NAS: The Don

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.


  1. 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.
    C'mon man

    People weren't having dialogue about the content of NaS's albums. The dialogue was about the title of the albums ("Hip Hop is Dead"...the south getting aggy thinking it's a diss towards them) and ("Untitled" aka "Nigger"...whether or not artistic freedom should supersede the sensitive nature of that word)

    once Nas and/or Def Jam felt controversy and threats from retail stores to not hold an album called "Nigger" they changed it to untitled and the dialogue about the album ceased. there were no roundtable discussion or barbershop talk about "Fried Chicken", "America", "Slave and a Master" or any other songs from Untitled.

    Regarding "Hip Hop is Dead"...most of the album Nas didn't address why "Hip Hop is Dead" or what "true" hip hop is...HHID is was typical Nas...and the discussion on whether he was dissing the south pretty much faded after he had a convo w/ Jeezy after his radio rant.

    Again the hoopla about those albums were the titles, not Nas's lyrical content.

  2. I don't even know what you're trying to argue man.

  3. From that text, I interpreted that you found the debate Nas generated from those albums as impressive

    I believe, the world would stopped and had those debates If any rapper named his albums what Nas did.

  4. @NovemberEnd If you think anyone would've given a shit if Talib Kweli used those titles we'll just have to agree to disagree. If you think any other high profile rapper would have been up to the challenge of executing those concepts we'll have to agree to disagree.

    Yes, the titles got people's attention, but the the title is a part of the album. HHID has a four song stretch addressing the concept. Carry On Tradition explicitly addresses why hiphop is dead, but it doesn't matter. Nas gave a hundred interviews speaking on why chose the HHID and NIGGER titles, and damn near every explanation was different. That's why I called it an ambiguous argument. Probably 90% of Untitled dealt with race relations. You can't completely separate the content and the title. Of course there were no round table discussions on "Who Killed It" or "Farrakhan". That would require actual analysis. But those projects definitely inspired debate and ruffled feathers in a way I really haven't seen since. Jay-Z's "DOA" is the closest thing I can think of, but I'd argue that was just a retread of the HHID argument.

  5. I agree that Nas' arguments were obscure, and I think their obscurity definitely took something away from the albums themselves. Nas is much better at tackling analysis from his own perspective than at attempts to construct broader analyses.

    Either way, so far so good when it comes to this LP. This beat, I actually think is pretty stellar and ofc Nas dances all over it. I think the beat's oddness has stopped everyone going berserk over it, but yeah. Another 10 tracks of shit like this please.

  6. What's good with the podcasts brah? I need some more Heavy Butter in my life.

  7. @Thomas Maybe this weekend. We'll see.