Login

No Hypebeast: Observations From The Nas / Kanye West “Nasir” Listening

While people digest "Nasir," here are some sobering thoughts on Nas, Hip-Hop and gentrification.

(AllHipHop Opinion) I stood in line. A long, slow-moving line, waiting. I won’t lie. Many of us industry folks were annoyed. We were anxious.

Nevertheless, we were all brewing with excitement over this new album by Nas. “Its Nas,” my best friend told me, urging me to get the heck up and leave my house. Real talk, my life has changed so much since his last opus, Life Is Good, came out in 2012 and that day I was tired. But I got the call and I was appreciative of the invite, because only a select few were going to make it in.

So, the wait was annoying, but enjoyable.

I met some new young journalists from a bunch of your favorite sites and publications, re-acquainted myself with some old music friends and even met some major heads at other mainstream outlets.

We joked and laughed, but still couldn’t quite get over the slow moving line. Shrouded in mystery, we had been transported to Queensbridge and were now under the actual bridge. "This is the place where stars were born" in the words of poet MC Shan.

The magic of QB is something that holds heavy weight in rap lore.

In line, something felt weird.

I looked up and across the street was Penthouse808 and the rooftop was lit. There was already a party up there and they had a great view of the “listening event” without dealing with the long, plodding line. On the other side of The Bridge was the infamous Queensbridge Projects, where Nas was born and raised. It was an incredible juxtaposition, seeing gentrification moving into America’s biggest housing project like scorching lava from a volcano.

“Six blocks and you might not make it through,” Havoc of Mobb Deep once said in the 1990’s.

Well, it was a street dividing these brick and mortar structures and I am almost certain that the inhabitants at Penthouse808 feel safe. I was astounded. You could literally throw a rock and hit the projects, yet the projects were not coming into this event. I was in line, but people with better shoes, cooler fashions and streamlined connection were breezing past us to gain entry into the venue.

That didn’t upset me except they didn’t impress me as Nas fans. Judging by appearance and energy, they were fans of others in attendance. They acted more like people with fans of their own, frankly. Finally, a cool female security guard let myself and some of the other real heads like Keith Murphy in.

A lot of people were deeply conflicted about the whole affair and yet...this was Nas.

THIS IS NAS.

In Hip-Hop, that means something deep into the annals of our culture. Upon entry, we saw a faux military set up that included military grade hummers and camouflage tents. In the tents, they served soda and virgin Margaritas. As I made my way through the crowd I saw some good people like Chevon and Thuy-An, among others. Some of the G.O.O.D. Music OG’s like John Monopoly were there too. It was a true pleasure seeing old friends.

Suddenly, the hummer started moving and a crowd immediately swarms towards it because it carries Nas and Kanye. That split second was the first and last time I saw Nas this day. Like others, I saw Kim Kardashian though. I saw her and her crew perched atop a nearby vehicle when the album started to blare from the speakers that had us surrounded.

I have not heard music so loud since Ice Cube played the AfroPunk festival a few years ago in Brooklyn. I had to keep my ears plugged. Not even Nas was worth losing my hearing over. I was comfortable being corny. I did hear enough of Nasir though.

Here are my thoughts.

It is not wack based on my initial thoughts, but “My Nas” is best over beats by Large Professor. Havoc. Preemo. Pete Rock. Even The J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. The crowd was a different story. They were what I would say is considered “fawning” over the whole thing. I believe some call it being a “hypebeast.” And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, right?

When the dust had settled, I knew that event wasn’t ours. The media I saw had Nas album headlines with images of Kim Kardashian. I’m not going to lie. I didn’t look much farther than that. I saw some of my peers on social media raving over the album. I wasn’t dissing it or praising it because there’s simply no way to make a really meaningful critique in a dusty field amid a social media spectacle.

What I believe I heard, was Kanye West bringing Nas into his universe in Nasir. This was, after all, a part of the G.O.O.D. Music roll out. A friend of mine said, “This is a big month for Kanye.”

Kanye? Is this really about Kanye?

Kanye West is the same guy that salutes Don Trump and who 45 credits for a jump in his approval ratings for African Americans. The same gentleman that rocked a MAGA hat like it was the latest hot fashion. His scent and texture is all all over Nasir. I don’t have energy to be mad at Kanye right now, but there is a clash of brands as I heard it.

Just like the projects and the yuppies on the roof. Just like the real ones and the hype beasts.

Or maybe it was the cameras.I don’t know, quite frankly. Maybe I’m "hating," as they say it in Basic Land. No, I’m not. These are our heroes.

Once upon a time, I was privileged and (really, f’n good enough) to interview Nas for about 3 hours. Back then, the internet was a very different place and so were the people in it. That day wasn’t the only day I talked to Nas, but it certainly was the most memorable. We talked about everything you could imagine, from music, books and even the kicks on his feet.

Black women and men want answers, particularly around - but clearly not limited to - the Kelis-fueled allegations of domestic abuse. I believe Nas addresses it momentarily on Nasir. It would be much cooler to see him, hear from him...receive real energy from one of Hip-Hop’s most prolific artists.

I don’t want Kanye’s politics to overwhelm (or underwhelm) Nas. I feel a way when I literally saw Kim Kardashian, somebody that is a huge star, but not Hip-Hop, more than Nas at Nas’s album release event. No disrespect.

I just have a high purpose with Hip-Hop.

My biggest moment was talking to Pusha T, shaking his hand and congratulating him.

And walking away from the whole event with a smile and elated I didn’t wear my good shoes.

Damn. That sounds surreal

Stories