Nasir Jones, a.k.a. Nas, may never produce another album quite like Illmatic. Yet his latest release, Stillmatic, should be enough to restore his place as the King of New York. While the mainstream public continues to fall head over heals for Jay-Z and his commercial brand of hip hop, Nas” latest album is vastly superior to the overrated Blueprint and puts to rest any debate regarding who is the better rapper.
The album begins with “Ether,” a scathing attack on Jay-Z and his Rocafella crew where Nas calls into question, among other things, Jigga”s pension for quoting his old pal the Notorious B.I.G. The next song, “Got Ur Self A … ” is the first single off the album and includes an ode to fallen rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. “Ether” is not the only dis record on the album. On “Destroy & Rebuild” Nas takes on three former protgs Cormega, Nature and Prodigy whom he feels have betrayed their Queensbridge roots.
While rappers butting heads can provide good entertainment, as long as the differences are kept on wax, Stillmatic really heats up when Nas puts aside the beef and gets back to doing what he does best, prophesizing. Blazing tracks like “You”re Da Man” and “One Mic” are undeniable classics and should help Nas restore some of the street cred he lost after the disastrous Nastradamus.
Songs like the feel-good “2nd Childhood” and the fiery “What Goes Around” display the Queensbridge native”s unparalleled lyrical skills and clever wordplay. The closest thing to a commercial song is “Rule,” on which Nas samples the beat and chorus from “Everybody Wants to Rule The World” and calls for peace in the wake of Sept. 11. But no track even resembles the ill conceived “Hate Me Now” or “You Owe Me,” which raised the ire of hardcore fans.
Never one to rely on guest appearances, Nas nevertheless showcases some friends including the grossly underrated AZ who swaps verses with him on “The Flyest,” and the Bravehearts who make their presence felt on the street banger “Every Ghetto.” Yet none of them come close to doing to Nas what Eminem did to Jay-Z on the song “Renegade” completely outshine the album”s star.
The reality is that Nas will forever be haunted by the masterpiece that was Illmatic. The standard he set for himself will be nearly impossible to match. Stillmatic is certainly not on that level and probably falls short of his sophomore album, It was Written. But it does represent a strong bounce back from the disappointing Nastradamus and a welcome return to his roots. If this album does anything it proves Nas has not been completely lost to the world of commercialism, unlike another New York MC.