Nas - "The Don"
(Life Is Good; 2012)
In the latter years of his tenured career, Nas has amassed a significantly larger impact-to-influence ratio than any of his major label peers. While it's safe to say no one has ever looked toward Hip Hop Is Dead and Untitled for inspiration to make the next big hit, those records certainly made the world stop for a brief moment and reflect on Nas' ambiguous arguments. Heavy concepts released in the age of technology induced attention deficiency may not be the smartest business model, but Nasir's last two solo endeavors were the albums he felt people needed on the heels of Soulja Boy and Barack Obama's rise to prominence. However, the forthcoming Life Is Good is shaping up to be his most organic project in nearly eight years.
In his closing words on Godson, Nas scoffed at urban radio, claiming platinum success was as simple as inserting a popular songstress on the hook. Over a decade later this formula has transitioned into something far more egregious than R&B crooning, and judging from 'The Don', creating another hit record still isn't a very high priority on Nas' agenda. At first glance the sophomore street single appears to forgo substance in favor of aesthetics, but the effort delves as deep as the listener is willing to entertain. Nas' hilarious denial of hiding crack cocaine in his orifice is an extension of the 'Triple Beam Dreams' narrative, which chronicles his lack of ambition during a brief hustling stint. Perhaps that's a far reaching assumption, but much of the appeal in Nas' uncompromising street singles is deciphering the dense lyricism after the dust settles from Funkmaster Flex's bomb drops.
Heavy D's posthumous production is deceptively nuanced, particularly on the final verse when the arrangement accommodates melodic singy songy flows, supreme mathematics, and whisper raps. It's an authentic Tunnel Banger born in the era of Club Paradise. Nas subtly distances his regional anthem from the sizzrup drenched country rap tunes adopted by up-and coming New Yorker's French Montana and ASAP Rocky. If 'Nasty' was a quest to reclaim the crown, 'The Don' is a celebration flaunting the spoils from that victory. It'll be interesting to see how his hometown receives this song in the following months. Nas will continue to occupy the throne so long as he's rapping this superb, but a leader can only wield as much power as the electorate is willing to surrender.