January 08, 2005

Street's Disciple

Musically I pretty much opted out of the new for the back third of 2004, listening to nothing but Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan. Turns out I slept on at least one nasty joint in Nas' Street's Disciple. Not too surprising actually given that Cooke meets Dylan is probably one of the better ways to invoke Nas without involving the god Rakim..

It took Greg Tate's all too rare piece of hip hop writing to wake me up to the now, perhaps Nas' best since his untoppable debut with Illmatic. Of course if you ignore the god awful Nastradamus ever album Nas has dropped has arguably been his best since Illmatic. And like practically every album since Illmatic Street's Disciple is way to long. But as a double album in the iTunes era, that leaves a slamming hour of music in our hands.

Tate rightfully focuses on Nas the sex, love, marriage man. But the second potent story of the album is the emergence of Salaam Remi as Nas' music man. Unlike his main rival Jay-Z, who actively sought out the best beat makers then brought the best out of them, Nas somehow seems to uninspire greatest beakmakers in hip hop. The top producers seek him out and somehow leave him with beats that max out as unmemorable. But in Remi, who produced some the best tracks ("Get Down", "Made You Look", "Hey Nas") on 2002's God's Son, Nas' might have finally someone who can keep the beats hard and raw enough to move on their own, but discreet enough to let Nas' ghetto intellectual flow shine through on the regular.

In many ways "Made You Look" was the prototype of a new Nas, or perhaps more of a return to the Nas who "went to hell for snuffing Jesus" on his debut on "Live at the Barbeque". Remi strips the down the beats, drums hitting hard in the forefront, minimal instrumentation, loads of space. The space is for Nas to explore, space to fill with the complex flow. But the drums stay hard and loud with a gravity that must call him back to the summer jams in the park. If only the rest of hip hop would follow..

Posted by Abe at January 8, 2005 08:32 PM