“Nas Album Done” is one of the best rap songs of 2016. It’s Nas, one of the best rappers of all time, rapping over a sample of Fugees’ “Fu-Gee-La,” one of the best rap songs of all time, for almost three straight minutes. He raps about Mercury Retrograde and major keys while commanding complete authority over a Cool & Dre beat. It’s a perfect combination of contemporary production and classic penmanship. But there is one flaw with the song: Nas’ album isn’t done yet.
In a recent appearance on the Rap Radar Podcast, Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua, a veteran A&R in the rap industry, revealed that Nas’ upcoming LP is only “75, 85” percent finished right now. “It was just him traveling and involved with everything else he got going on right now, which is a lot,” he said of the delay. “Now we about to finish off and go back in, there’s not much left to do. He just wants to rewrite a couple verses.”
That’s the bad news, but now for the good news: Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua knows all this because he’s working on Nas’ album, and let’s just say he has a track record of working on great rap albums. Since landing a job with Roc-A-Fella Records when he was still in high school, the Harlem native, now in his late 30s, has been involved in some of the most commercially and critically acclaimed albums of the last two decades, including JAY-Z’s The Blueprint, Beanie Sigel’s The Reason and every Kanye West record from The College Dropout up until Watch The Throne.
In fact, it was Hip Hop who first signed Kanye back in the late ’90s after being put onto the hungry, young producer by No I.D. — a story immortalized on The College Dropout’s biographical curtain closer, “Last Call.” He may claim he has “never tried to find talent” throughout his career, but that doesn’t change the fact that Hop was one of the first people in the industry to give Kanye a shot, not only as a producer but as a rapper and songwriter. We all know how that turned out.
However, arguably Hip Hop’s greatest asset is his ear for a good song. During his Rap Radar interview, Joshua casually revealed that he wrote the hooks for “Big Pimpin'” and “Song Cry,” which is perhaps the most amazing, unexpected humble flex of all time. He also remembered working as an A&R on In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 and being so adamant about Jay Z hearing this one particular beat from Ski Beatz. Hov heard it, loved it and recorded to the beat right there and then. That song turned out to be “Streets Is Watching.”
Hip Hop working on Nas’ new album is excellent news for everyone, especially Nas. For all his talent as a lyricist, Nasir Jones is not that great at picking beats. Seriously, try getting through Nastradamus or I Am… without wanting to pick up an MPC and remix the entire thing yourself (9th Wonder couldn’t help himself ). Even Nas’ most recent effort, Life Is Good, which many agree ranks high in his catalog, has its fair share of duds (“World’s an Addiction” and “Summer On Smash,” to name just a few).
But that was then and this is now. In 2016, Nas is in the best form he’s been in in a long time. If he can channel that same flair and fervor from recent records like “Nas Album Done,” Robin Thicke’s “Deep” and his “March Madness” remix, with JAY-Z’s long-time A&R (oh, the irony) supplying his Midas touch, then this new Nas album could be something special.
“It’s some of the best stuff I’ve heard him do,” Hip Hop said of the album. We believe him.
(Sidebar: Hip Hop also announced he’s working on Earl Sweatshirt’s new album, so get excited for that, too).