November 17, 2011

Evan Nabavian read more books than the curriculum profile.

Amy Winehouse and Nas share a tenuous, but meaningful bond. Amy’s “Me & Mr. Jones” is a flirty nod to Nas and both owe some of their best work to Salaam Remi. They have the same birthday and planned to celebrate together this past September. “Like Smoke” is particularly special because it’s a meeting of two artists with enormous status within their genres, though in very different ways. Nas wrote the blueprint for his genre and Amy was the last great voice of hers.

Amy recorded her part in 2008 and Nas added his verses for her new posthumous compilation. Their duet isn’t like the grotesque “collaborations” on 2Pac and Biggie’s posthumous releases because it doesn’t weigh on you with the legacy of the deceased. Amy sings a soft, tantalizing hook comparing a love affair to the transience of smoke. Nas only fleetingly hints at the significance of the collaboration: “I be out in London, Camden hunting for the answers. / Why did God take away the homie? / I can’t say that I’m a firm believer that we all meet up in eternity.” He flows his very best and doesn’t slow down for the unaccustomed ears of the average Winehouse fan. With the same cool, he humbly touches on his failed marriage and tax problems with a verbal shrug.

Remember the song Nas did with his dad called “Bridging The Gap?” It shoehorns a blues aesthetic onto a rap song with a forced Muddy Waters sample. It’s a gimmick that patronizes both genres as might a chewing gum jingle. “Like Smoke” is so much better – a seamless match-up of old and new with heartfelt admiration on both sides. The best kind of tribute isn’t a tribute at all, just a great work in the tradition of the deceased.

Amy Winehouse – Like Smoke (ft. Nas) by ConstanTeeN

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