45 times. That’s how often Nas uses the word “nigger” on his new Untitled CD, the one he wanted to name after the racially charged expletive. Honestly, Lil Wayne probably drops more N-bombs on Tha Carter III and more importantly, this CD is pretty damned good, which makes Nas’ emphasis on the word that more disheartening.
The expletive comes in for the first time at around 23 seconds into the first track, “Queens Gets The Money,” a drumless, piano-wrapped declaration of war that sets the collection off with a focus unheard of from Mr. Jones in a very long time. Had it not been for his asinine campaign I probably wouldn’t have even noticed, I’d have been focused on the lyrics and the beats, which are some of the best he’s put together since The Lost Tapes.
Over the smokey guitars of the oft-used Whatnauts sample,“Message From a Black Man,” Nas swaggers through the dimly lit pool halls of our subconscious on “You Can’t Stop Us Now.” With The Last Poets riding shotgun Nas drops a virtual blogroll of the Black experience in America. Sonically Nas seems to have found a cure for his suspect beat selection pulling sounds from a diverse group of boardsmiths (stic.man, Mark Ronson, DJ Toomp, etc.) that keep him focused without putting listeners to sleep. However, one listen to vintage DJ Premier like Jeru’s “The Frustrated Nigga” and you’ll scratch your head as to why the man is still MIA on the tracklisting.
Lyrically Nas flexes a renewed vigor that makes you wonder if he stumbled upon one of his own old rhyme books. He even sounds younger on “Breathe” as he rewinds the clock: “til it rains and my Timbs stain my socks, til I dodge enough shots and the presiding judge slams a mallet… ” The difference between this and some of the missteps of say, Street’s Disciple (“Coon Picnic,” ) is that Nas isn’t trying too hard. Unlike that baffling “Be A Nigger Too” that was thankfully left off the final product, “N.I.G.G.E.R.” is the song I want to play outside of Jesse Jackson’s window on level 10: “We trust no black leaders/use the stove to heat us/powdered eggs and government cheeses/the calendars with Martin, JKF and Jesus…yeah I’m from the ghetto, where old black women talk about their sugar level…”
For the past few albums Nas has employed gimmicks to get attention and raise the ire of his detractors. But the truth is he always got the most praise for simply putting his heart into a verse and letting the music speak for itself, not his marketing team/scheme. Instead now this CD has achieved Voldemort status as “that which will not be mentioned” doing a disservice to an otherwise accomplished collection.