The Quotable Reviews: Hip Hop Is Dead

"Gave my man my right, I coulda went left. So like my girl Foxy the kid went Def."
"Hip Hop Is Dead" - Nas; Hip Hop Is Dead

Over the past 5 years, God's Son's been good to The Company Man.

No doubt.

Since Jay-Z seemingly, single handedly revitalized Escobar's approachingly stale career with the now infamous battle-track, "The Takeover", Nasir Jones has crafted 3 critically acclaimed, platinum selling LPs (Stillmatic, God's Son, and the grossly underated double disk, Street's Disciple), pushin' the envelope to its lyrical, creative illest every bar along the way (seriously people, who else is spittin' detailed street tales in reverse ("Rewind")? What other rapper is makin' tracks from a female's perspective with such vivid clairity that its mistaken for a guest appearance ("Sekou Story" and "Live Now")?? What other Emcee makes a song with his POPS ("Bridging the Gap")??? Anyone who can't appreciate this is 12 years old (intellectually) and should leave any room The Company Man is in immediately. Certain places children can't play). So with the announcement of his controversially entitled, Def Jam debut album, Hip Hop Is Dead, expectations rose high for us here at The Quotable. Whats Nas got for us now?

"I can smell the haters. Wishful thinkers. /
Bad-luck prayers."
" Money Over Bullsh*t" - Nas; Hip Hop Is Dead

From the first verse on the first cut ("Money Over Bullsh*t") on Hip Hop Is Dead, its apparent Nas came with a mission. A message. And anyone in the way can either roll, or get rolled over. "Put a barrel in a Capo's mouth, 'til his scalp come out. / You a kid. You don't live what you rap about" God's Son spits over L.E.S.'s thumping bass drums and haunting piano keys, dismissing (Dipset Capo) Jim Jones in one bar.

"N****s always on that bullsh*t.
Makes a n**** wanna open up a full clip."
"You Can't Kill Me" - Nas; Hip Hop Is Dead

Clear the trash. Carry on.

From there, Nasir Jones dives head-on into the concept driving this (near) concept LP - "Hip Hop been dead [and] we the reason it died." But rather than wasting an album whinning about everything wrong with today's commercialized Hip Hop industry, God's Son crafts an introspective, educational, and at times inspirational album impressive in both its intricacies and its exclamation points.

"Carry On Tradition," finds Nas bodly admonishing both bitter "rap pioneers" and self-important new rappers "with they fingers entertwined in some gang sign madness," reminding them both that if you've made money off this game, or are making money off this, then you need to contribute to the culture; you need to respect where its been and continue to push it forward.

He follows that with "Where Are They Now?," joining Salaam Remi behind the boards (receiving production credit). Over live drums and a James Brown (the Godfather of soul, Grandfather of Hip Hop) sample, Nasir shouts out "some of his homie's that were misrepresented - legends of the game."

"Lets break it down to / Mic Geronimo, Pharcyde and Coolio. /
I heard Craig Mack back in the studio. /
Have you seen these lost MCs? Funky 4+1, Force MDs. /
Ms. Melodie, I hope she packin' a bank roll. /
As well Educated Rapper, [Dr.] Ice, and Kangol. /
Shante, she from around my way yo. /
EPMD, K-Solo. / Where are they now?"
"Where Are They Now" - Nas; Hip Hop Is Dead
The opus continues with the Will.I.Am produced title-track, "Hip Hop Is Dead," where God's Son kicks an inspired, freestlye flow (once again) over the sickening "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" sample (He used this same sample on "Thief's Theme" (Street's Disciple). Then Lupe Fiasco came along and murdered his beat on the mixtape cut "Twilight Zone." I guess Nas wanted (needed?) another shot at this one...stating "I had to flip this track again yall" during the song intro. Looks like Lupe touched a nerve torchin' his track like that. I'm making this up...but what if I wasn't?).

Up next..."Who Killed It?" a 3 minute and 10 second long mystery track where Nas, using an uncanny Humphrey Bogart impression (or some other prohibition era gangster voice. Actually, I have no idea whose voice it is, but its uncanny nonetheless. In fact, if you know whose muttaskuttin' voice he's using, hit up The Company Man. Thanks, carry on) is on a case to find out who killed Hip Hop (over mean Salaam Remi / Will.I.Am production using the beat from Eric B & Rakim's "I Ain't No Joke")...easily the most creative cut on the album. Definitely a must-download.

