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Nas - Untitled (Cover Artwork)

Nas

Nas: UntitledUntitled (2008)
Sony Music Entertainment

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
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Contributed by: AnchorsAnchors
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Few individuals have had as much impact on hip-hop, and few individuals have spurred as much discussion on the genre, as Nasir Jones. Known better by his stage name, Nas, the Queensbridge rapper is back for the ninth time with Untitled. What's important is that he's back with a renewed hunger, a .
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Few individuals have had as much impact on hip-hop, and few individuals have spurred as much discussion on the genre, as Nasir Jones.

Known better by his stage name, Nas, the Queensbridge rapper is back for the ninth time with Untitled. What's important is that he's back with a renewed hunger, a lyrical ferocity that earned him the "Nasty Nas" moniker that he wore like a badge of honor in the mid-`90s, a lyrical ferocity that has been sadly absent from much of his (albeit still solid) music since 2001's Stillmatic.

Untitled, the new title after Nas received a slew of complaints about the original name, Nigger, is a striking look at the hip-hop industry and the world at large. The critical lens with which Nas looks at single-parent households ("Queens Get the Money"), social revolution ("Louis Farrakhan") and the assumed responsibilities of Barack Obama to the black community ("Black President") makes everything clear for scholars and laymen alike.

Lupe Fiasco once wrote that dumbing thoughts down makes those thoughts harder to understand; this is something that Nas understands, and it's something he's careful not to implement on each of Untitled's 15 tracks.

"America" is Nas in peak lyrical form -- and in penning an unmitigated indictment of the conventions and regulations this country clings to, he has opened the gates for discourse not just in the black community, but for anyone listening. In just four minutes, the song runs through a gamut of problems, from the avenues of success often sought in a black communities ("We in chronic need of a second look of the law books, and the whole race dichotomy / Too many rappers, athletes, and actors, but not enough niggas in NASA / Who give you the latest dances, trends, and fashion, but when it comes to residuals, they look past us / Woven into the fabric, they can't stand us, even in white tees, blue jeans, and red bandanas") to the discrimination women feel to this day ("Love to sit in on the Senate, and tell the whole government y'all don't treat women fair / She read about herself in the Bible, believing she the reason sin is here / You played her, with an apron / Like bring me my dinner, dear, she the nigger here").

Nas continues to show how in tune with the storylines of the times he really is on "Black President." Beginning with that familiar Tupac sample "I know it seems heaven sent, but we ain't ready to see a black president" and clips of presidential hopeful Barack Obama exclaiming "change the world!", Nas launches into a track that's equal parts hope ("but on a positive side, I think Obama provides hope and challenges minds / Of all races and colors to erase the hate") and reservation ("Y'know these colored folks and negroes, hate to see one of their own succeeding / America, surprise us and let a black man guide us") . Gliding atop a drum-heavy track with piano and organ humming in the background, the flow is impeccable and the bars are full of reverence, while maintaining an objective look at the kind of leader that Barack Obama has the capacity to be.

Nowhere, though, does Nas' flow shine brighter than on the album's lead single, "Hero." The gorgeous, mesmerizing beat twinkles over a slow drum loop, and Escobar brings his quick, hard-hitting flow to the forefront, reflecting on his career and how he's able to maintain it: "Every time I close my lids, I can still see the borough, I can still see the Bridge / I can still see the dreams that my niggas ain't never lived to see / […] / As I grow yearly, I can see things more clearly / That's why they fear me."

On "Sly Fox," as Nas' delivery becomes slower and more meticulous, it's clear he wants every word rapped about the dangers of listening to every word of television news sources to be heard, but it's the last verse in "Hero," the verse that details his own struggle against his record company to have the album released as Nigger that shows what is most important about this effort from Nas -- his mind, soul, and wit are sharper than ever before.

