Filed under: Features,Killa Queens,The Unkut Opinion
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Did you find yourself giggling like a schoolgirl who just shot her first can of 4-Loko when news broke this week of Nas’ tax problems? Find yourself Tweeting things like ‘#naslost’ at random? Then you may be one of the millions of rap fans who have developed a deep-seated condition known as Nas Envy. Let’s face it, life in the music game was never going to be easy for the ‘verbal sniper’ when he was proclaimed as the second coming of Rakim before his debut album had dropped. Even that far back, some people considered Illmatic to be not as dope as it could have been, despite almost universal praise from the critics. It seemed that many rap fanatics were waiting for Nas to fail or take a step wrong. Were we not willing to accept that any rapper could be that great? When he returned to the scene with It Was Written, it was painfully obvious that Nas had taken the modest sales of his first born project to heart, and as a result he recruited Poke and Tone to add a little gloss to his tales from the project window and rap over an old Whodini song.
How quick the conservative hip-hop crowd was to lampoon that album. Shit, I know I did. But I also couldn’t front on songs like ‘Live Nigga Rap’ (which, I recently discovered, was originally recorded for Hell On Earth). Over the course of the next few LP’s, Nas’ reputation amongst those who had proclaimed him as the new king of this thing became more sullied. Many began to despise Nas for what they saw as taking his narrative gift for granted and whoring his verses out to songs like ‘You Owe Me’, kind of like that smart, hot girl from school who became a stripper because it was quicker than paying dues at a college. To take the comparison even further, God’s Son is not unlike that ex-girlfriend who you hook-up with every time you drink a bottle of something serious but disappears before you wake up after helping herself to the contents of your wallet…hang on, where was I? What I’m saying is, Nas will make all kinds of under-achieving music and then goes and drop ‘Made You Look’ on us from out of nowhere. That shit ain’t right! We wanted to write you off as a has-been! A bum! And then you go and drop one of the greatest rap songs ever?
Perhaps the problem is that Nasir wears his heart on his sleeve far too openly. Emotion is not something that you want to display when the streets is watching. While his best frenamy Jay-Z has all played it cool, calm and collected with no small hint of detachment, Nas throws the whole stack in on every hand. While Jay let slip that he had ‘the hottest chick in the game wearing my chain’, Nas went and made a double album about getting married. But why are we so quick to clown him at his every misfortune? Is it really so hilarious that he was ordered to pay 50k a month in child support to Kelis while S. Carter spends that much on yacht wax in a week? Maybe, but Jay never made a song as good as ‘NY State of Mind’ either, even if he is the GOAT rapper to you. Not that I’m in any position to chastise anybody in this regard – having taken numerous cheap shots at the lil’ homey over the years myself – but the fact remains that Nas is an artist first, for better or worse. He’s not a business, man. Nor is he the ultimate hustler. He was that kid who stayed up all night to tape the latest episode of In Control so he could write to the hottest beat of the week the next day at school. Jigga was the dude who paid Nas $5 for a dub of that same tape. What’s really real?
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