Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones: The Best Of…

I’ve been debating, within myself, for sometime now about whether or not I should even touch this subject but when I started this blog I promised nothing would be beyond my literary grasp; no matter how “twisted” my facts may be.

With that disclaimer, I present to you Nasty‘s Top 5 Songs. Now this list is gather solely from his solo effortswith ONE EXCEPTION.

Ether Clause: Due to “Ether” being a diss record, I decided not to include it on the list. After all, we all know “Ether” is dope and would easily be number 2.

  • First up:

One Love (Illmatic)

The fifth single released off Nasir’s debut album, this is truly one of his most empathic and heartfelt works. Nas is well known as a gifted storyteller who unflinchingly exposed the plight and blight of New York City’s urban youth; an uncanny ability that was more than welcome during the bloody reign of, then mayor, Rudolph Giuliani.

Last time you wrote you said they tried you in the showers/ But maintain when you come home the corner’s ours/ On the reals, all these crab niggas know the deal/When we start the revolution all they probably do is squeal
… So stay civilised, time flies/ Though incarcerated your mind dies/ I hate it when your mum cries/It kinda wants to make me murder, for real-a/ I’ve even got a mask and gloves to bust slugs for one love..
.”

  • Next up:

“Hate Me Now” (Featuring Puff Daddy) (I Am…)

 

Remember that exception I mentioned earlier? This is it. The second and last single released from “I Am…”, I consider this the climax before the fall (Nastradamus). Unfortunately I couldn’t snag the original video (in which Puff was also on the cross). Nonetheless, the edited version was famous for Nas’ portrayal as Jesus Christ moments before his crucifixion, white furs & matching tigers, rapping on a bodega awning (A dream of mine.) and the unbashful waste of expensive champagne. Aside from the Puff Daddy/Steve Stoute drama, the beat was epic, the video was the epitome of hood fab and Puff’s, then signature, irate braggadocio ranting could’ve been a song by itself.

Ride for the cause while drivin’ niggas shot at my doors/ Plottin’ I’m sure to catch me with they glocks to my jaws/ Tried, stickin’ me up, but I flipped on these ducks/ Instead of me, ambulances were picking them up/ Niggas fear what they don’t understand, hate what they can’t conquer/Guess it’s just the fury of man became a monster, on top of the world, never fallin’/ I’m as real as they come, from day one, forever ballin’…

Nas’ lyrics were seething with animosity and arrogance, which can most likely be credited to his recent role in Belly the year prior.

  • Third:

N.Y. State of Mind (Illmatic)

 

Although this song may seem like another reckless gritty street tale:

Pick the Mac up, told brothers, “Back up,” the Mac spit/ Lead was hittin’ niggas one ran, I made him backflip/ Heard a few chicks scream my arm shook, couldn’t look/ Gave another squeeze heard it click “Yo, my shit is stuck”/ Try to cock it, it wouldn’t shoot now I’m in danger/ Finally pulled it back and saw three bullets caught up in the chamber/ So now I’m jetting to the building lobby/ and it was filled with children probably couldn’t see as high as I be…

 It also contains some sociopolitical gems. For instance:

In the P.J.’s, my blend tape plays, bullets are strays/ Young bitches is grazed each block is like a maze/ full of black rats trapped, plus the Island is packed/ From what I hear in all the stories when my peoples come back, black / I’m livin’ where the nights is jet black/ The fiends fight to get crack I just max, I dream I can sit back…”

This is a New York City war report at it’s best. Nas poetically weaved a listenworthy knit of reckless violence and urban decay.

  • Fourth up:

I Can (God’s Son)

More than likely, you may be screwing your face up by now but yes, I chose “I Can”. I almost ranked this song higher on the list but I figured, admist the great tunes I’ve already listed, fourth place is better than no place. It is said that Nasir’s mother’s dying wish was for him to make “an inspirational song for children and “I Can” is the result.” On this song, Nas revisits the same pro-black/alternative Hip-Hop era that he himself had a hand in squelching. (Note: Nas, along with The Notorious B.I.G., Big Punisher, Raekwon & Mobb Deep, introduced the trend of East Coast Hardcore/Mafioso rap that eventually brought an end to the reign of jazz influenced alternative Hip-Hop (A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Digable Planets, etc…). Which was already on it’s last leg, due to the thundering popularity of West Coast Gangsta rap)

“I Can” was a refreshing divergent from the “bang bang-shoot ’em-I’m a gangsta, we all gangstas” scene; which was dominated by 50 Cent at the time. It reminded us why we truly love Nas… for his wisdom.

Be, be, ‘fore we came to this country/ We were Kings and Queens, never porch monkeys/ It was empires in Africa called Kush/ Timbuktu, where every race came to get books/ To learn from black teachers who taught Greeks and Romans/ Asian Arabs and gave them gold when/ Gold was converted to money it all changed/ Money then became empowerment for Europeans…

Nas shows that he has still retained the knowledge that made him a beloved hood scholar.

  • Lastly:

One Mic (Stillmatic)

 

I know what you’re thinking: “No ‘I Gave You Power‘?”, “No ‘If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)‘?”  (see Honorable Mentions below). And I’d agree with you but I chose to round out this best 5 list with “One Mic” because, in my opinion, it signaled the culmination of  Nasty’s return to the forefront of Hip-Hop. Don’t get me wrong, Nastradamus was not a garbarge album but the two singles it spawned (“Nastradamus” &  You Owe Me“) were somewhat dismissed by hardcore Nas fans as watered down or “sold out” and superficial fans forgot about him all together. “One Mic” showed us that he had not lost the ability to move us.

Ackowledge it, leave bodies chopped in garbages/Seeds watch us, grow up and try to follow us/ Police watch us {*siren*} roll up and try knockin’ us/ One knee I ducked, could it be my time is up/ But my luck, I got up, the cop shot again/ Bus stop glass bursts, a fiend drops his Heineken/ Richochetin’ between the spots that I’m hidin’ in/ Blackin’ out as I shoot back, fuck gettin’ hit! [more sirens]/ This is my hood I’ma rep, to the death of it/ ’til everybody come home, little niggas is grown/ Hoodrats, don’t abortion your womb, we need more warriors soon/ Sent from the star, sun and the moon/ In this life of police chases street sweepers and coppers/ Stick-up kids with no conscience, leavin’ victims with doctors/ IF YOU REALLY THINK YOU READY TO DIE, WITH NINES OUT/THIS IS WHAT NAS IS BOUT, NIGGA THE TIME IS NOW!

 

(More Than) Honorable Mentions:

1. “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” (Featuring Lauryn Hill) (It Was Written)

2.  “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” (Illmatic)

3. “I Gave You Power” (It Was Written)

4. “Black Girl Lost” (It was Written)

5. “Thief’s Theme” (Street’s Disciple)

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