This universal apartheid, I'm hog-tied, the corporate side / Blocking y'all from going to stores and buying it / First L.A. and Doug Morris was riding wit it but Newsweek article startled big wigs / They said, Nas, why is he trying it? My lawyers only see the Billboard charts as winning / Forgetting -- Nas the only true rebel since the beginning, Still in musical prison, in jail for the flow / Try telling Bob Dylan, Bruce, or Billy Joel they can't sing what's in their soul."
Luckily, for the world of music as a whole, Nas' spirit is too strong to be stifled; he is, after all, the only true rebel since the beginning.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
publichousing (March 27, 2010)

I've been going through my previous comments for album reviews, and I have been recanting a few. I will be recanting my previous comment for this album review. I shouldn't have been so critical of someone elses artwork and my opinion of this album has changed. This is a good album. I still don't personally believe it matches up to his first two, but I appreciate what he was trying to do with this album, lyrically and musically. I think he was trying to get some of his fanbase to start thinking about more important issues, as he often gets clumped in with other mainstream rappers who rhyme about irrelevant and materialistic things. I think he was trying to seperate himself from that, I mean look at his song 'Hip Hop Is Dead'. I reckon we need more people with a powerful voice (that people pay attention to) to start talking more about the important/critical issues of the world, like Nas did with this album.

spacemanspliff (May 8, 2009)

Agreed with the very first comment. Illmatic is my favorite album of all time, and that's my very favorite song. Nas can do no wrong in my eyes, and while his records of late have been heavy on the production, that doesn't mean the production has been bad... Great album.

PublicHousing (May 6, 2009)

Good in some parts, boring in others. Nothing compared to his albums "illmatic" and "It Was Written". Lyrics are good. Great Songs are "Can't Stop Us Now", "America" and "We're Not Alone". Apart from that, not much is that interesting. Go pick up "Illmatic" instead of this, grab this one another time. "Hero" is shit. Peace out motherfuckers.

Spit_My_Last_Breath (December 13, 2008)

Hmmmmm., maybe ill find a good punk review at HIPHOPNEWS.ORG????????????????????

mik88 (November 21, 2008)

"I listened to Hip hop once 10 or 12 years ago..." Hey Hayman, way to rip off Joey Cape.

Anchors (November 21, 2008)

Illmatic is obviously a classic, and one of the top 10 hip-hop albums of all time, but on a day-to-day basis I'm more inclined to listen to Stillmatic.

Got Urself a Gun, Ether, My Country, You're Da Man, One Mic, The Flyest.. that album is full of classics.

I Gave You Power is still the best Nas song of all time though, that's not even up for debate.

balaka2 (November 21, 2008)

i dunno, when people are putting stillmatic above illmatic, you have to reinforce that its one of, if not the best, hip-hop album ever. if u dont know, go get it. score is for john stewart making john oliver dance like a pirate on the daily show. go somarrrlians!

marcusd (November 20, 2008)

The mix tape with green lantern is sooooo much better

fallingupwards84 (November 20, 2008)

"fuck hip-hop, i'm just doing this to feed my kids"

hahaha awesome, gotta respect that

hayman (November 20, 2008)

I listened to Hip Hop once 10 or 12 years ago and it was shit. Therefore this is shit too. Fucking waste of time.

DrGunn (November 20, 2008)

saying that nothing he ever does will top illmatic is like saying the sky is blue or pizza is delicious. it's so obvious as to not even be worth pointing out.

i might be in the minority here, but i rather liked the last ghostface. yeah he's kinda going through the motions and just giving the people what they want to hear (i heard him say in an interview "fuck hip-hop, i'm just doing this to feed my kids"), but ghostface going through the motions is still better than just about everyone else.

the_other_scott (November 20, 2008)

nothing he does will top Illmatic

in my top 5 hip hop cds ever

but he's kind of blowing it out of proportion

do you think if Billy Joel wanted to call his album "Kyke" that the label would have let him? not a chance. when a major corporation is paying your way, you've got to deal with their choices. that's why RATM never did anything too controversial.

IamMclovin (November 20, 2008)

darthnader, I agree 100% with your take on GZA and Ghostface.

