Whether you call it Untitled or Nas or Nigger, one thing’s for sure: this is probably the best hip-hop album of the year.
Nas is often so good, so exact, and so on-point that it’s chilling to listen to him. He is one of the best in hip-hop today and is quickly becoming one of the most contentious and insightful. After tangling with Bill O’Reilly over the Virginia Tech shootings and his lyrical content, Nas dropped a greatest hits record with two new tracks to close the deal.
In October of 2007, Nas announced that he had a new album in the hopper and that he was going to call it Nigger. After receiving support for the title from L.A. Reid at Def Jam, Alicia Keys, Ice Cube, Common, LL Cool J, and a host of other performers and producers, Nas ultimately changed the name of the album to Untitled under pressure from management. Apparently an album called Nigger wouldn’t get sold in Wal-Mart. “The people will always know what the real title of this album is and what to call it," Nas told AllHipHop.com.
Regardless of what the record is called or how he adjusted his title, this is some seriously vibrant hip-hop. It’s Nas back doing what he does best: not giving a fuck, closing his eyes, spitting fire.
Many of his past albums have often existed in the shadows of Illmatic, as Nas has tried to recall the past grandeur and live-up to the hype. Some albums, like Nastradamus, simply lacked the fire that he was always capable of.
But he’s back again and isn’t worried with what other people think. Nas is making music from the depths, mining the bottom to pull up the filth and shed the light of day on it. He talks politics and gets unflinchingly controversial, keeping a theme that would make KRS-One and Public Enemy envious.
The guest list is thin and fairly free of A-listers, save for Chris Brown and The Game on “Make the World Go Round” and Busta Rhymes on “Fried Chicken.” For the most part, it’s just Nas being Nas. It’s almost Illmatic all over again, only this time he dares to go deeper.
Unreservedly intellectual and frighteningly eloquent, Nas is filled with blistering fury. This is a sly master hard at work doing what he does best. He cuts to the bone and resolutely leaves no stone unturned in his mission to bare his soul and deliver an uninhibited polemic pointed at the State of the Nation.
Nas tackles the prospect of President Obama (“Black President”) and guts Rupert Murdoch’s wretched kingdom (“Sly Fox”) with no leniency. He indefatigably nails down the African American struggle on “N.I.G.G.E.R. (The Slave and the Master),” a poignant track with Nas at his lyrical best.
Nas has crafted a masterpiece of hip-hop with Untitled. This is an album that shames all lesser works plainly because it’s so damn excellent. An intuitive and concentrated attack on just about everything, Untitled is going to be tough to beat this year from the hip-hop community. Nas is back and more dangerous than ever.