Updated:
Original:

Nas Sets Out to Prove Hip-Hop Still Alive on New LP, Single

DJBooth_logo2x

NEW YORK, NY -- Nasir Jones has a message: Something is terribly wrong with the state of hip-hop today.

One of the greatest MCs to ever pick up a microphone, Nas has watched as his beloved hip-hop has gone from its innocent days of B-Boy battles and lyrical sport to today’s fake-thug posturing and commercial excesses, and he’s got something to say about it. Throughout his storied career – which began with 1994’s classic Illmatic and has spanned the last decade with over 12 million albums sold – Nas has been more than just the genre’s foremost lyricist and thinker. He has become a statesman, some would argue hip-hop’s “conscience.”

As evidenced by last year’s highly-publicized reconciliation with longtime adversary JAY-Z, and his subsequent signing to Def Jam Recordings, Nas has shown that actions speak louder than words: unity is more powerful than divisiveness. The time has come for hip-hop to grow. Now, with the December 19 release of his long-awaited Def Jam debut – the aptly-titled Hip-Hop Is Dead – Nas returns to his role as mentor and teacher, his legendary mic skills as sharp as ever, and takes today’s young rappers back to school. The lesson? Hip-Hop – As Nas sees it – is very much alive.

“What I mean by 'hip-hop is dead' is we're at a vulnerable state," Nas recently told MTV News. "If we don't change, we gonna disappear like Rome. Let's break it down to a smaller situation. Hip-hop is Rome for the 'hood. I think hip-hop could help rebuild America... We are our own politicians, our own government, we have something to say.”

Nas keeps it vital from jump. On “Q.B. True G,” featuring Compton’s The Game, the two MCs trade verses over a vicious Dr. Dre beat; the student pays homage to the teacher, remembering standing on line to cop Illmatic. On the Nas-produced “Where Are They Now,” Nas runs through a litany of classic, bygone MCs over a monster James Brown sample. The theme continues on the Scott Storch-produced “Carry On Tradition,” a warning to students of the game. “Still Dreamin’” features a soul-heavy beat and hook from Kanye West. Elsewhere, Snoop Dogg shows up on the west-coast tinged “Play On Player.”

Will.I.Am productions show up twice on the album: the title track, “Hip Hop Is Dead” is set to a heavy rock beat interspersed with old-school breaks and showcases some of Nas’ most dexterous mic work in years. “Unforgettable,” featuring Def Jam songstress Chrisette Michelle, riffs off a Sam Cooke sample, with Nas’ looking forward to the golden years, while looking back on his past: “When was the last time you heard a true anthem/Nas, the millionaire, the mansion/When was the last time you heard your boy Nas rhyme/Never on schedule, but always on time.”

Finally, Nas brings an uncompromising political stance on “White Man’s Paper (War)” featuring Damien Marley. Set to a throbbing Bob Marley sample, Nas flirts with controversy, chanting: “I get my news from that white man’s paper/So I get my views from that white man’s paper/ My people act a fool for that white man’s paper/And I don’t think it’s cool, Fuck that white man’s paper/ No books in our school cuz that white man’s paper, Is droppin’ cruise missiles on the head of our neighbors/And I’m like why?”

The tones and themes throughout Hip-Hop Is Dead should be familiar to Nas fans: defiance and wisdom, mourning and hope. However, his perspective, focus and intensity have changed. There is a new sense of urgency in Nas’ pleas for change.

"When I say 'hip-hop is dead,' basically America is dead," Nas continues. "There is no political voice. Music is dead. Our way of thinking is dead, our commerce is dead. Everything in this society has been done. That's where we are as a country.”

Hip-Hop Is Dead, and the remarkable circumstance leading up to its creation, marks a new passage in Nas’ story. While the past is certainly gone, and the present is constantly changing, with a new label and an incredible new album, Nas’ future is an open page, waiting to be written.

RECOMMENDED ARTICLES

am-world-roundup-16x9-917

5 New Albums You Need to Hear This Week

Lil Nas X, Tems, Tion Wayne, Injury Reserve, and Unusual Demont all have albums you need this week on Audiomack.

BOTWWorld150

Maxo Kream, Ari Lennox & Syd: Best of the Week

Maxo Kream, Ari Lennox, Syd, and more had the best new songs on Audiomack this week.

am-world-roundup-16x9-910

5 New Albums You Need to Hear This Week

Baby Keem, María Isabel, Deb Never, Yeat, and Tony Seltzer all have albums you need this week on Audiomack.

Related

DJBooth_logo2x

Nas Confirms Hip-Hop Isn't Dead, Credits Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole & Drake

The veteran emcee believes hip-hop is in a better place today than it was ten years ago.

DJBooth_logo2x

Logic Details Hearing Nas as His First Experience with Hip-Hop

"My mom was freaking out. I never forgot that, which is kind of messed up."

DJBooth_logo2x

Nas is Amazing on Robin Thicke's New Single "Deep"

Nas continues to age like a fine wine with two outstanding guest verses on Robin Thicke's latest single.

DJBooth_logo2x

Nas Lists His Favorite Hip-Hop Albums of All-Time

You're not going to find any new albums here, Nas' favorites are all firmly rooted in the late '80s and early '90s.