Cos (November 20, 2008)

I also would like to point out that the cover art is fantastic. He couldn't name the album what he wanted to name it, but he sure as hell got the point across. Brilliant.

genebuonaccorsi (November 19, 2008)

I just can't agree with people saying GZA is going downhill. Pro Tools, in my opinion was better than all his other full lengths besides Liquid Swords. Also, I know it was four years ago, but his verse on On the Eve of War by Jedi Mind Tricks (who suck, royally) was absolutely phenomenal.
As for Ghostface, everything since Fishscale has been kind of meh for him. He can do better.

in addition, ODB is still worth checking for. You never know when he's gonna make that comeback.

icapped2pac (November 19, 2008)

Man, do I wish work was affording me more time for discussion on this site. I love talking hip-hop here, but I'll have to make this short (or at least compared to everything I'd like to get out).

I guess I'm in a very narrow minority who didn't really like this album at all. I think "Hip-Hop Is Dead" was worlds better. The lyrics are still on point, but I can't think of one beat that was worth remembering for me. I'll always give Nas a chance though, and nothing will ever top Illmatic in my ears (unless maybe he & Premo finally do that album Nas has rumored for years).

The people commenting on GZA's delivery going downhill are dead on. He sounds like he couldn't possibly care less. I think his beats have mostly been boring lately too, even Grandmasters. I hate how Muggs at some point switched to synthesizers over sampling (I think it was that "Rock Star" album of Cypress'). Ghostface is undoubtedly the only Wu member consistently worth checking for these days.

The Elzhi album is pretty damn good. I'll look forward to that review, Anchors. He also has an unreleased album from around 2000 I believe that was killer, too. It's so weird to me that such an incredible lyricist hooked up with one of the worst lyrical groups ever (Slum Village). I guess that says a lot for hometown homies.

Oh, and how the FUCK has nobody mentioned the new People Under The Stairs between this & the Budden review? "Stepfather" was a little subpar for them, but "Fun DMC" might be my favorite hip-hop album of 2008. Please don't judge them by their lame movie ripoff name, those dudes make old-school fresh again.

fallingupwards84 (November 19, 2008)

Nas Preemo = creaming my pants

DrGunn (November 19, 2008)

i am still waiting for that nas/dj premier album he has been promising for like...a really long time.

Cannsaw (November 19, 2008)

It's okay - Nas is good as usual but it's overproduced and just makes me crave Illmatic.

Thus_Spoke_Sean (November 19, 2008)

really glad to see other music getting reviewed here.

SlackMfr (November 19, 2008)

This album makes me want to re-live that famous puking scene from Family Guy.

almostpunkenough (November 19, 2008)

"If you hate Big Willie Style you hate fun."

the vast majority of people here are entirely too cool for fun.

great review. even though i haven't liked any Nas since "I Am..." i'm gonna check this out now.

BobLoblaw (November 19, 2008)

I'm so glad Anchors has decided to start doing shitty hip hop reviews to change it up from his other shitty reviews. Just what the Punknews readers needed!

That said, this is probably my favorite Nas album since Illmatic.

Anchors (November 19, 2008)

Hell yeah. Grandmasters is my favorite GZA record.

This new one has some incredible songs though -- 0% Finance, Alphabets, Cinema, Firehouse. And telling 50 Cent "no matter what, you still window shop for lyrics" on Paper Plates was so good.

xrebelheartsx (November 19, 2008)

this really is a damn good record. stoked to see it reviewed on here.

and GZA pales in comparison to Ghostface, at least over the past couple of years. the album he (GZA) did with DJ Muggs was awesome though, that track "Queen's Gambit" is fucking ridiculously good.

cheesetits (November 18, 2008)

Such a good record.

freesandwich (November 18, 2008)

I saw GZA in September and it was terrible. he just stood in one place the whole time and rapped like he just woke up.

DrGunn (November 18, 2008)

while GZA's lyrics are still tops, his delivery has been going downhill for a long time now. to the point where now it sounds like he's barely even trying.

