With each successive single released from Life is Good, it becomes increasingly clear that Nas isn’t catering to popular tastes this time out. He’s doing what he feels, and these days he’s feeling the brand of gritty Big Apple rap that birthed him. His new single, “Loco-Motive,” finds him in a
decidedly New York state of mind.
This represents the rare collaboration between Nas and Extra P where the latter is relegated to the role of hype man in lieu of his usual role as producer. No I.D. has been chosen to fill the vacant chair behind the studio mixing boards. His choices initially feel a bit off, but soon coalesce into a coherent whole.
The choral singing that opens the song gets things off to a rather odd start. However, the other elements of the track slowly emerge, pulling the listener into the grungy depths of the NYC subway system. The bass guitar induces the listener into an involuntary and perpetual head nod, while the crawling pianos furrow the brow and place a permanent scowl on the face.
The rhymes come off like a stream of consciousness rant. One can almost imagine Nas sitting on a crowded train penning lyrics as thoughts race through his head. The first verse is violent and drug addled. The second verse has him resurrecting his penchant for blasphemous imagery: “They askin’ ‘How he disappear, reappear back on top?’/Saying ‘Nas must have naked pictures of God or somethin’.”
The third verse displays his ever present eye for minutia with pitch-perfect imagery. “At night, New York eat a slice, too hot/ Use my tongue to tear the skin hanging from the roof of my mouth.” Is there a New Yorker alive who can’t relate to that?
By the songs end, the metaphor becomes clear. Nas isn’t just riding the train. He actually is the locomotive of the title. No matter what, he presses on, running all hours of the day and night. The rhymes never stop, just like life in the Big Apple. After listening to this, July 17th seems so very far away.