Never let it be said that rap music never tackles truly mature subject matter. Nas manages to do just that with his latest, an ode to divorce entitled “Bye Baby.” The song describes the painful realities of love gone sour, and the sobering self-realization that occurs thereafter. It’s essentially an open note to his ex-wife, Kelis. Surprisingly, it’s not a letter of the poison pen, but a very open and honest correspondence his former spouse.
Producers Salaaam Remi and Noah Shebib reach back to the early days of New Jack Swing for inspiration. Five moody keystrokes from Guy’s “Goodbye Love” are looped into a heavenly groove that facilitates emotional decompression. At the five second mark, Nas’ vocals come in. There’s urgency to the pacing of his words, almost as if he doesn’t want to allow them any time to truly resonate. They demand to be released from the confinement of his memory banks. By contrast, the looped keys stroll along with a light step and a leisurely pace.
That feeling doesn’t abate for another 40 seconds, which is how long it takes for the drums to finally kick in. Once they do, the sense of emotional unease lifts as the different elements of the song fall into synch with each other. The lyrics are devoid of bitterness and anger. They celebrate the good times while simultaneously lamenting the bad. Nas ultimately emerges at the other end of this proverbial dark tunnel with no regrets. By the close of the final verse, there’s a tangible sense of relief, as though a massive weight has been lifted. “Bye Baby “ is a healthy transference of energy. It’s nice to know that Hip-Hop is capable of such things.