Hip-Hop Is Dead
I'd give Nas' new Hip-Hop Is Dead the track by track treatment, but I figured I already more or less nailed it when I gave the ol' once over on my own site a few weeks ago. I'm just good like that.
Plus I'm mad lazy. This is my first day off from the BGM since last Thursday, and I'm getting pretty close to having the proverbial Nick Nolte moment.
At any rate, I'm running a poll on my site this week to determine which was the best rap album of 2006. Honestly, I'm not that jazzed about many of this year's options, but those are more or less the consensus 10 best rap albums of '06 per About.com's hip-hop bloggers poll, to which I contributed.
As of right now (i.e. a day or so in), Hip-Hop Is Dead is in the lead by a pretty wide margin, even ahead of the mighty Fishscale, hip-hop blogging's rap album of the year. I wonder though if this has to do more so with HHID's release date coinciding with the week of the poll more so than anything else.
My concern is not so much whether Hip-Hop Is Dead is a better album than Fishscale. After all, neither of them was my favorite rap album of the year. But I wonder where the Nas album really fits in his overall discography. How many people who voted for the Nas album this week will give a rat's ass about it, say, six months from now?
Having followed hip-hop on the Internets for a minute now, I've definitely noticed this tendency to declare any new Nas album the best rap album evar the week it's released. It was happening as far back as when the Internets version of I Am hit the streets (remember that shit) and a few of you d-bags even went so far as to say that about 2004's Street's Disciple.
More so than maybe anyone else in hip-hop, Nas is just one of those artists where anytime they put out an album it's a big deal, even if said albums never really end up being that good - the obvious reason being that he is, after all, the guy who made Illmatic (Premier, Q-Tip and Large Professor = neither here nor there); what if he could be that good again, even if only for a moment?
And, for what it's worth, that usually ends up being the case. Nas will never make an album as good as Illmatic again in his life (though he's certainly free to prove me wrong), but all of the albums he's put out since have had at least flashes of brilliance. Hip-Hop Is Dead may be far from a masterpiece, but it's certainly no exception in this regard.
My favorite moments: "Money over Bullshit" is probably the album's best beat, though I realize that's not saying a whole lot. Of course I couldn't help but be amused by hearing Jay and Nas together on "Black Republican," though again I'm surprised they didn't bring in Just Blaze or somebody for such a momentous occasion. Obviously there's some kind of thing between Jay and Primo.
Still, this wouldn't be a Nas album without a whole buncha bullshit to ruin it as an overall listening experience. I imagine heads will differ on whether or not "Who Killed It" was a good idea for a song, but personally I could've used it as a b-side or MySpace drop or some such. And "Not Going Back," "Hold Down the Block" and "Blunt Ashes" are just plain not that good, as far as I'm concerned.
So there you have it. Hip-Hop Is Dead is more or less the same album Nas has been putting out since Stillmatic, but with perhaps a bit less filler. There aren't any Bravehearts tracks (praise Allah), but are the high points better than, say, "Made You Look?" Not so much. As of right now, I like this more than Street's Disciple, but maybe not as much as Stillmatic and God's Son.
What do you 'bags think? (Except Rey, who's not allowed to reply to this post.)