This may be my all time favorite song. The beat is nothing less than perfect.
“Nasty”/Nas Life is Good (2011) Producer: Salaam Remi
It must be a curse knowing that you made one of the best (let’s be honest here, the best) hip-hop record of all time. I mean, It’d be unfair for us, the listeners, to expect an MC to turn out that kind of perfection for a whole career, right? As it turns out, life isn’t always fair; Raekwon will forever be judged against OB4CL… and Nas will forever be judged against Illmatic. But whereas Rae found his second act updating the format of his earlier work, Nas’ subsequent work always works best when he raps like Illmatic never existed -like he never had laurels to rest on except what he’s kicking right there, right then. “Nasty” has this appeal; Nasir sounds determined, hungry and maybe most importantly unencumbered by his classic debut’s legacy. The lyrical work is spectacular, switching effortlessly between vingettes and his notoriously sharp one liners with a complex grit to match Salaam Remi’s toughest-breakbeat-ever instrumental.
The whole of the Elmatic tape is ill (no pun intended). I was counting on Elzhi being fire (He always is), but I wasn’t really up on the whole situation. The idea to do a tribute to the beats as well as Nas’ immortal lyricism is nothing less than essential. It’s the extra attention to detail that makes this more than typical mixtape fare. The beats are dynamic, organic and well suited for Elzhi’s loose, complex flow.
While the Illmatic tracks are done by Will Sessions, “Verbal Intercourse (Part 2)” piqued my interest on the strength of 14TK’s novel take on the original RZA beat. The haunting, ethereal grittiness of the original is substituted for an equally lush, head nodding sea of classical strings and mellow bass. The dark, subtle beat allows Elzhi to fall a little behind in the pocket, patiently weaving a story of deception and aspiration with the historian’s care and even handedness.
One Love -Fashawn (Prod. Q-Tip)
Nas crafted the original “One Love,” with a master hand. On each verse he told a story -the first two through the form of letters to friends in prison, and the last about a personal experience of his own. These first two stories were those of desperation and what had gone wrong in his own generation. The last verse deals with his own struggle and finishes in a chance encounter with a boy, who Nas is taken aback by, and in turn advises him on ways to behave in order to make it through the struggle. I think here it should be noted that on the Ode to Illmatic mixtape Fashawn delivers on every track. This tune, however, holds a distinguished place on the record because of that last verse; Fashawn might as well have been boy that Nas talks to in the closing lines. At the point that Nas described it, he had no chance to succeed and to make it out of the hood, with a position and an attitude that (at least from what Fash’ spits on Boy Meets World) would be familiar to Fashawn. It’s a tribute to this story that maybe because of Illmatic, he is here today to grace us with his own rhymes and his own story. More so, It’s a tribute to Fashawn that he can do this song justice. He interjects his own experiences and stories to the song, but sticks to the script. From his impassioned delivery and thoughtful lyrics, you can tell Fash’ has a extraordinary comprehension of what Nas was trying to say. The torch has been passed.