Nas, Hip Hop Is Dead (Def Jam, 2006)
For a minute there, I was beginning to worry that Nas' new Hip-Hop Is Dead might make it damn near to its release date before I received my special "press advance" copy. Alas, I woke up this morning - damn near two weeks before its official release date - and there it was. Is it any good?
MONEY OVER BULLSHIT
Maybe the album's best beat, courtesy of long-time collaborator L.E.S. Dark and grimy and not the least bit teh ghey. Not the most novel chorus in the world, but what are you gonna do.
YOU CAN'T KILL ME
Of course I'm into stroytelling Nas (No Weezy F), but this beat sounds like something left over from the I Am days. Why does Nas work with Salaam Remi so often anyway?
CARRY ON TRADITION
Very Scott Storch-y. Hip-Hop's problem, according to Nas: we don't stick together like the Jews.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW
Nas wonders what happened to a buncha wack rappers (UPS?) over a beat that sounds like something Big Daddy Kane once did.
HIP HOP IS DEAD
The will.i.am-produced single that flips the same sample Nas used on "Thief's Theme." Why? Sounds like this is the clean version on my special press advance copy.
WHO KILLED IT
What the hell? Nas raps in his best Sammy Davis Jr. impersonator voice over something that sounds like a cross between "Grindin'" and "I Ain't No Joke."
The long-awaited and yet relatively anticlimactic Nas and Jay collabo. I suppose it is a good thing this is a Nas feat. Jay record rather than vice versa.
NOT GOING BACK
Very cheap-sounding beat, courtesy of someone calling himself StarGate. Nas says he isn't going back to the ghetto, because it sucks there. Kelis contributes a chorus.
The first of two tracks Kanye produced. He also guest raps on this one. This isn't bad, but it definitely isn't a standout compared to his tracks on the Game and Jay albums.
HOLD DOWN THE BLOCK
Mark Batson, anyone? Me neither. You get the idea that, despite the fact that two different companies funded this, there wasn't much of a budget for beats. I'm sorry.
Nas incorporates the names of several '80s era R&B singers into a song about smoking weed. The results aren't nearly as amusing as you'd think.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
The other Kanye track, featuring some budget Gerald Levert. Nas refers to Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff as Kenneth "Supreme" Griffith. Again, why? This wouldn't have happened in 1994.
PLAY ON PLAYA
This Snoop Dogg collaboration incorporates a sample from some later-period Marvin Gaye record that I should probably know. Anyway, this is nothing special.
CAN'T FORGET ABOUT YOU
A real abortion of a track by will.i.am. There's "Grindin'"-era Neptunes handclaps, the melody from "Unforgettable" by Nat "King" Cole, and a chorus by the annoying woman that sang on "Lost Ones."
Yet another one of these Dre tracks that kinda sounds like something Timbaland would do. The Game drops some guest raps while Marsha from Floetry handles the chorus.
Nas drops an a capella verse about growing up in the hood or some such. It's too bad there's no music to it.
COMMENTS: Lo and behold, this is better than you'd think, but still not that good either. More so than anything Nas has done since Illmatic, this is relatively uncompromised. There aren't any teh ghey-ass pop records or any other really bad ideas. You do kinda wish they'd taken more chances on the production though. This is traditional to the point of being kinda boring at points.
BEST TRACKS: "Money over Bullshit" "Black Republican" "Hustlers"