Review: 4 out of 5
Best Song: N.I.G.G.E.R., Black President
Nasir Jones aka Nas brings hip hop back to life on his 9th album, Untitled. As we all should know by now, Nas originally meant to title this album Nigger. However, due to Def Jam suits sensing a potential backlash from volume retailers such as Walmart and BestBuy, shut down Nas’ creative freedom. This is an important factor to keep in mind while listening to the album as Untitled doesn’t really give the album any personality other than that it is Nas’ way of bucking the system for not allowing him to title his own masterpiece. Imagine if Leonardo Da Vinci was not allowed to name the Mona Lisa because she was the village hoe?
Another thing you should keep in mind is that Nas can’t be compared to any other rappers; he is still the most detailed, most vivid, song writer music has ever heard -the only fair comparisons would be between old Nas and New Nas. But I digress…peep the breakdown.
1. Queens Get The Money (Produced by Jay Electronica)
Now when you first hear a Nas album you’re thinking the beats are going to be wack. The thing with Nas, especially his last three albums, is that although the beats sound mad boring on first listen, after you really use your brain to take in the music it’s really a continuation of what Nas has always rhymed over. Take this joint, it’s a simple skitzo piano riff courtesy of underground phenom Jay Electronica that bridges Nas’ New York State of Mind with 2008 street-hipster-hop (did I just create a new genre?).
Subliminal at 50 Cent: “That’s Fifty porch monkeys ate up at the same time…My queen bring the milkshake to bring yall to my slaughterhouses.”
2. You Can’t Stop Us Now (Produced by Salaam Remi)
You know I’m half way though the epic novel Roots and this song, and this whole album as a matter of fact, is like the soundtrack to the Black experience in America from the beginning to now. Nas brilliantly contrasts the suffering of African slaves with their later decedents (us screw ups). Pay attention. Nas goes in.
3. Breathe (Produced by J. Myers and Dustin Moore)
How this song made the album I’ll never know. This is that Nas elevator music he’s been making the last few years that make even heads fall asleep. I guarantee you could put a 14 year old to sleep with this jawn.
4. Make the World Go Round featuring Chris Brown & The Game (Produced by Cool & Dre)
On paper this sounds like it’s going to be big. Unfortunately, it’s not good as it should be. Having said that, knowing Def Jam this will probably be the next single. This reminds me of Nas’ Missy Elliot’s Hot Boyz remix days. And did Game really have to be on this? Oh wait and did Chris Brown really have to be on this?
5. Hero (Produced by Polow Da Don)
This jawn is straight. I don’t care what anyone say about Polow Da Don that man got next. The production not only successfully brings Nas into the Southern bounce era but also keeps him grounded in his If I Ruled the World channel.
Most Soulful Line: “Try telling Bob Dylan, Bruce, or Billy Joel/ They can’t sing what’s in their soul/ So untitled it is…”
6. America (Produced by Stargate)
I’m not sure why Nas would go with production from Stargate, whose better know for producing jawns for Ne-Yo and Rihanna and Beyonce and all those soft R&B thangs. Again most will hear this as elevator music but it’s hard to ignore Nas analysis of the socio-economic struggle of Black folk, Natives and women in the United States of America.
7. Sly Fox (Produced by Stic.Man
This reminds me of a more direct version of what Lupe Fiasco did on The Instrumental. Nas’ attack of Fox News sounds like he’s been a little too influenced by DailyKos and those other far left sites. But the song does have a good message about being conscious about what the media shows us. I think though, Nas could have done a little more research and really took apart the media conglomerate, he especially should have took some jabs at that Sean Hannity, he’s a million times worse than Bill O’Reilly -for the record Bill O ain’t that bad.
Did He Just Say That Line: “Who do you rely upon to shoot shells at Leviathan?”
8. Testify (Produced by Mark Batson)
I don’t even know if this is a song or what, I’m just going to pretend this never happened.
9. N.I.G.G.E.R. (Produced by Dj Toomp)
This is the most epic Nas song ever! Toomp came through with his characteristic drums but this loop is the definition of hood triumph it’s hard not to go in here. If they don’t make a video for this I’ll be pissed…and I don’t mean no low budget Rik Cordero video either.
Most agreeable Line: “We trust no Black leaders, use the stove to heat us.”
10. Untitled (Produced by Stic.Man)
FYI: this song was supposed to be called Louis Farrakhan but due to
unexplained reasons (record label bitchassness) Nas had to rename it Untitled. Even though the jawn is not about Farrakhan but rather about how Nas compares his revolutionary status as an artist to Farrakhans’ rise as a Pro-Black leader. As provocative as it may sound, this beat really sucks and doesn’t warrant a second listen.
11. Fried Chicken (feat. Busta Rhymes) (Produced by Mark Ronson)
Wow this is pretty much what Talib Kweli and Lupe Fiasco have been trying to do, but failed epically in comparison to what Nas and Busta have done here. One of the big culture gaps between people is their cuisine as it is a symbol of national pride -they can take away our freedom but can’t take away our fried chicken. Even more crazier is that a white boy produced the soulful backing for Nas and Busta to share their love for the chicklin’ and its unhealthy affects on its connoisseurs.
12. Project Roach (Produced by Eric Hudson)
What I’ve always looked forward to on a Nas’ album is a jawn where he morphs into a non-human object but add such human characteristics to it that you don’t get what he’s talking about until half way through the verse or even later (depending on your level of retardness). I don’t get how Nas went from rapping as a gun to rapping as money to rapping a story backwards to rapping as a COCKROACH? WTF. Even if his verses compete, this beat is so sleepy I thought I just drank sizzurp and fell into Miles Davis land.
13. Y’all My Niggas (J. Myers)
Nas breaks down the ills of the word and concepts of Nigga, Nigger and even the country Niger. I can dig it.
14. We’re Not Alone (Produced by Stic.Man)
Wait is this song about Aliens? Coooooool. But what’s with Nas thinking his house is tapped? Anyway, Nas is on another level with one, which rapper is really as thought provoking as this dude? Even though at some points I was thinking Nas is rocking a tinfoil cap at other times I’m just blown away. Nas actually admits to seeing a UFO here and I can’t say he’s crazy because I swear when I was 12 I saw some kind of craft maneuver through the sky at such sharp angles there’s no way it could have been an airplane -it also broke off into two pieces and flew in opposite directions. I know WTF.
15. Black President (Produced by Dj Green Lattern)
This is without a doubt the most inspirational jawn on the album and my most favorite. Nas has to make a video for this one that coincides with Obama’s win in November. The only thing this video shouldn’t have is Nas playing the President.
Even though we all know that Nas borrowed this jawn from some other Z-list artists Green Lattern was working with, I guarantee Nas did more justice to this than anyone could. And the Pac sample is genius because of its pessimistic tone contrasting with the overall hopeful message of the song.
Best Triumphed Line: “America surprise us and let a Black man guide us.”
Nas’ problem has always been that he wants to be the new hot rapper when really he’s an artists artists. Jay-Z could never match the artistry that Nas brings and Nas could never match the business acumen and coolness factor Jay-Z and every other rapper possesses. What Nas fails to realize is that his real strength is playing to his thought provoking side instead of his Nas Escobar side -we saw in the late ’90s. Even though Nas has become more aware of this with his last few albums, he also has to realize he has to bring the heat with the beats as well. A great song is not just lyrics and not just flow, but also equally great production. With that said this should hold down the faithful for the next few weeks.