in 2 weeks i’m headed to governor’s island in nyc to catch the 2011 rock the bells festival. those who know me, know that live music is my favorite thing in the entire world. i’d take it over good food, expensive drink, material things…it makes me truly happy. for me, rock the bells is going to be the mecca of live events. in one day i plan to watch random axe, black moon, souls of mischief, gza, mobb deep, cypress hill, rae and ghost, erykah badu and the master mc, the most important lyricist in hip hop, nasir jones.
i’ve been an obsessive nas fan from the very first time i came across illmatic. i started listening to hip hop in the 5th grade. being young and interested in following trends, i was wowed by young mc, mc hammer, vanilla ice and kriss kross but that bubble gum sound didn’t cut it. i had to have more. i started, as a 6th grader, doing my homework. my walkman became my method of studying. the juice soundtrack. 36 chambers. the chronic. mad skillz. milkbone. rakim. nas. these were the sounds that completely dominated my youth.
to me, nas has always represented the epitome of the lyrical mc. he’s a master story teller. he put queens on his back and carried the authentic east-coast, new york sound. his records often follow a theme or message, and it’s evident that what’s most important to nas is the craft of being an mc. take his “hits” as examples. “if i ruled the world” may have sounded radio friendly and gorgeous thanks to the soulful hook by ms. lauryn hill, but what’s he saying? listen to that track. nas is painting a picture of how trapped he felt by the injustices he witnessed on a daily basis. “it ain’t hard to tell”, which cleverly flipped michael jackson’s “human nature”, was nas’s second single and further proved that his wordplay was his weapon. nas has shown album after album that as long as you stay true to hip hop and show a love for substance over style, you can survive in a fickle game where fashion trends and dances often trump skill.
his upcoming 10th studio album life is good is titled to remind us that once in a while we must slow down and recognize our blessings. nas won’t reinvent himself on this record because he doesn’t have to. instead, he’ll move forward without forcing the issue or falling victim to the common cliches of today’s hip hop. on september 3rd as i watch nas perform illmatic in its entirety, backed by dj premier, it won’t be hard to tell that life is in fact quite good.