Driving home yesterday I saw a plastic water bottle in the gutter. It was half-full of what looked like piss. Two things struck me. Firstly, it’s not the first time that I’ve seen a bottle of piss on the side of the road. Secondly, there is something inherently depressing about looking at a bottle of piss on the side of the road.
If you asked me who my favourite emcee is I would say Nas. He’s always had it. That combination of street-smarts and a populist sensibility makes him so addictive to listen to. Although Illmatic is not my undisputed favourite hip-hop album it’s easily in my top 3. With hindsight, it is the perfect snapshot of a rapper at the top of his game.
Sadly, a strength of Illmatic is also a weakness of his subsequent career. The millstone of such a classic is audible on every one of his latter albums. He’s still well capable of knocking out a gem or two but a complete album eludes him. His most recent offering suffers from a lack of consistency we’ve all become accustomed to. Part of me wonders if he could just get the all the original peeps back on the boards we might get an album approaching the uninterrupted quality of Illmatic. Perhaps his long-awaited co-lab with Doom will be the panacea.
Nas isn’t alone in his decline. There’s a pantheon of gifted artists who, for various reasons, have lost their way a bit. However, it does seem that hip-hop is acutely afflicted in this respect. So many exceptional emcees have descended into cameos in shit films and advertising fizzy drinks. It seems that artistic integrity is a dirty word in hip-hop. “Thou shalt get paid in full” over-rules all else.
Driving to work today I listened to Nas’ Hip Hop Is Dead. It was half full of what sounded like shit. Two things struck me. Firstly, it’s not the first time that I’ve listened to a Nas album that’s half-full of shit. Secondly, there is something inherently depressing about listening to a Nas album that’s half-full of shit.
Nas – One on One (MP3 from the Streetfighter OST)
Article by MF Hart
Photo by Runs with Scissors