Nas follows up “Destroy & Rebuild” with “The Flyest,” a charming A-Z duo that’s massively produced and serves as a victory roll, but is, frustratingly, betrayed by the filler that comes after. stillThe original pressing included “Braveheart Party,” a song so clumsy and inane that it makes “Oochie Wally” sound like “verbal intercourse. It was removed, at Mary J. Blige’s request, from subsequent CD and vinyl batches and does not appear on digital streaming platforms. (Blige cited “personal reasons” in her appeal to Columbia.) Unlike most later edits, which usually bring atmosphere with them. Darkly authoritarian, especially after the advent of DSPs, this had a positive, uncomplicated effect on the album.
The blemish that remains is “Rule”, the Trackmasters’ reinterpretation of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” that Nas and Columbia released less than 30 days after 9/11. He feels alienated as a black American, about African mineral rights, and about military spending—but schmaltz is inevitable. (When he sings, unconvincingly, that “we must stop the killing”, it is unclear who and which). However, something intriguing is brought to an end. After the beat stops, Nas gives a small talk about 19th-century military events that undercut what came before them:
“Men, women and children killed by the police… niggas ain’t gon’ forget that, man. You know what I mean? So what this war is showing me is, like, whatever you want out of life, whatever you feel is rightfully yours — go out and take it, even if it means blood and death. That’s what I grew up with, that’s what this country is about. That’s what my country is. And my drab. “
The next “My Country” stars Nas and Millennium Thug as two convicts on Rikers Island and an American soldier in the desert, respectively, who send messages to each other about their experiences. The latter’s imaginative writing (“You can see the sea and the stars look closer to me”; “Every time I hear the wind I think a slug came in”) contrasts Naz, who turns inward—to memories of his father holding him above his head as a little boy, cursing the place he They both live in it. The rappers’ voices overlap only once, when they refer to their positions as a multi-billion dollar business.
Rather than pursue stern structuralist criticism or retreat to safer ground, Nas ended this post-9/11 law, and still as a whole, by broadening the argument from “my country” to something more racist, even spiritual. “What It’s About” is about poison: ecstasy and cocaine, drugs and vaccines, white Jesus and Coca-Cola, the Queens public schools Nas attended as a child. It’s a song that, when someone dies, Nas invites you to imagine walking past a florist and filling out a condolence card—but also to see the rain that accompanies death, to feel the inexplicable metaphysical crack or legitimize it away. He raps “What’s Destined” to end the album right. “George Bush fought until George Bush killed me.”
still He evades the expectations placed on Nas as a teenager and the baggage he carried with him in his 30s. But there is little joy in this, and the catharsis is only intermittent. So he resorted to settling scores, reclaiming what was taken not only from him, but from the smiling women across the hall, the revolutionaries he cites at the end of “My Country” who were killed by the state, and the friends who went away and never returned. At his end, he was no less of a burden – but his burdens finally rested on his shoulders.
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