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Nas - Hip Hop is Dead Review
by Bruce Banner/The Hulk
Maybe if someone tells that to 50 Cent, he might kill himself or turn back to drug dealing.
The unmarked grave next to it is Nas' career and integrity.
Is hip hop dead? How can one declare a genre of music 'dead'? How can one declare a culture (which hip hop is; too many people incorrectly label it as music and nothing else) 'dead'? Is Nas someone who can make such claims? All very important questions as they pertain to the nature and virility of hip hop, factors very much in doubt thanks to the advent of Southern rap and the popularization of it amongst suburban white youth. First, we must define what the subject refers to, hip hop the music, hip hop the culture, or hip hop as defined by the 'mainstream' of American consumerist trends. In an interview, Nas claims he meant the title to comment upon America as a whole. On another occasion he signaled towards hip hop being dead because artists no longer had control over their product. Other times he just bashed the South. Still, in spite of the multiple interpretations, I am one to fall into the 'he's criticizing the South' camp. The South, the continually backwards hotbed of racism, inequality and Christian morality, deserves scorn; their 'hip hop' seems so over the top and quality lacking, I frequently question whether or not Snap music is just an invention of the KKK to further stereotype blacks as ignorant hedonists. Or if not the KKK, then the 'people' responsible for Soul Plane.
Yet I find it ironic that Nas, an artist of high quality in the past, is now making this serious charge when his album features production from Kanye West and will.i.am, not to mention a collaboration with hated enemy (and villain to all those seeking intelligent hip hop) Jay-Z. It's quixotic to lambast hip hop's current state and then collaborate with many of the people presently responsible for the horrid state of said genre (albeit not to the extent of the Ying Yang Twins or Young Jeezy, Kayne West excluded). It seems Nas is less concerned with keeping his credibility intact and is now doing anything that might attain high record sales, a move taken by many 90s hip hop stars who now find themselves swept under the rug in favor of newer and more incoherent stars. I title it the curse of Illmatic, where Nas desperately attempts to top his classic album and fails every single time. Although his followups have not been unlistenable, ideally you expect an artist to improve with age, not decline further and further until he becomes a bitter egotist like in Hip Hop is Dead. He reminds me now of KRS-One, waving his cane and rattling his cage just to keep himself in issues of The Source. Whether Nas will say "we cheered when 9/11 happened" remains to be seen, but I will not discount that possibility. The very title of this album seems to point to making controversy for attention's sake (and the working title, Nigger, either backs that up or was a thin excuse to cause discomfort for white fans and music store proprietors); a common tactic in hip hop, but not one someone who purports to be saving it should do. It serves as better conversation starter than a title and, ultimately, an album. Sad.
HULK BACK, EVERYBODY! GET READY TO LISTEN TO HULK WHO IS BLACKER THAN EVEN NEW AVENGERS LUKE CAGE. NAS USED TO BE HULK FRIEND, EVEN WAS IN CHAMPIONS WITH HULK. NOW HE IS FOE OF HULK, JUST LIKE TONY STARK IRON MAN AND MAGIC MAN DR. STRANGE. ANYWAY. HIP HOP IS DEAD IS MORE LIKE HIP HOP IS SUCK WHEN NAS DOES IT NOW! FOR EXAMPLE, "HIP HOP IS DEAD", TITLE TRACK, HAS SAME SAMPLE AS PREVIOUS TRACK BY NAS MADE IN 2004. MUCH LIKE EIC FAT MAN AT MARVEL, NAS REPEAT IDEAS! IRON BUTTERFLY SUCK THEN AND STILL SUCK NOW! SPEAKING OF REPEATED IDEAS, HULK HEARD NO NEW RAP IDEAS IN ANY OF HIS SONGS. JUST STREET NARRATIVES AND LABORED POLITICAL STATEMENTS. AND HULK HAVE SUPER-HULK HEARING! NAS NOT EVOLVE AT ALL LIKE HEROES FOR HIRE CHARACTER HUMBUG WHO WILL STAR IN TIE-IN TO WORLD WAR HULK. NAS JUST REHASHES HIS BEST WORK! HULK HATE REHASHING!
ONE TRACK EVEN FEATURES KELIS! ARRRRRGH! KELIS! HULK SMASH KELIS! MILSHAKE SONG WORST SONG EVER UNTIL HULK REMEMBER CAREER OF BLACK EYED PEAS! "MILSHAKE" ENCOURAGE WHITE MOVIE EXECUTIVES TO HAVE DORKY WHITE PEOPLE SING IT FOR IRONY SAKE! DAMN YOU, KELIS. YOU BRING MORE PAIN TO WORLD THAN TONY STARK IRON MAN EVER DID. HULK HATE YOU SO MUCH. IF THESE PEOPLE NAS WANTS ON CD, HULK NOT WANT TO LISTEN TO HIP HOP IS DEAD ANYMORE. BUT PUNY BANNER SAY HULK HAVE TO. HULK CONTINUES. HULK NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT, BUT HULK CONTINUES!!!
