Nas - Hip Hop is Dead

I was told that once I got my internet working again, I should step my review game up, so here you go. A track by track review of the new Nas record. It's probably the 78th review you've read for it, and it's still not out yet.

01.Money Over Bullshit (Prod. LES)

Nas basically says "Hi I'm Nas and I'm a pretty good rapper and if you don't like me, well you can go shit in a hat." over a really grim beat. This is a damn good way to start an album that's been hyped to the stars.

02.You Can't Kill Me (Prod. Salaam Remi)

Unfortunately, this song doesn't really keep the momentum the first one set. It's an alright song, but nothing you're going to want to go back to over and over again.

03.Carry the Tradition (Prod. Scott Storch)

Nas throws the ill subliminals on this one. It's pretty well known that Nas is a lot better when someone lights a fire under his ass, and this is no different since he can make a Scott Storch beat sound good to me, and I can't really think of another producer that annoys me more at the moment.

04.Where Are They Now (Prod. Nas & Salaam Remi)

One of the big highlights of the record. A lot of rappers do the whole "Name a lot of old rappers on a song", but not a lot get as obscure as Nas. I never though I'd hear someone mention The Skinny Boys and Fu-Schnickens in the same song. I have a feeling no one under the age of 18 will have any fucking idea of what he's talking about though.

05.Hip-Hop Is Dead (Prod. Will.I.Am)

I think if you make a record that's a lot better than one of your previous records, it's ok to use a sample from one of the few highlights of the previous record again. So I don't mind hearing the Iron Butterfly sample again, since I'll never listen to whatever record he originally sample it on. He can reuse samples from anything after Illmatic and I wouldn't notice. Oh, unless it was those annoying kids singing on that "I Am" song. Either way, this is another hit.

06.Who Killed It? (Prod. Will.I.Am)

Nas does some weird Inspector Gadget/Old Gangster Movie voice over this track and ruins the best beat on the whole god damn record. It almost works, but I don't really see the point in the dumb voice. Couldn't he just find someone who naturally talks like that? Anyway, this song is some bizarro world retelling of the birth of hip hop, I think. Honestly, I don't know what it's about. Unless it's about how Nas is a secret weirdo who likes doing bad impersonations for no real reason.

07.Black Republican (Feat. Jay-Z) (Prod. LES)

I'm not sure why Jay-Z would agree to appear on something better than anything on his entire new album. Couldn't he have used this track on his own record? Supposedly that was the deal with that "Can I Get A..." song. Ja Rule claims it was originally supposed to appear on his record but Jay knew it was going to be a hit so he took it. I guess Jay doesn't have that kind of forsight anymore. Oh well.

08.Not Going Back (Feat. Kelis) (Prod. StarGate)

This is a song about how Nas is not going back to the hood, but he still knows what's going on in the hood. This is basically what Jay Z was trying to accomplish with Kingdom Come, but it didn't really work. The beat, by Stargate, who I'm hoping is some sort of Transformer, isn't really that eventful. Nas saves this from being a disaster with the rapping.

09.Still Dreaming (Feat. Kanye West) (Prod. Kanye West)

Kanye West get's to be on every single eventful CD that come out. This is a pretty decent filler song. I have nothing more to say about it excpet Kanye West doesn't annoy me as much on this track as he usually does, so I guess that's a success.

10.Hold Down the Block (Prod. Mark Batson)

The worst song on the record. Although, if this had a hard beat behind it by someone like Diamond D, or Large Pro, or Pete Rock, it could have been the best song on the record. Mark Batson is some guy who is friends with The Dave Matthews Band, and the chorus is horrendous. I don't want to hear about The Block "being Hot" unless it's on something released on Cash Money Records in 2000.

11.Blunt Ashes (Prod. Chris Webber)

This song is like a 7.1 Pteradactyl reference away from being the best Kool Keith song not written by Kool Keith. It's weird enough because it's produced by former Michigan Fab 5 alumni Chris Webber, but Nas namedrops anyone who's name he can think of from Ava Gardner to Ennis Cosby. In true Keith form, he even mentions Roger Troutman and Zapp. I wouldn't be surprised if this sparks Keith to write an entire record dissing Nas that no one actually hears.

12.Let There Be Light (Feat. Tre Williams) (Prod. Kanye West)

This is one of those Uplifting R Kelly 'I Believe I can Fly' Positive Let's Go To Church and Testify songs. These are usually hit and miss but this one really works because Kanye threw a really good breakbeat under it. I like it, but I can see a lot of people not liking it due to the gospelness.

13.Play on Playa (Feat. Snoop Dogg) (Prod. Scott Storch)

Songs Featuring Snoop Dogg is basically an entire subgenre of rap music at this point. A subgenre I don't like. I mean, it's better than the Songs Featuring Busta Rhymes subgenre, which i completely hate, but Snoop has had the same guest verse for like 30 years now. I guess this would be a good song for the club or something, but it's not doing much for me.

14.Can't Forget About You (Feat. Chrisette Michele) (Prod. Will.I.Am)

The best beat not ruined by a funny Inspector Gadget voice on the record. I could see this song getting some commercial success since it's basically 'Unforgettable' by Nat King Cole and everyone on earth loves that song. Pluse Chrisette Michele (also on Jay-Z's 'Lost Ones') has a really nice old timey voice. I imagine this will be a single at some point if this record doesn't get buried quickly like most Def Jam releases.

15.Hustlers (Feat. The Game & Marsha Ambrosius) (Prod. Dr. Dre)

The Game just released a record that I can't ever listen to again because it makes me feel uncomfortable. It's one long love letter to Dr. Dre who doesn't even appear on the record. Surprisingly, he takes time off of hanging on Dre's dick to hang on Nas' on an actual Dre beat. That Game guy really has some issues.
He also ruins his credibility right off the bat by saying he had to choose between The Chronic and Illmatic in '95. The Chronic came out in 92, and I'd imagine you'd be thrown in jail if you were actually from California and it took you three years to buy the biggest gangsta rap album of all time.
Despite the nitpicking, The Game is still a good rapper, even if his subject matter is questionable. This is another great song. The chorus could stand to be a little less west coast generic, but whatever.

16.Hope (Acapella)

Acapella track. Make your own remix!

Overall: I can say without a doubt that this is Nas' best record since Illmatic, but outside of a few songs here and there, I haven't liked a Nas record since Illmatic. It still doesn't compare to Illmatic to me, but then again, I'd put Illmatic in my top three all time rap records.
It's definitely noticable that Nas is more inspired and focused on Hip Hop is Dead than he has been in a very long time. Even the weirder moments on Hip Hop is Dead are entertainable. It's one of the only "big" hip hop records this year to somewhat live up to the hype. I don't think it's going to be the catalyst to lyricism being the main focus of hip hop again or anything, but it's a small start.