With his sixth studio album “Street’s Disciple,” the man that went from Nasty (on his perfect debut “Illmatic”) to Nas (“It was Written”) and from Nas to Escobar, has done the hip-hop equivalent to turning his back to the crowd like the legendary jazz musician Miles Davis.
At 30, the fully grown Nasir Jones is done.
He’s finished with the industry that forces emcees to conform into rappers and turns albums into incohesive pairings of sound.
Queens’ finest has made a double album devoid of the formulaic fixings that make up the majority of today’s here-tonight-gone-tomorrow-morning rap records.
There is no obligatory Lil’ Jon track. There is no mandatory sappy song for the ladies. There isn’t even a Kanye West- produced cut with the ridiculously redundant sped up soul sample.
Instead, Nas just delivers good, honest music through piercing poetics laced with B.B. (Before Bling ) vintage production by Salaam Remi, L.E.S., Chucky Thompson and Nas himself.
From the incredible lead single “Bridging the Gap” where he gives “the history of music” on one track to “American Way” where Nas turns the infamous “Que” hop anthem “Atomic Dog” into an exploration of the plights of both his community and the practitioners of his culture, the brother is actually talking about something relevant.
The most controversial song comes in the form of the politically incorrect “These Are Our Heroes” where Nas calls out Tiger Woods, Taye Diggs, OJ Simpson and dedicates a whole verse to telling Kobe Bryant about himself of whom he spits: “Yeah, you beat the rap jiggaboo, fake nigga you, you turn around then you shit on Shaq.”
Whether it’s the conceptual “Unauthorized Biography of Rakim” or the classic “Virgo” (featuring Ludacris and Dougie Fresh), Nas is cutting his ear off and giving it to the world like Van Gogh did before him.
This is real hip-hop in it’s most raw and quintessential form, but most will let it pass them by and listen to what they have been programmed to like.
But Nas knows that.
Contact Nick Birdsong at email@example.com.