Saga of God’s Son – part 7

(yeah 2 for the price of 1,my way of making up for that 2 week gap)

God Son is an album informed by two things that had happened in Nas’s life at this time one his beef with Jay Z and the other is the death of his mother Ann Jones who he lost to cancer around April 2002

even by Nas’s standards God’s Son is one of his most personal albums (Life is Good is up there but we won’t be reaching this album for a while),his mother’s death is mentioned more than once on the album and is the central focus of one of the songs on the album ‘Dance’ a touching tribute to her legacy and the influence she had on his life.

I remember the last time i went back to this album i liked about half of it,the highs are incredibe but the lows are more a test of patience than anything, ‘Revolutinary Warfare’ despite being what i think is a good song is ruined by Lake/Lakey the Kid’s verse (he’s so bad)

some of Nas’s most varied flows are displayed on this album and on a disaster like the Bravehearts posse cut ‘Zone Out’ he’s the one good thing on that song (btw Nas was also beefing with Harlem rapper Cam’ron and this track in particular Nas fires some none to subtle shots, ‘House In Virginia’ anyone?),even then it’s not enough to save travesty like ‘Hey Nas’ which is a really flat song that’s a blatant reach for chart appeal.

The Eminem produced ‘The Cross’ is another song where Nas’s dexterous flow and Christ myrterdom inspired lyrics save what is in my opinion a really plodding beat.

The peaks of this album however are some of the finest of his career ‘Made You Look’ is my pick for best Nas single ever and is one of those songs that makes go ‘this is why i love this rap shit’ and if anything it should’ve been the direction Nas went in when it came to crafting singles reworking classic hip hop breaks reffering back to his beloved youth of the 80s but presented in a new way.

‘Book of Rhymes’ is an interesting experiment where Nas goes through one of his old rhyme books reading through some of his old lyrics, where there’s more than a few gems amongst what he consider’s garbage,it’s a really self examinatory song on his creation but also a new sense of consciousness within his lyrics.

Then there’s the first song ‘Get Down’ where Nas’ tells 3 unrelated stories of events that all end in or are the result of inner city violence, the song is book ended by a audio recording of a man wondering ‘how is our people meant to get up if we keep getting down?’

But if i had to pick one stand out song on God’s Son’ it would have to be track 4 the Ron Brownz produced ‘Last Real Nigga Alive’

Brownz’s beat is tense eerie like you’ve just uncovered it under a rock, it’s more about mood more than impact and while it’s not the best on the album (Made You Look and Get Down are my two big picks) but it never tries to draw attention to itself.

This is Nas’s tell all story, giving the listener the background details as to all the events that happened in his career from the early 90s up to early 2000s soon after some of the details include:
– the beef between Wu Tang and Biggie over the claim that they ripped off Nas’s ‘Illmatic’ cover while Biggie accused Raekwon of jacking his slang

-his time with Steve Stoute and why he had to part with him (also making reference to the time Puffy ran up in his Interscope office and hit him over the head with a bottle of Moet)

and most importantly his thoughts and feelings of his beef with Jay Z particularly what he thought were sneak attacks made at him by Jay during the time he stopped recording music to care for his mother.

This song is capped off with a brilliant kiss off line that not only sums his feelings on why he had to write ‘Ether’ but going at the whole of the Rocafella empire when everybody thought his back was up against the ropes :
“I was Scarface, Jay was Manolo”
“It hurt me when I had to kill him and his whole squad for dolo”

it’s not perfect but if you want a good understanding of where Nas’s head was at around that time aswell as a self exploratory experience,seriously check this one out

saga of God’s son part 6

(apologies for the big gap between posts, i had some personal stuff to sort out)

The Lost Tapes” is Nas’s 2nd best album,if not then it’s at least one of his top 5 releases proving that during the time period where he was making ‘I Am’ and ‘Stillmatic’ when everybody thought that he had lost it completely. As i said back on the ‘I Am’ post a few of these songs were meant to be part of his planned ‘I Am…The Autobiography’ double album but were leaked online, Columbia looking to capitialise off of the success of Stillmatic put out this aswell as ‘Illmatic to Stillmatic: The Remixes’ in the run up to his next album ‘God’s Sun’

If i had to make a really trite classic rock comparison consider this Nas’s ‘Basement Tapes’ a low key moody album with no guests where our protagonists weaves stories and narratives about urban decay, alcaholism,his father and the depictions of black people in the general media. If there were two songs that i had to say i think are ok it’s ‘Blaze A 50’ and ‘Everybody’s Crazy’ and that’s because of the beats ok, Nas saves the former by telling a story about murder S&M and betrayal and in the end literally rewinding the track to change the ending.

