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Nas shows he’s still got it

Kenyatta Storin | Thursday, January 20, 2005

At this point in his career, rap veteran Nas will probably never be able to eclipse his arch-rival Jay-Z in both fame and success, but his new double album, “Street Disciple,” shows he still has something left in the tank.In 1994, Nas came out with his stunning rap debut, “Illmatic” – an instant classic that immediately catapulted him to the top of the rap game. But in the years since, Nas’ stock has wavered greatly, for while he has shown flashes of brilliance over the years and is undoubtedly a very talented rapper, he has never been able to duplicate the power and skill of his debut. As a result, in many people’s eyes he has always been somewhat of a disappointment in hip-hop, much like what Derrick Coleman is to the NBA. The recently released Detroit Piston was the first overall pick in the draft by the New Jersey Nets in 1990, and although he turned out to be a very good player, he never became the huge star everyone thought he would be.Although Nas still does not have the esteemed status he once had, he has managed to revitalize his career over the past three years due to increased media attention from his feud with Jay-Z and improved material on his last two albums, “Stillmatic” and “God’s Son.” While both albums were far from perfect, they had their share of highlights, proving Nas could still flow with the best of them. “Street Disciple” continues this positive streak of albums, and while it is not on par with “Illmatic” by any means, it is a solid release. Not surprisingly, like all hip-hop double-disc albums, “Street Disciple” has too much filler and lags at times, but overall the good outweighs the bad. For the most part, Nas avoids making concessions to the pop market by generally avoiding catchy pop hooks, allowing Nas to put himself to the forefront and showcase his rapping talents. Salaam Remi, Chucky Thompson and L.E.S. handle the production (with the exception of a few beats done by Nas himself), and the results, while not stunning, are diverse and refreshing. Lyrically, Nas keeps things fresh by going all across the board, rapping about politics, sexual exploits, racism, his childhood, past musical influences and marriage, among other things. He takes shots at several people throughout the album, like Condoleeza Rice on “American Way,” where he raps, “Tell [Rice] if she ever really cared about poor schools / About poor children, then she gotta prove / that she ain’t just another coon Uncle Tom fool.” In contrast to this, he is less serious on other songs, like the catchy party jam, “Virgo,” (featuring Ludacris and Doug E. Fresh) with the chorus, “Hey girl, just come and hold my hand / Won’t you come and just chill with the Virgo.” Nas also shows he still has plenty of bite in his rhymes too, as shown by his attacks on “Suicide Bounce:” It’s obvious you don’t know how I react / Like, I don’t know where the party’s at / You’re foamin’ at the mouth, losin’ breath / Like a cardiac arrest, but I ain’t impressed.”Nas may never be able to match the potential he once showed 10 years ago, but he is still an excellent rapper that likely still has a few more albums left in him. “Street Disciple” would be a stronger album if it was cut down to one disc, but it is still an impressive release in and of itself. Nas may not rule the New York rap scene anymore, but he is still about as solid a rapper as they come these days.