Sunday, November 26, 2006

Even More Fingers

Analyze This
If you ask someone about the recently-leaked Black Republican Nas / Jay-Z track, they might tell you that's not really the first collaboration between the two rappers; next, they would point to something called Analyze This. However, what they're referring to is actually a blend. The story goes that NBA center Shaquille O'Neal was assembling material for his 1996 release Can't Stop The Reign. He then brought in the Trackmasters who eventually enlisted their comrade Nas to lay down some vocals. Nas obliged, spit an Esco-inspired verse but then ran into some issues. Either there were money holdups or personality disagreements, whatever, but he soon dropped out, and Jay-Z, coming off the release of Reasonable Doubt, was brought in as a replacement. Subsequently, it was only years later, with Shaq completely edited out but Lord Tariq, also on the original, still there, that Nas and Jay-Z's raps were paired together.

Nasir Jones
The first song on 2005's Nas / Dirty Harry mixtape Living Legends found the rapper delivering an emotionally-fueled story rap over a collection of charging horns and strings, "In this room / This hideout, seclusion / It's darker soon / I'll ride out as soon as the sun's up / My goons with their guns up / Are tired, been driving for hours / Not resting, inside I feel weary / My mind and my spirit strained / The suffering, the pain / Missing my wife and my kids / And at night, I wish for the day / I see that this world will be righteous and fair / I struggle, my life isn't rare / While smoking, I heard a commotion, I stare / From the window, I call to my gods / "They coming, get ready, let's do it" / Fast as your perish, I laugh while I'm jetting / You get, keep going, you slowly closing in on this shit / You bitches remember I did it the best / Slugs'll enter your chest / Alive, I spin around and press / The triggers and cry"

Let My Niggas Live
Every time a new Nas album rolls around, people start pining for the Premier's and Large Professor's to come aboard. However, there's another legendary New York producer whose track record and success rate with Nas is just as unbeatable: RZA. First on Raekwon's Purple Tape and then on 2000's The W, the QB MC and the do-anything Brooklynite cooked up two songs as impressive as they were unique. While '95 found Nas in the grips of Escobar and RZA calling on some Shaolin soul, the later collaboration, Let My Niggas Live, proved all the more grim. Based around a rather sparse rhythm, the beat here is a skeletal collection of tambourines and almost knock-at-the-door-like percussion. Fittingly, Nas caps off with a verse just as shadowy, anxious, and expressive. He traces everything from the figure of a hunted man taking sanctuary in a Black church to the pattern of an addict's abused veins. And even though the Wu brain trust didn't let Nas bat leadoff this go-round, a la Verbal Intercourse, with his dark imagery and detail, once more Nas is the star attraction, next to RZA's production of course.

Nas' Angels... The Flyest
There is no two million dollar beat--never was and probably never will be. The rumor that Nas had won a high-priced bidding war for a Neptunes' production spot was just that, a rumor. Regardless, Nas has twice been featured on Neptunes tracks: once on a remix to Kelis' Popular Thug, and then the more so solo Charlie's Angel soundtrack cut, Nas' Angels. Related to Nas' Angels specifically, there is a common thought that Nas lacks the versatility to sound comfortable over more club-friendly tracks. While, sure, his style is more at home amongst a more thoughtful sound than what the average ladies' night provides, he has charted time and time again, just as this particular Neptunes concoction did. However, numbers aside, how does the quality fare? Well, the overall sound here is dated, especially with the now-cliché inclusion of Raje Shwari for the Indian flair on the vocals. Nas then delivers a pretty ehh-inspiring performance, mostly littered with generic name brand references; yet, his rhyme scheme does manage to out-bumrush the club scene in the final verse, "I got 'em / Peeling out their clothes / Really 'bout this dough / Problem / Hear me out , I just go for my steel pistol / Poppin'."

Why (remix)
A surprise political hit from the 2004 election year, Jadakiss' Why found the rapper teaming up with the Alchemist Havoc for a generally effective question and answer session. Then, for the remix, Jada invited his rhyming partner Styles P along, as well as Common and Nas. For his part, Nas asks why not form alliances with Zimbabwe. Reading Zimbabwe as representative of a larger picture of Africa, this is an idea Nas has cherished throughout most of his career. It's an interesting depiction, because when he speaks of Africa, it has almost has this abstract sense about it. For instance, taken quite literally, freeing criminals from New York's Attica Prison and sending them across seas, as described on If I Ruled The World, or, as in the movie Belly, all of a sudden planning to go to "Africa" as if it is one specific location where all the planes land, Nas comes off a little foolish. However, if you read "Africa" as a metaphor for a spiritual state of mind, this Black haven of peace and righteousness, it tends to make more sense. Nas isn't proposing a specific point-by-point program to strengthen economic ties with Zimbabwe as much as he is encouraging a connection with Africa, a metaphysical path home.

Jadakiss f/ Styles P, Common, Nas: Why (remix)
Jay-Z, Lord Tariq, Nas: Analyze This
Nas: Nasir Jones
Nas f/ Pharrell: Nas' Angels
Wu-Tang Clan f/ Nas: Let My Niggas Live


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Havoc produced Why, not ALC

November 26, 2006 8:14 PM  
Anonymous Rap Jack Bauer said...

"I scream at the mirror, cursing asking God 'Why me?'" Probably one of the most vivid and terrifying opening bars Nas has ever spit. "Let My Niggas Live" is the sound of someone punching the walls in an abandoned subways station. Incredible.

November 27, 2006 7:48 AM  
Anonymous Jersey said...

actually the Why Remix was done by the kid Elite, not have or ALC

November 29, 2006 9:29 AM  
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