TROOF (November 18, 2008)

GZA rules, no doubt.
On a side note I am listening to RUN DMC right now. Much respect to the old school pioneers.

genebuonaccorsi (November 18, 2008)

GZA is the most important hip/hop artist around right now.
He has some company, but very few people can hold a candle to him.

Anchors (November 18, 2008)

If you hate Big Willie Style you hate fun.

Also, good looks on whoever mentioned Elzhi. Such a talented dude, I'll be reviewing 'The Preface' at some point soon.

RRK (November 18, 2008)

I will never be able to forgive Nas for helping write "Big Willie Style" for Will Smith.

Immortal Technique is terrible.

lostandclowned (November 18, 2008)

Immortal Technique

fallingupwards84 (November 18, 2008)

i dont know, i liked Hip Hop Is Dead, but i think i'm in the minority there

Illmatic > Lost Tapes > It Was Written > Hip Hop Is Dead Untitled > Stillmatic > God's Son > I Am > Nastradamus

TROOF (November 18, 2008)

From the sounds of it I may be the only one who actually liked Hip Hop is Dead, but it still can't hold a candle to this.
9/10. His best work since Stillmatic.

Dante3000 (November 18, 2008)

Seriously I just picked up Murs for president and that shit is off the hook! Minus a few beats that sound a bit too major labely (thanks Will.I.am, you dick) that shit is amazing.
I always considered Murs one of the best story tellers in hip hop but he has totally opened up and expanded to be a complete rapper in every sense.
-Dante

sleepwalker (November 18, 2008)

As much as I love punk rock(2008 has been a banner year), I am more than happy to talk about hip-hop on the org.

Nas is great, blah blah blah, but this year its been:

Murs
Black Milk
Jake One
Elzhi
Atmosphere
DoomTree
GZA
Grip Grand
Johnson & Jonson

that Joe Budden album was just OK.

Cos (November 18, 2008)

Caught Nas at Rock The Bells a few months. The line-ups was full of legends (De La Soul, Pharcyde, various members of the Wu-Tang, Rakim) and Nas destroyed ALL of them. He came with so much energy and anger and proved that yes, hip hop CAN be great live music if you bring the energy. I don't think I could've named a Nas track before seeing him..

This album is rad.

DrGunn (November 18, 2008)

i recently downloaded a copy of nas' demo tape. it's really scary to think how good that guy already was at the age of like 16. pretty scary.

genebuonaccorsi (November 18, 2008)

hip hop is dead sucked.
this is good.
illmatic is better.

heard that one before?

joemomma420666 (November 18, 2008)

punknas.org

mcgregor107 (November 18, 2008)

Great CD! Still in constant rotation for me..

chrisafi (November 18, 2008)

Can we at least stagger Anchors always generously scored hiphop reviews abit? Too much!

Also this guy collaberated with Korn, ergo not 4.5 stars

jesuschrist (November 18, 2008)

punknews?

Dante3000 (November 18, 2008)

Ya know, I bought "Hip Hop is Dead" based on the crazy amount of hype it received and was so underwhelmed I can't put it into words. It was so uninspired and run of the mill I couldn't believe it. Maybe 4 standout tracks.
I just don't have much hope for this either.
-Dante

fallingupwards84 (November 18, 2008)

Very nice review, I love this album.

America is song of the year, as far as I'm concerned. The lyrics are incredible and the song still gives me goosebumps from time to time, even after hearing it dozens of times.

Fried Chicken with Busta Rhymes is another very interesting track, as is the metaphorical Project Roach. And I completely agree with you that Hero is a mesmerizing track; probably his best single since 2002's Made You Look.

My only complaints - so many rappers have used the sample that's on You Can't Stop Us Now, including Mos Def, RZA, a few others. Its still a good song, I've just heard it before. And I would have liked to have seen Jay-Z collaborate on a song, but what can ya do.

8/10

freesandwich (November 18, 2008)

This is going to be epic.

Score is for the song "Life's a Bitch"

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