Title and all, Nas
's eighth solo album clearly intends to spark controversy. But what gives Nasir Jones the right to declare that HIP HOP IS DEAD
? For one Nas
's 5-mic debut album ILLMATIC
represents the best of a by-gone era. Since then he's tried to find his place in the ever-evolving genre, flirting with the mainstream to mixed results, all the while mired in beef with former allies and childhood friends as well industry rivals. The fact that HIP-HOP IS DEAD
is the product of his teaming with one of those former(?) rivals, Jay-Z
, shows that business trumps beef--as Nas
emphasizes on track one, "Money Over Bull****."
The title cut, with its pounding Iron Butterfly beat and nihilistic lyrics, is profoundly provocative. And while the long-awaited collaboration with Jay-Z on "Black Republicans" will inevitably draw attention, Nas shows he's best on his own--doing his Sam Spade impression in the hard-boiled detective story "Who Killed It"; producing an unapologetic swansong to his hood life in "Not Going Back"; and spitting introspective street poetry in "Can't Forget About You." Nas is past trying to relive his ILLMATIC glory--and that's ultimately the point--yet HIP HOP IS DEAD contains both the gutter ghetto anthems and gritty brilliance that made him a legend in the first place.