Nas :: Hip Hop Is DeadDef JamAuthor: Steve 'Flash' Juon"Redhead Kingpin, Tim Dog, have you seen 'em?Kwame, King Tee or King SunSuper Lover Cee, Casanova RudAntoinette, Rob Base never showin upYou see Black Sheep, Group Home, Busy Bee?Ask Ill and Al Skratch, +Where My Homiiies?+Leave it to y'all, these niggaz left for deadLast week my man swore he saw Special EdRap is like a ghost town, real mysticLike these folks never existedThey the reason that rap became addictivePlay they CD or wax and get liftedI recommend when your kid turn tenLet him hear Spice 1, made plenty noise. . .
Adozen years since Illmatic established Nas as rap's most compelling angry young man, he's now officially a grumpy old one, pronouncing his beloved genre DOA. Alleged cause of death: myopia, greed and not buying enough Nas records. You don't have to agree with the prognosis (even Nas has a change of heart by the end) to relish the furious eloquence with which it's delivered.
Yet Mr. Jones is not completely blaming himself for hip-hop's demise. In fact, he gives more of that responsibility to those who don't respect it, who don't know its originators, and he takes stabs at them more than at himself (he did release Illmatic, after all). He's also willing to ease up on his criticism and rhyme in more general terms, although it is these tracks (specifically "Still Dreaming" and "Hold Down the Block," but much of the second half of the album as well) on which he loses some of the intensity and intelligence that he displayed earlier in the record.
For a rapper who's spent the past dozen years failing to meet the lofty standard of his 1994 debut, Illmatic, Nas declaring Hip Hop Is Dead evades all conceivability short of a flaming Napoleon complex. "Afraid not of none of you cowards but of my own strength," the Queensbridge icon postures himself as a lyrical demigod who pities the fool out of touch with old-school paradigms. As "Where Are They Now" takes it all the way back to MC Shan, the title track revisits "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" as an Incredible Bongo Band sure shot.