Nas : Street's Disciple
God's Son pushes the hip-hop envelope with groundbreaking double album…
In 1994 Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones blew away a bloated hip-hop with ten tracks collectively called ‘Illmatic’. From its DJ Premier and Pete Rock-produced boom bap to the battle-scarred raps rendered in Nas’ blunt-heavy husk, the 20-year-old instantly ensured his spot in hip-hop history.
Since that fêted debut, through alter egos including God’s Son and Nastradamus, Nas has continued to challenge the rap rhetoric. He’s spat raps backwards, messed about with mic levels and freestyled through an old book of rhymes, yet it’s taken him ten years to attempt the hip-hop almost-impossible and record a double album. Bar Biggie, few rappers – Jay-Z, Bone Thugs and Tupac included – have pulled it off. Nas, however, succeeds by offering a taut 23 tracks as sonically diverse as they are lyrically varied.
Over the soupy intro of ‘A Message To The Feds, Sincerely, We Are The People’, the Queensbridge MC proclaims to be “the Hitchcock of hip-hop”, and he’s not lying. A succinct storyteller, Nas tenaciously tears up the lyrical law-book. ‘UBR’ tells the tale of rap hero Rakim, while the sexploits of ‘Remember The Times’ recount those chicks that “sucked juice out my urethra”. Nice. Keeping it righteous, Nas and missus Kelis take US apathy to task on ‘American Way’, while so-called sell-outs are dealt with on the discomfiting, if not witty, ‘Coon Picnic (These Are Our Heroes)’ .
Musically, too, ‘Street’s Disciple’ is full of revelations thanks to long-term collaborators LES and Salaam Remi, as well as Nas himself, Q-Tip and Chucky Thompson. Disc one is dipped deliciously in throwback beats, but it’s the second round that steals the show. Opening with the sinister ‘Suicide Bounce’, it segues smoothly into the hard-knock hip-hop of the title track before ‘Virgo’ sees Nas sparring with Ludacris over an ice-cold Doug E Fresh beatbox.
As with any extended effort there’s room for some small edits, yet generally Nas shows great restraint. There may be few club bangers or radio-ready R&B hybrids, yet ‘Street’s Disciple’ is unequivocally one of the most exciting hip-hop releases not only of this year, but in recent memory. Go on, the God’s Son.