Harold Stallworth is but one of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s many pen names.
With the release of his self-titled debut EP, an elusive Coney Island-based rapper by the name of Your Old Droog has leapfrogged the likes of Ali Vegas, Mic Geronimo, The Game, and Biggie’s mock baby picture to become the most convincing Nas impersonator of all time—no small feat, considering the scope and magnitude of Nas’s influence over the last twenty-odd years.
In addition to obvious copyright infractions, like tone and inflection, Droog, by all accounts, has mimicked a number of the subtleties of Nas’s style to great effect: the acidic humor, the timely vocabulary, the poetic wordplay, the overall fluidity, all signs point toward this project being an inside job, an elaborate hoax not unlike Captain Murphy or Doomposter or the alleged ‘69 moon landing. Droog is to Nas as Jay Mohr is to Tracy Morgan, a doppelganger of the highest order, hellbent on dressing up like the past.
Contrarily, there’s also good reason to believe Droog and Nas are in fact one and the same, an alter-ego intended to stir up controversy and cast a shadow of mystique over the ten-song spread of backpack-tinged slick talk and aimless storytelling. When sped up roughly eight percent, Droog’s vocals ring eerily familiar. Admittedly, tampering with the pitch still results in a slightly muddied version of the genuine article, but you have to imagine that voice modulation software has improved tenfold in the time since Clyde Smith materialized on the tail end of Supreme Clientele.
Though, it’s entirely plausible that Droog is one grape short of a fruit salad, enough so to dedicate a wealth of time and effort to mastering Nas’s artistic mannerisms. Look no further than The Warriors and Stephon Marbury for proof that there’s something vile brewing in Coney Island’s potable water supply.
Speculation that Nas—with the aid of Mass Appeal, a hip-hop media network on which he currently serves as an associate publisher—orchestrated this entire ordeal just for kicks has supposedly been “debunked” by various “credible” sources. But once a truly intriguing conspiracy theory starts to pick up steam, logic and reason, much less the whiff of unsubstantiated testimony, stand a snowball’s chance in hell of deterring that momentum.
Comparisons, disparaging or otherwise, underscore just how impressive the music is in itself. And those comparisons should and will persist until Droog crafts his own style or, perhaps, until Nas finally decides to come clean. Droog or Nas? The former airs on the side of cynicism; the latter lends itself to common sense. Either way, the Your Old Droog EP functions as an enjoyable concept album. It’s objective, however, is very much still in the air.