IF THERE'S ONE THING HULK HATE MORE THAN SHIELD AND IRON JERKFACE, IT IS JAY-Z. JAY-Z EVERYTHING WRONG WITH HIP HOP OTHER THAN SOUTH AND EVERYTHING ELSE. HE IRON MAN TONY STARK OF RAP. NAS, AKA CAPTAIN STEVE ROGERS AMERICA, USED TO FIGHT TONY STARK JAY-Z. NOW THEY FRIENDS AND APPEARING ON RECORDS TOGETHER! THUS, "BLACK REPUBLICAN", WORST TRACK ON ALBUM. IT SOUND LIKE JAY-Z TRACK OFF "KINGDOM COME". HULK WANT NAS, NOT JAY-Z GUEST STARRING NAS!!! IT SEEM LIKE EVERY HULKING TRACK HAS SOME JERK OTHER THAN NAS ON IT. SNOOP DOGG, KANYE WEST, KELIS (HATE HER!!), JAY-Z, TRE' WILLIAMS, THE GAME... BAD SIGN WHEN ALBUM CONTAIN MOSTLY GUEST APPEARANCES BY LESS TALENTED BUT HIGHER PROFILE PEOPLE! HULK NOT NEED MENTION STUPID PRODUCTION FROM UNTALENTED JERKS THAT MAKE HIP HOP IS DEAD SOUND LIKE EVERY OTHER CRAP ALBUM IN 2006.
ALL IN ALL, HULK HATE IT. BORING AND REPETITIVE. WE GET IT NAS, YOU ARE 'STREET'. DO SOMETHING INTERESTING OR HULK PUNCH YOU INTO SPACE!!!
Well said, my gruesome alter ego. Well said. As for Nas backing up his controversial though incredibly common statement through the music, do not expect much or any intellectual deconstruction of what hip hop was, is and will be. No, simply one-dimensional rhetoric and childish logic here. America is dead, everything is dead, culture has stopped, and so on. If culture has stopped, who is to say it stopped now and not, say, back when Nas started out as a rapper? The downhill slide of America still traces back to the neoliberal capitalism-friendly 1990s, if not then 1980s. And it takes no fortitude to make the statement either. Everyone thinks hip hop declined in the past 5 years, even the very people who work in the industry. The only mongoloids it surprises also happen to hail from the abomination of hip hop factory known otherwise as the South. This is, at its basest, a whiny post on Headringer with production from will.i.a.m and Dr. Dre. Yes, yes, fame is enjoyable yet it corrupts the soul of rap. May we move on now to more important matters?
At some points, Nas does show a glimmer of his former strengths, particularly in his rapping and lyricism. Those skills have not degraded terribly, even if his taste in production, concepts and endless streams of collaborations have. He flows well, but the problem is his choice in inspiration for lyric writing does not appear as sharp as it used to. He has made too many albums of the same basic premises and material, all of which have not lived up to his classic works. While it is nice to see new material from Nas and his skills have not diminished to the extent of his peers, he needs to do something new or memorable to catch the attention of the fickle American populace, and not even hiring trendy and talentless producers and guest rappers will do much to raise his status. The majority of the lyrics deal with street life and gangsta conceits, in spite of Nas wanting to avoid such clichés. It becomes sad after a while to see him struggle valiantly to escape the constraints of it and failing each time. A marriage of so-called 'conscious' rap and gangsta will not work, and they meld awkwardly here.
Hip hop needs saving, but Nas is not the savior. At least he is not or cannot be the savior anymore. He and his latest album symbolizes rap's love of old warhorses past their prime, people who have no business continuing to record tracks due to their resorting to used tired tactics or refusing to grow without screwing the transformation up. By now Nas should be settling into a nice retirement of production credits and film appearances, like all other good rappers who became mediocre over time or histrionically collapsed within themselves in a bid to stay relevant and meaningful despite no longer having anything to say (Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Method Man, Red Man, RZA, etc.). His time has passed, and hip hop has moved on from his influence. I hate the idea of defending the intolerable snap music of the South, but someone of actual talent would do better at convincing the masses of the current trends severely degrading the artistry inherent in the genre. MF DOOM, DJ Danger Mouse, someone of that caliber. Not Nas. Definitely not Nas.