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Nas: Greatest Hits

Not many would argue that Nas is one of the top ten lyricists living.  The rap laureates debut Illmatic put a barely known, fresh-faced MC onto the cusp of greatness.  By the time he dropped his fourth album Nastradamus, a frisbee for many but still viable for his hardcore fan base, he was in this weird ambiguous space; seesawing between Italian gangster and pro-Black griot.  After the critical beat down Esco took for not living up to Illmatic’s standards, Mr. Jones disappeared for a minute and was all but forgotten.  Stillmatic, and a shot of beef from Shawn Carter, announced his subsequent resurrection and newfound hunger.  He has since cemented his lane with three subsequent releases.  Nasir Jones’ Greatest Hits (Columbia) reads like the cliffs notes of his career. Starting off in true Nas fashion is the autobiographical “Surviving The Times.” Produced by NBA star and former Fab Fiver Chris Webber, the track is laidback with an intermitted piano riff and loungy drum melody.  Nas breaks down his first steps into the rap game.  “I was with Akinyele in the streets trying to get us a deal/G Rap tried to get us to sign to Cold Chill/But Fly Ty didn’t have the contract we wanted/Clark Kent just signed Das he didn’t want us/Russell said I sounded like G the ni*** fronted.”This project is in chronological order and highlights the most influential hits Nas has created from his intellectual introspection to his grimier street tales. Earlier joints like “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” and “One Love” bring the listener through memory lane.  The album then moves into classic cuts from “If I Ruled The World” to “Bridging the Gap.”  Unfortunately “Ether” is missing from the album.  The monumental battle track would have served as the perfect turning point between the gaudy “Hate Me Now” and “One Mic”.  It fills in that gap of time when fans and critics alike were forgetting how ill Nas really is. His beef with Jay-Z was a moment of clarity for those who were foggy about Nas’s talent after his hiatus; “One Mic”, a lyrically gorgeous song, was the affirmation that the world needed.  While the track listing could have been more definitive, it’s only 14 tracks after all, this Greatest Hits is still good money.  It drops at a time when the Rap community is coming down from the whole “Hip-Hop Is Dead” theme and coming into the N-word fiasco that he recently started.  It’s obvious that Nas is not afraid of controversy but this album is a testament to why God’s Son is a Hip-Hop legend.  SOUNDCHECK:

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