Part of the trouble i had with this album is trying to pick out a ‘favourite’ song on this album because i like damn near every song on this album,in the end I decided on picking out the last song on the album ‘Papa was a Player’ produced by ‘Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie’ and ghost co-produced by Kanye West.

The song is an ode to his father trumpet player Olu Dara, it’s a very warts and all portrayal of his dad, talking about him as the jazz musician, the man who him and his brother Jungle would run and hug not knowing the stresses he put on his mother,the fact that compared to many of the other kids in his hood his dad was a presence in his life and that as him and his brother got older he wasn’t the impervious man they thought he was.

This wasn’t the last time Olu’s presence would be on one of Nas’s albums, the trumpet outtro to ‘Life’s A Bitch’? that’s him and he’d also appearing on the father son collabo ‘Bridging the Gap’ off of Nas’s 2004 double album ‘Street’s Disciple’.

also on this album ‘Poppa was a Playa’ is book ended with a hidden track ‘Fetus’ where Nas gives voice to his prenatal form covering the time from before his birth, it’s great, it’s the kind of storytelling that gives voice to the voiceless that goes as far back as the slave narratives and it does come off corny like that time Lupe Fiasco made a song from the perspective of a cheeseburguer.

Listen to this album,you need to hear this thing it’s fantastic.

Saga of God’s son Part 5

(almost forgot to post this one but here it is)

Stillmatic is Nas’s “Mama Said Knock you out” or for the death metal fans it’s his “The Stench of Redemption” the album were he reclaims his place as one of the best to ever do it but going back to what made him great in the first place but through the perspective of a much wiser,sharper and more thoughtful writer.

The album starts off with the one-two punch of “Stillmatic(Intro) and “Ether” the former showing that skills and wisdom in a way that makes it seem like the last 2 albums never happened to begin with and the ruthless rebuttal not just to Jay Z and Rocafella but made it known that he wasn’t about to lose this battle (Ron Brownz the producer of the beat for a while went by the alias of ‘Etherboy’ which is just sad if you ask me)

Looking back on it now this album has one or two faults with it like every post Illmatic release “Braveheart Party” is another edition to the folder of “club songs that will never ever get club play” and was probably his worst one at the time, ‘Smokin’ isn’t bad but is a middling low-key song that doesn’t really go anywhere and the Tears for Fears sampling “Rule” is ok at best.

However the stand out songs on this album are some of the best of his career, there’s the fantastic “One Mic” which is a dazzling, urgent song to listen to even now with it’s details of claustrophobia,power and just the fact that hip hop is a blessing for him to take his word and music out there, The reunion between him and fellow QB rapper AZ on “The Flyest” flossin, calling shots and showing that the chemistry between the two had never left. There’s the Large Professor produced (one of two beats Extra P produced two my knowledge the last time his beats appeared on a Nas album) “Rewind” where Nas tells the story of a getting dome from a woman and then afterwards teaming up with his squad to take out an enemy, only the story is told backwards “Go he there” and everything.

And last but not least there’s “What Goes Around” the first of many collaborations with producer Salaam Remi,who would be a close collaborator with Nas for much of the latter half of his career.

But my pick today is a personal favourite,a song that addresses a topic that rarely gets addressed in rap,a song addressing the necessity to grow up, track 8 “2nd Childhood” this song song has a personal place for me in that it’s a song an older cousin on mine got me to listen to, he had a leaked version of Stillmatic and i remember when i first heard it it’s a song that got me at it’s core, the wistful,reclined DJ Premier beat (the last time Nas and Premier would work together) the way Nas said “like a gorilla” when talking about his dad punching his chest after smoking weed, with rap you find it’s not just what is being said but all the little accents on words and phases,most of this is pulled from the first verse which when talking about this song get’s overlooked.

What is meant by Nas saying that he’s in his 2nd Childhood is that he’s free of many of the stresses that plagued his life as a young man he now has the money and fame to live a more stress free life(the ironic thing being the next two albums show that the reality was anything but)

The 2nd and 3rd verses are the parts that are most memorable Nas paints two characters a man and a woman both seemingly stuck in their ‘childish’ ways the first a 31 year old man literally ‘standing on the same block since ’85’ hanging with younger guys slanging dope and still living with his parents,while the woman is out smoking and taking E pills and ‘yakety yaking like she was 12’ about the many different men she’s been with and about other peoples business (the last few times i’ve heard this song there’s something about the 3rd verse i find a bit paternalistic but i can’t explain why)

I remember at the time it’s shook the shit out of me, often Nas’s songs can come off grand or esoteric in places but this one was grounded it felt very real and my response was more along the lines of ‘i don’t want to be that’ rather than ‘that will never happen to me’ and as bad as these characters are there’s still an element of sympathy to them there’s are people who are products of their environment they don’t know any better nor were they given the guidance of how to elevate them out of their situations, it’s a melancholic song and while it might not have the pulse and extremity that ‘One Mic’ has it’s certainly got the same emotional core.

