind classic that swoops from yesteryear with Nas, not spitting fire, but delivering cold ice, "I go by N, just one syllable." This might be the one track to convince you that hip-hop is not dead.

    November 14, 2006 11:17 PM  

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