Once upon a time, those outside of the New York tri-state area saw Nas as just another NY rapper benefiting from east coast bias. That was nearly 18 years ago, and the chipped toothed kid from Queensbridge has long since proved his lyrical worth in spades. He’s now a respected elder statesman, and these days new music from him is seen as manna from heaven. About an hour ago, he blessed fans with his latest work, a song titled “The Don.” It’s the second single from his forthcoming tenth album Life is Good.
Before the music actually starts, an interview snippet from Supercat sets the mood, and lets the listener know what they are in for. This one is aimed squarely at the streets. Not street in the modern day trapstar sense, but street in the classic 1990’s NYC sense. Once the snippet ends, a Supercat line is repeated four times: “New York girls dem a mad over we.” Moderate 808 kicks then crash the party. Supercat's refrain of “New York City,” is looped into oblivion throughout.
The track was produced by produced by Salaam Remi, Da Internz, and the late, great Heavy D. The beat sounds custom designed for a New York style two step at a Jamaican basement party. The sound effects add to the “straight from yard” vibe permeating the track, but that’s not to say the Reggae elements overshadow everything else. That skeletal boom bap couldn’t be mistaken for everything else. It’ll get the endorphins of any Hip-Hop nerd flowing just enough, while still putting Nas vocals at the forefront. The serene musical change-up at the 2:30 mark is unexpected and dope. It lasts for just ten seconds, but one wishes it was longer.
Lyrically, it’s Nas usual mishmash of braggadocio, debauchery, religious/spiritual imagery, and tributes to the hustlers of yore (he name drops both Fat Cat and the Supreme Team). Nas has always had a penchant for putting historical figures, religious leaders, and notorious gangsters on the same plain. I’m still not sure what connection he sees between such types, save for their power to capture the imagination of the masses. Still, it sounds dope and gets the mind wandering in a good way.
“The Don” is another hit of that lyrical diesel as only Dr. Jones can administer. His skills have not atrophied, and his aim is still dead on. Salaam Remi, Da Internz and Heavy D bless us old school Hip-Hop fans with a dash of dancehall flavor. The result is pure mass transit Hip-Hop that can actually be played at a party, preferably one being held in the five boroughs for the over 30 crowd. Rejoice, true believers, for Nas is still quite nasty.