If one thing's for sure, it's that Nas isn't holding back. In Hip Hop is Dead, the emcee accuses practically everyone the moguls who see the music as only a business, the kids who don't know their Big Daddy Kane lines, and even himself of systematically killing rap. Yes, it's a bold statement, but Nas Escobar has never been one to sugarcoat, and backed by crisp, melodic beats, it's hard to not take what he's saying seriously. On "Carry On Tradition," he laments hip hop's current state, on the Will.i.am-produced title track he convincingly explains its demise, and on "Where Are They Now" he gives credit to old-school artists, insisting that, to revive hip hop, the memories of these emcees must be kept alive. But despite all his complaining, it's hard to believe he thinks there are no great lyricists left. He's calling others out and he's acknowledging his own mistakes, yet he then makes sure that everyone knows he's also one of the few talented emcees who is still keeping it real. OK, the message isn't always consistent. And Nas is clearly trying to be controversial. But he's good enough to get away with it, and that somehow ends up proving his point.
Marisa Brown writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].