Spotlight \

Nas

The legendary Queens-born MC drops his controversial ninth studio album, pointedly addressing the larger plights of Black America.

By: Joseph Coscarelli // July 15, 2008

What? When an artist’s debut ends up a genre-defining classic, expectations never fade, and though steeped in quality entries like the furious Stillmatic and sleeper hit Street’s Disciple, Nas‘ catalog still craved another manifesto. And 14 years after Illmatic, Queensbridge’s finest builds his untitled political tome around a hot-button racial epithet represented only by the first letter on the album’s cover — a poignant lacerated “N” scarred on the rapper’s back — and the record’s incendiary rhymes. From the scathing “You Can’t Stop Us Now” to the Bill O’Reilly-bashing, guitar driven “Sly Fox,” Nas brings it; “No matter what the CD called, I’m unbeatable,” he promises.

Who? Nasir Jones, who calls himself God’s Son, hit it big early and has remained a perpetual force in the rap game forthe better part of two decades through critical acclaim, mid-career slumps, beefs with Jay-Z, crucifixion videos, and a Def Jam reconciliation. And this election year sees one of rap’s elder statesman remain loud on the soapbox he’s always spit from, scoring his best single since “If I Ruled the World” with the twinkling “Hero.”

Fun Fact: The Internet wasn’t the only place going crazy about Nas’ plans for a racially charged album title. In an interview with New York’s Hot 97, the rapper claimed that even Congress made concerned calls to his Def Jam label.

Now Hear This: “Hero”