"I feel like a Black Republican, / Money I got comin' in. /
Can't turn my back on the hood, / I got love for them. /
Can't clean my act up for good, / Too much thug in him. /
Probably end up back in the hood. / [I'm] like f*ck it then."
"Black Republican" - Nas; Hip Hop Is Dead
Arguably the most anticipated collabo of the new millenium, Jay-Z guest appears on "Black Republican," creating Hip Hop's first anthem of the new year. God's Son rides L.E.S's epic production to perfection (this entire album really....Nas spits the perfect flow for each beat on the album. It really is a thing of beauty). Ironically he never refers to himself as a "Black Republican," substituting "Black Militant", taking over the government" instead. Which makes sense if you think about it...I mean Nas is a lot of things...and a black republican is certainly not one of them (I can't even imagine Nas in a voting booth, let alone calling himself a "black republican"...I digress).

Kanye West returns the favor on "Still Dreaming" (Nas guest appeared "We Major" on 'Ye's sophmore LP, Late Registration) where the 2 emcees wax poetic on creepin' relationships, manhood, and entrapment using a sped-up soul sample - Diana Ross's "The Interim" - as the backdrop (classic Louis Vuiton Don production). I gotta say one thing, Kanye's growth lyrically and sonically is impressive. With every release, his beats become more seamless (initially you could hear the breaks in the cut from whatever sample he used. But, the breaks on "Still Dreaming" area nearly inaudible. I mean, I can figure where the breaks probably go, but they're certainly not obvious. My cousin Sha pointed this out to me. Always educating) and his delivery more competitive. Say what you will about his arrogance, but at the end of the day his hunger is refreshing. He wants to be a better emcee, and any Hip Hop fan should appreciate this (same goes for Lil' Wayne. And The Game. Not Young Jeezy though. You can't say that about Young Jeezy). Another must-download track.

"Its beef week / Monday murda. /
2 n***** dead Tuesday. / Wednesday and Thursday is hurst day.
Friday - sombody-gotta-die day. /
Saturday, put the gat away. Chillin' wit' your chick and a bag haze, /
Wonderin' how its all gonna end / In what type of way. /
Cause Sunday, back to gunplay. /
Most sh*t start over nothin' and get finished quick cause the art of reprecussion. /
Yeah I seen it. A G'goin out indecent."
"Hold Down the Block" - Nas; Hip Hop Is Dead

"Hold Down The Block" finds Nas opining on of a hustler's life and its consequences, without ever sounding preachy.

The Chris Webber produced (yes, that Chris Webber) "Blunt Ashes" is a look back at his career while reflecting on the lives of notable politicians, writers, jazz musicians, and R&B singers. Another envelope-pushing cut.

Tre Williams fills "obligatory inspirational/ghetto reflective, Anthony Hamilton-on-the hook" track (this muttaskutta sounds just like Anthony Hamilton...kinda like Sterling Sims sounds like R.Kelly on Jay-Z's "Dig A Hole." Designer impostors smell good too. Certainly cheaper) on Kanye West produced, "Let There Be Light." The track also features one of the album's realest Quotables - "I can't sound smart or yall'll run away." You can't tell that that line doesn't speak volumes about today's dumbed-down rap industry.

In fact one of the best things about Hip Hop Is Dead is that it ends just as strongly as it begins. "Can't Forget About You,' 'Hustlin,' and 'Hope" all fit subtly, strategically into the album's theme; all 3 are straight Hip Hop.

"Unforgettable. Unsubmittable. /
I go by 'N' now. Just 1 syllable. /
Its the end cause the Game's tired. Its the same vibe /
'Goodtimes' had right after James died. /
Thats why the gangsta rhymers ain't inspired. /
Heinous crimes help record sales more than creative lines. /
I don't wanna keep bringing up the greater times. /
But I'm a dreamer, nostalgic with the state-of-mind."
"Can't Forget About You" - Nas; Hip Hop Is Dead

I think I'm in love with Chrisette Michelle (her voice at least). Homegirl can blow. She stole 'Lost Ones' from Jay-Z, and she gives Nas a run for his money on (another Will.I.Am special) "Can't Forget About You." The hook is ridiculous, the sample is perfection (Nat King Cole's Unforgettable) and Nas delivers one of his best series of verses since Hova woke his ass up. How 'bout this...if I was trapped in a mini-van with 4 ornery 8 year-olds on a cross-country drive to California and was only allotted 12 songs on the family ipod mini...this song would be 1 of them...thats how dope it is. I can listen to this track forever.

