2011 Gems: A rejuvenated Nas proves he can still get 'Nasty'

Let's face it: there's too much new music in a year for any one human being to digest. "2011 Gems" is a December feature on Midnight Sun where I highlight some of the tracks that might have flown under your radar. Next: Nas' throwback to excellence, "Nasty." The song is full of curse words so if that's not your thing, move right along.

Nas, "Nasty"

Being an elder statesman is hard. Ask Nas, a potential bust on rap's Mount Rushmore, who has spent almost his entire career chasing something greater: an album better than his classic debut, "Illmatic," a decisive win in "Star Wars"-sized rap beef with Jay-Z ("Takeover" trumps "Ether" according to this writer), a record that balances between deft storytelling and radio-friendly hits that doesn't hurt his credibility.

This year, Nas finally smartened up and realized that at some point, you have to stop chasing and just do what comes naturally.

Enter "Nasty," a blistering ode to rap traditionalism, or in other words, the type of music where Nas excels. Produced by long-time collaborator Salaam Remi, "Nasty" finds Nas living up to the Master of Ceremonies title, quickly and confidently delivering bar after bar of dense wordplay ("Any rebuttal to what I utter gets box-cuttered") and a carnal attitude toward finer living and finer women. "I'm rich and I'm girl crazy," he says, a mischievous line that winks at the ink drying on his divorce papers. Isn't that part of the reason you get divorced anyway?

Many older rappers bemoan the new kids, sounding like the curmedgeons they would have laughed off back in their prime. As we should have known by now, Nas is smarter, wiser. He sidesteps the unbecoming attitude by outrapping the young guns, a tactic that will always win out in hip-hop. "I'm skinny but still I'm too big for a Bentley / You are your car, what could represent me? / Too godly to be a Bugatti."

Before the song kicks in, a DJ asks: "Are y'all ready to see Nas? Queensbridge, y'all ready to see Nasty Nas?" If Nas has more, similar heaters up his sleeves, then yes, the world is more than ready for his next album. Let's hope he's not proclaiming hip-hop's death, because after "Nasty," it's a laughable claim.


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