Nas, Hip-Hop Is Dead, 2006.
Anyone notice how Nas has been kneeling a lot in recent album covers? Yeah, me too.
Is Hip Hop dead? I don’t know, but I’d certainly say that its in a rut. Maybe that’s why both Jay and Kanye have talked about “dumbing it down” and “being criticized for it”—when Nas dumbed it down nobody listened, so it’s nice to see a street-smart Nas emerge on this album. Some of the more spoken-word tracks fall short of their goal, and there’s a sense of retrospection on here; looking back at the past. Certainly the late 80s and early 90s gave a lot towards hip-hop (Nas included), but on some level times change.
As an album though this is pretty good, and there’s some strong songs. Production is nice as well, with some old-school sounds and beats making their way through. We’ve also got an official end-the-beef song with “Black Republican” featuring Jay-Z. One thing that becomes clear is how much better the package could’ve been—having will.i.am on a track when you’re declaring hip-hop dead is an oxymoron—rather than give tips on how to save we’re throw into criticism.
But at least Nas is big enough to handle it.