Nas – ‘Untitled’

September 28, 2008 § Leave a comment

Published: The Big Issue, #311, August/September 2008.

Untitled
Nas
***1/2

Nasir ‘Nas’ Jones may still possess the smoothest, most effortless flow on the mic, but beat selection has never been his strongpoint. Illmatic, of course, was the exception. Smacking with beats from fellow NYC stalwarts like DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Q-Tip and the Large Professor, Nas’s 1994 debut is still fittingly considered as the post-1990 hip hop record.

But that was 14 years ago and his seven albums since have proved albeit patchy. Unfortunately, Nas’s self-titled ninth album is no exception. What’s even more disappointing is the fact that beneath the glittering electronics, tinny snares and horrendously effected synth sounds are some of the rapper’s most focussed and impassioned verses to date.

Nas has crafted one of the most expansive, candid and confronting examinations of America’s race-politic in decades. From easy targets like the Fox network and President Bush (see ‘Sly Fox’) to the sensitive historical tropes of ‘You Can’t Stop Us Now’, there aren’t too many facets or epochs of white rule that escape Nas’s scrutiny.

There are truly some powerful moments here; it’s just a pity that some of Nas’s finest lyrical efforts yet have again been foiled by a surplus of inappropriate, cartoonish beats.

Dan Rule

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