May 7, 2012

Deen only needs one person to agree with him.

I was gonna say this song “grew” on me, but that’s untrue. I loved it from jump. As is often the case with Nas singles, I was more concerned about OTHER people’s reactions to the song than mine (for the record, this may be the only area of life in which other people’s opinions have enough impact on me to induce “concern”), because the second I heard the Reggae/Ragga/Dancehall/Jamaican vibe of the beat, I figured Nas and Salaam (shouts to Da Internz, and of course, Heavy D – RIP) had just given the curmudgeons a stick to smack this song with.

The first and most predictable comment I saw was “Nas thinks he’s a dancehall star now..” I would have gone with “Nas thinks he’s Shabba Ranks now, but maybe I’d be dating myself with that one, followed by the usual rants about:

Salaam Remi: “Nas has to stop calling this guy, he only ever made ONE good beat for Nas” – really?
DJ Premier and Pete Rock (“Why won’t he call these guys and take it back to that Illmatic… blah, blah, blah) – Word?
Or he should have called Just Blaze or Alchemist…

Wait, wait, hol’ up, wait, stop.

I’ve always had this thought (and keep in mind that I’m a stan of the highest order – I just happen to believe that no one is exempt from slander – except Beyonce. She’s our Sunshine Creole Goddess. Don’t try it. I prefer Kelly Rowland though) that given Nas’ slightly awkward position in the game, his singles (and this extends to his music in general) have often been held to some indecipherable/impossible standards. He’s both kind-of straddled whatever’s left of the “underground” and flirted with straight up mainstream rap life. But  his position in the game hasn’t ever really seemed that awkward to me. Then again, when was the last time anyone cried for Jigga to rap over a Premier beat? He and Premier made some shit that’s arguably just as good as the Nas/Preme shit, but I haven’t read that demand online or heard it in the barbershop for eons, yet we all seem to think it’s a viable move for Nas to make it  because he this really awesome album some years ago. I understand that Jay made his motivations pretty clear from the beginning  — a single about “the hustle” with Mary J. Blige on the hook sends a lucid message. While Nas, even before most of us knew what he looked like, was anointed as Gawd MC successor to Rakim/Kool G Rap/MLK/Jesus/JFK – meaning that the right-wing branch of the rap world basically turned him into a living monument on par with the way some folks treat Ronald Reagan’s corpse. In a lot of ways that’s some cool-ass shit, but damn, talk about a double-edged sword.

Every time Nas tries to reach out beyond OUR comfort level, we just say “nah”, bitch that it’s not Preme/Pete Rock and sabotage the guy. Which basically means that in order for him to maintain any solo mainstream presence via singles, he’s stuck making street bangers with just a dollop of commercial appeal or vaguely sappy/inspirational shit that radio is cool with. The club has never (and will never it seems, unless I can get Nas and Juicy J in the studio – Waka’s cool too!) accepted Nasir, despite several better than decent efforts. Seriously. What was wrong with “You Owe Me’?” Or “Virgo’?” No, I’m serious. Why can’t a nigga grind on snowbunnies to his favorite rapper? In my experience, on the rare occasions that a Nas single pops up in the club, the reaction has always been dope – but we all gave up on that shit years ago.

I suppose Nas and his label(s) have to shoulder some of the blame for this. They’ve combined to sabotage some really good single material that may have put him in a slightly more comfortable commercial position today, but I’m not privy to the details of this industry shit. Yet. But riddle me this: Can ANYONE explain why Nas and Columbia Records paid quotes for Timbaland and Aaliyah, at the peak of their fucking powers, to churn this nice little ditty out without releasing it as a single? WHAT THE FUCK? That shit stuns me till today. Fucking mystery!

Or why Def Jam and Nas didn’t think it would be a good idea to drop ‘Can’t Forget About You’ (Nat King Cole samples probably don’t come cheap) around Christmas? If I recall correctly, these assholes waited until about March to drop a single with a Christmassy sample all over it, even though the album dropped the week before Christmas?

I hate when the internet does this, but here goes: “Smarten Up Nas.”

That hurt. But the point stands. Nas has made a lot of really good “commercial rap” songs that we either didn’t accept for some daft reason or that he and his labels contrived to self-sabotage. Tragic shit.

Nonetheless, I’m happy with stuff like ‘Made You Look’, ‘Thief’s Theme’, ‘Got Urself A…’ and now ‘The Don’. But the stan in me is irritated that Nas basically gets held to a higher standard than his peers AND gets dogged out at the same damn time (PLUTO!) for not being relevant – whatever the fuck that means. Meanwhile, his equal is outchea getting ethered by Rihanna, anonymous Australian rockers, androgynous Brits, Alicia Keys, her Skeletor impersonator of a husband and whoever the fuck else – all under the guise of being a pop star, with nary a complaint from any of you Reaganite rap fans. That’s That Shit I Don’t Like! Don’t Like! Don’t Like!

Aight, I’m sensing a bit of anger in my tone right now and I like it. But I’m not sure that shit is healthy at 3:11am, so I’m going to watch this ‘The Don’ video and imagine a life of opulence in which I don’t have to feed myself via blogging. That oughta calm me down a bit. And if that fails, there’s always porn. Did that Kelis sex tape ever leak…

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