ESCOBAR SEASON: A Message To The Feds

Nas - "A Message To The FEDS, We Sincerely, The People"
(Street's Disciple; 2004)

Outside of several cinematic transitions freckled throughout It Was Written and the bizarre Hydro Drops advertisement trailing 'Come Get Me', Nas has rarely employed interludes over the course of his 20 year career. Considering skits are outdated as in-studio sitcom laugh tracks, this probably bodes well for one of the few discographies in rap that never seems to depreciate. Instead, Nas has largely relied on introductions to set the tone for his retail projects. The inaugural tracks usually serve as a reminder to detractors that regardless of current trends, personal dilemmas, or the critical reception of his previous record, he's still the most transcendent rapper on the face of the planet. 'A Message To The FEDS' is unique in the sense that it effectively segues from a traditional narrative driven rap skit, to the sacrosanct penmanship we've come to expect from his preludes.

Nas' most conceptual introduction sits at the head of a bloated multifarious double album. While his latter projects (Untitled, Distant Relatives, and presumably Life Is Good) were anchored with definitive central themes, Street's Disciple was a free for all exhibition of technical prowess via storytelling, social commentary, jiggy ballads, negro spirituals, holy matrimony, freaky tales, family ties, thieve themes, odes to influences, and critique of black leadership. Some efforts lived up to their lofty expectations and others failed measurably, but we would all be remiss not to recognize that Nas covered more ground on this single release than most of his contemporaries would hope to accomplish over the span of their entire careers. It's fascinating to hear the results of an artist of this caliber given the opportunity to wonder aimlessly across dozens of records, oblivious to the big picture. Due to the unpolished sequencing and varied quality assurance, well executed records like 'A Message To The FEDS' are often throw out with the bath water.

As much as we all enjoyed the unintentional comedy Nas brought to the big screen as Sincere and Detective Art "Fuzzy" Rice, this is easily his most convincing dramatic role to date. The message isn't cryptic or abstract, but there's canny symbolism at work. Cue the prophet reluctantly emergeing from an undisclosed cavern, sacrificing invaluable time with family to launch his biannual media blitz, but not before informing loyalists to "study, be strong, and don't cry no more." What follows is a pertinent address to the federal government, notable more so for its barbed couplets than actual substance.

The conversational style of lyricism Nas introduced on his debut nearly a decade prior is in full-swing, but layered with the type of internal schemes rap nerds salivate over ("project logic," "Hitchcock of hip-hop," "haircut looks airbrushed", etc).The production concocted by longtime collaborators Chucky Thompson, L.E.S., and Salaam Remi shows the advantages of sharing studio time rather than exchanging ideas electronically from opposite corners of the earth. The track genuinely feels like it was made exclusively to convey Nas' well documented obsession with black militancy.

'A Message To The FEDS' certainly doesn't establish any type of creative compass for Street's Disciple. There is no distinct tone. It's merely one of many instances of Nas rapping his ass off, and we're all better for it.