Saga of God’s son part 5

Nastradamus is bad, i mean really bad this is where alot of people gave up on Nas when he goes full blown Street G and the persona he tried to give off just feels completely hollow. They knew it and Jay Z knew it when i said he went from ‘Top 5 to not mentioned at all’ on Takeover even now that verse feels like a blow torch to the back, at the time he was

It’s got arguably the worst DJ Premier beat ever on it with the weakest drums i’ve ever heard on a Preemo beat (Come get me), it’s got him pontificating on what will happen in the new Millennium over Toto’s Africa of all things (New World), there’s a storytelling track on here where he sort of sings about a shoot out in the cadence of ‘Carol of the Bells’ and then there’s ‘Big Girl’ which is probably the worst example of Nas trying to make a ‘song for the ladies’ and does injustice to the Stylistics song of the same name.

I’ll admit i do have a soft spot for the title track not exactly because it’s ‘good’ the hook is awful but i love the ‘It’s Not the Express) It’s the JB’s Monaurail’ sample that was previously used in EPMD’s ‘Let the Funk Flow’, i have a soft spot for shit talking Nas he sends a firery shot in Memphis bleek’s direction ‘You wanna ball till you fall, I can help you with that,You want beef? I could let a slug melt in your hat)
it’s just that alot of the songs he does it on isn’t that great (btw the video for this track was the first music video to use 3-D technology and you had to wear 3-D glasses in order to watch it)

It’s a bad album really bad probably the worst thing he’s done in his career and yet even then there’s one certifiably amazing song on this album and it’s track 5 ‘Project Windows’ featuring the great Ron Isley aka Mr Biggs i chose the original version because there’s a weightlessness to the beat that the album version with it’s veneer of polish doesn’t seem to get across aswell, this was produced by Nashiem Myrick & Carlos “6 July” Broady two members of Bad Boy’s ‘The Hitmen’ production team, don’t let the fact that they’re Bad Boy associated fool you Myrick has made some grimy classics including Biggie’s ‘Who Shot Ya?’ and Capone N Noreaga’s ‘T.O.N.Y.(Top of New York)’.

There’s a feeling of weariness, this is the daily going’s on in QB but there’s no sense of fight in it, it’s like they’ve been resigned to the bloodshed,70s drug kings turned crackheads and a all consuming hatred that makes inhabitants feel as though,Isley’s the icing on the cake he cuts through the haze of the beat sounding just as much a observer of his surroundings as Nas is,they’re both used to this now,they’ve seen it before but it doesn’t seem like it’ll stop.

Art,Piety and the Elements – Andrei Rublev

“Piety requires us to honour truth above our friends” – Aristotle 

The world of the movie is as messy as the elements  one that’s engulfed in fire,sweat, blood,snow and religious persecution. The Russian Orthodoxy seeking to rid the land of ritualistic pagan belief,Tartans raiding the city to destroy and blaspheme.

The kind of moral dualism that some people like to think we’ve left behind to the age of Manichaeism,picking apart those that we deem ‘good’ from ‘evil’ rather than accepting the fact that the world is a collection of flawed people capable of doing barbaric things to equally as flawed people who at no hesitation are quick and ready to justify said barbaric acts.

It’s a upsetting truth that in an age of ultra-conservatism people like to think as though we’ve moved on from such “backwards” thinking but besides historical trappings is still very much a core fact of existence.

The problem i have with a number of stories concerning the artistic and creative process is that at some point there’s always comes this point where the authors feel the need to show their working out.

If you cared about the want to make ‘good art’ all of what you sought to put within it would be encased within the piece itself. The observer takes away what they’re impression is of the art and come up with their own opinions on what they thought of the piece. Showing how the food is made doesn’t some how “enhance” the quality of the work, if anything it detracts the quality of what makes it special.

So when Boriska is laying there crying in Rublev’s arms after the bell has first been rung,we the viewer share his sense of accomplishment,he never learnt what his father’s secret and while it loses what made his artistry great it allows him to stand out on his own.

There is a certain weight that comes with approaching films like this one that have been critically dissected decades over.It’s why a bit of me doesn’t blame people who swear off of a film like this and end up liking something like Iron Sky because it doesn’t have this weight behind it .

That’s not to say that there isn’t something to be gained in delving into action but alot of the time people who like to bleat about wanting “big dumb fun” and only choose to watch one “serious” film out of the year because everybody else on their twitter timeline is talking about it.

But in the case of this one for a film with such a range and brutality to it at it’s core speaks to something very humane about creative endeavors and the want to create good art  to transcende and/or reflect the surroundings of when the art is made and make a finite reminder and proclamation of that which is infinite.