The Game makes an inspired guest appearance on the Dr. Dre produced, "Hustlers," spittin' "1995, 11 years from the day, / I'm in the record shop with choices to make. / Illmatic on the top shelf, The Chronic on the left homie. / Wanna cop both but I only got a $20 on me. / So f*ck it. I stole both." The Songstress, Marsha Ambrosius (from Floetry) laces the hook here and Nas rides Dre's synth strings and subdued heavy keys to perfection...again.

Finally, God's Son concludes Hip Hop Is Dead on some real Emcee ish with an ill accapella freestyle flow, vividly depicting the days when he and Hip Hop "used to be close." No beat. No hook. Just his point:

"Ain't got nothin' to do with Old Skool, New Skool, Dirty South, West Coast, East Coast. This [is] about us. This our thing. NahwhatImsayin'. This came from the gut. From the blood. From the soul. Right here man. This is our thing, man. You know. So I say what I say. And I say what I say and I mean it. Yall take it how you wanna take it. Cause if you askin' why is Hip Hop Is Dead, its a pretty good chance you're the reason it died man. Its a pretty good chance your lame ass, corny ass is the reason it died, man. You don't give a f*ck about it. You don't know nothin' about it. You want this paper, be a hustler. You a 'hustler' you ain't a 'rapper' - get your paper man. NahwhatI'msayin. But this rap sh*t is real. Bitch. This sh*t is real, Bitch."



As dope as Hip Hop Is Dead is, its not without its faults.

3 things:

1) Although Nas's delivery delivers on "Carry On Tradition," the Scott Storch, $80-thousand-dollar-per-beat beat is wack. He paid too much...whatever he paid.

2) The Kelis assisted "Not Going Back" is nice...but poorly placed. First off, the beat is too slow for the album's pace at that point, disrupting the transition. "Where Are They Now?" thru "Black Republican" is like driving 90mph in a 50mph zone..."Not Going Back" is the brick wall. Now, this track - with its gunshot rampage intro followed by Kelis immediately admonishing his actions - fits perfectly right after "Hold Down the Block." Plus, "Hold Down the Block" touches on bangin, hustlin, doin' what you gotta do...but knowin' that eventually you'll have to pay for it. "Not Goin' Back's" declaration of NOT going back to the hood is the logical follow-up thematically. And the pace flows with the rest of the Lp. I already re-arranged the album on my iPod.

3) I hate to critique this because I think its a great song but "Playa On Playa" is outta place on Hip Hop Is Dead. Snoop blazes this track and of course God's Son doesn't disappoint, but the pimp theme feels odd here. "The finest chicks I came on and sprayed them. / Gotta get your papes on, play on Playa"...catchy as hell, yes...dope beat, dope rhymes...wrong album. Maybe the Label made 'em do it.

Oh, and one more: Did he include the song lyrics in the album book? NO! Of course not. That would make too much sense. Fans might appreciate that a little too much. I don't know, but it seems to me that the best way to ensure your audience knows what you're saying would be to WRITE IT DOWN FOR THEM. Seriously, this is more necessary now than ever...people don't want to listen like they used to...and if its too complex, they'll ignore it all together. And when you ask them about the album later, they come back at you on some ole' "I couldn't hear what he was sayin'" or some bum-"I couldn't understand it"-bullsh*t. We gotta stop givin' these muttaskuttas excuses. (In my best Eddie-Murphy-as-the-old-white-jewish-dude-in-the-barbershop-on-Coming-To-America impersonation) Ahh Haa! Ahh Haa! (...wagging finger). Would you guys just taste the soup already!

Nevertheless, Hip Hop Is Dead is a masterpiece. You can bump this goin' to club, cleanin' the crib, chillin' wit your girl...where ever. You'll learn about Hip Hop from this album. Buy this album. Burn this album. Steal this album if you have to...whatever. Just make sure you listen to Hip Hop Is Dead.

Its that serious.


Best Tracks:

  1. The wholedamnthing

Carry On...

No comments: