I’m not going to sit here and say “I told you so” or “I knew this would happen”. Being a Nas fan is hard. It’s hard to deny the fact that I haven’t truly FELT a Nas album since Godson. So I speak to you without bias and keep it real when I say my expectations for this album were very low. I was tired of the BS Production. Tired of Nas claiming “Artistic Expression” with some of his albums when it was just some weak tracks. I wasn’t even hyped aout this album, and thought like most of us, that originally naming the album N*gger was a mere publicity stunt and the album wouldn’t live to the hype. That’s all changed when I heard The N*gger Mixtape with DJ Green Lantern.
We all know the story by now about how Nas originally titled N*gger before succumbing to outside pressure and changing the album to “Untitled’. Nas said that the message would be clear regardless of a name, and opted to have no opposition to stores stocking the album, etc. The N*gger tape illustrates the overtones of whats to come on Untitled. This is a classic mixtape in its own right, as the many different aspects of the word is explored over dope mixtape music. Its the raw Nasty Nas that we all know and love. I would definitely recommend listening to that mixtape before hearing untitled.
Now onto the album. The questions about the true meaning behind the album are solved throughout this project. It starts off with “Queens get the money”. Producer Jay Electronica drops piano keys with no drums as Nas rips over it prophetically announcing hes here to deliver a specific message. It seems awkward at first, but Nas flows more than makes up for it, as his intro lashes furiously, even throwing warning shots at Boo Boo (but you can call him 50).
He explores our effect on Culture and our struggle on “You can stop us now” The Last Poets feature on this song, and offer great narratives which makes the album feel like a documentary. Although I’ve always had my issues with Salaaam Remi’s production, his track here set the stage well.
Some people might say celebratory tracks would be out of place on a concept album, I say it fits into the whole aspect of the project. Nas said he wanted to show that the word doesn’t oppress and we can rise above it. “Breathe” is an ode to the hustler and dudes “in the system”. “Make the world go round” supplies the middle finger to all those haters of the game. Chris Brown adds to the track with a cool verse(Tell me him and T-Pain aint the millennium Nate Doggs right now on hip hop tracks). Cool and Dre along with Game(yes that Game) help led to produce this one. The first single “Hero”(which is like If I Ruled The World 2008) is a hot track which gives me that futuristic feel with a crazy polo Da Don track. His lyrical ferocity is displayed, when speaking on the Album Title issues, declaring:
“Still in musical prison, in jail for the flow
Try telling Bob Dylan, Bruce, or Billy Joel
They can’t sing what’s in their soul
So untitled it is
I never change nothin’
But people remember this
If Nas can’t say it, think about these talented kids
With new ideas being told what they can and can’t spit”
Nas deals political Ether to Rupert Murdoch’s prized possession on “Sly Fox” Stic.man of Dead Prez contributes this guitar heavy track that screams revolution and begs for future collaborations. Nas goes in on FOX with such piercing words as:
What’s a Fox characteristic?
Pimp the station
Comcast digital Satan
The Fox has a bushy tail
And Bush tells
Lies and Foxtrots
So I don’t know what’s real
The Last verse finishes the Right Wing propaganda machine and will definitely be in the running for hip hop quotable of 2008.
Few artists in the game can rival Nas’s imagery and creativity. He returns to “I Gave You Power” status on tracks like “Project Roach”(which he rhymes from a Roach’s perspective..more like an interlude) and “Fried Chicken”, in which he and Busta Rhymes link up to speak on their love for the greasy goddess whose sexy body and skin I fall for continuously. I never thought my love for this food could be articulated any better, lol.
He also goes back to his “Book or Rhymes” conversational flow on “Testify” getting a few things off his chest in his usual conflicted manner. The revolutionary overtones shine on tracks like “America” where he speaks on the dark side of our country, “Untitled”, where his flow rips thru another stic.man beat, serving as a tribute to those challenging the system, and “N*GGER” where he rips over the beat expressing the mentality of African Americans and utter frustration.
One of my favorite tracks is “Yall my N*ggas”. This represents the true message about the N-Word as expressed by this Queens Poet. It starts with a narrative of a teacher speakin to students about understanding the capacity of the word, then Nas speaks on the word, its application, and how its used both in positive and negative form. He expresses his knowledge eloquently on verses like:
my father was not a banker
neither was my neighbor when it came to getting paper
who the hell was gonna train us
a pressure couldn’t escape us through the ages
we changed the basis of derogatory phrases
and i say its quite amazing
the use the ghetto terms developed our own language
no matter where it came from
its celebrated now people are mad if they ain’t one
The Album closes with the Barack Obama tribute “Black President” which Green Lantern blesses well. He speaks on the black leader and their position, as the Pac Sample from “Changes” is so appropriate here.
I copped the bootleg 2 weeks ago and really had the chance to listen to this before writing this review. After hearing it, I copped the real album yesterday(First Album Ive copped since…..since since since) Those who know me know I’ve promoted this album like my last name was Jones. Speaking as a fan who wanted Nas to bring the HEAT and as an unbiased critic expecting another hit or miss album, I am beyond pleased. This is the most politically charged album of our generation. While “Hip Hop is Dead” came off like old school telling new school what to do in a preachy manner, “Untitled” is one man’s perspective of his Race’s struggle in this country throughout the course of time. He speaks on topics that we all have spoken on for months/years now, but his articulation of the issue and reiteration of issues that most people sweep under the rug are necessary, now more than ever. The concept album nowadays seem to bring better quality and Nas delivered here. There are songs here n there that could’ve had better production with the message, but it still works. HHID served as the spark to artists to show that their place in Hip Hop was justified. He celebrates their accomplisments as well as spreading his own message. Untitled will show the power of artists to convey a message to the Hip Hop Generation and all Generations. People throw classic around all the time, and time will tell for that. I know that this is one of those albums that people will play years from now, that you can play from cover to cover. Nas has something right now that a lot of artists can’t claim: RELEVANCE.
To paraphrase The Matrix:
“Welcome Back Mr Jones… We’ve…Missed you”
Here’s ‘Like Me” the UK Bonus track!: