It’s 16 years since the Avalanches’ era-defining ‘Since I Left You’. How can a follow-up that took so long sound so meh?
Nas : Stillmatic
'Nasty Nas' is back once again...
Since then, Nas's career has been downhill all the way, a fact articulated on the release of Jay-Z's 'The Blueprint' album. 'Takeover' saw Jigga brutally auditing his rival's career : "One hot album every ten year average and that's so... LAAAAME!"
Nas couldn't sit back after a diss like that, and his response has been swift. 'Ether', the defensively-titled 'Stillmatic''s second track, pelts Jay-Z with stinging insults ranging from the personal to the professional ("Eminem murdered you on your own shit"). Shame, then, that the music - a tinny digital fanfare more suited to a cheap alarm clock - is nowhere near as exciting.
The rest of 'Stillmatic' has the same half-realised feel. 'The Blueprint' showed how '70s soul samples could lend a rich emotionalism to hip-hop without compromising the MC's machismo. Poor old Nas has to carry everything all on his own, and the strain shows over 17 tracks.
That's the bad news. The good news is that lyrically, Nas is pretty much back on form. At this time of intense American patriotism, it takes guts to call the US to account for the great evils visited by them onto the downtrodden; to say, fairly bluntly, that "what goes around comes around"; and to dedicate a song to Che Guevara and Malcolm X (pointedly referred to by his Muslim name, Shabaz.
Other rappers may call him lame, but for this alone, Nas still walks tall.
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