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RapReview Of The Week

[Street's Disciple] Nas :: Street's Disciple
Label: Sony Urban Music/Columbia

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Double albums are a real mixed bag. Nobody seems to agree when it comes to these distended releases. Some readers say I rated "All Eyez On Me" too low, and "The Gift & the Curse" too high. As a writer I have to admit it's hella challenging to review a double album. It's one hell of a lot of music to sit through at one time. When you're a fan you can just sit back and enjoy it, but when you're listening critically to see if the beats are tight and the lyrics are done right, it turns what would otherwise be enjoyable into a tedious chore. What really galls me though is when rappers needlessly make double albums that easily could have been compressed into a single, much more effective disc. The last rapper to catch a figurative foot up his ass from me for this was Master P, but I'm just as convinced that "Life After Death" would have been better as one disc instead of two. Facts are facts though, and what one needs to keep in mind about "Street's Disciple" is that disc one is just under 42 minutes long while disc two is just over 46 minutes long. That's more or less 88 minutes total, while the traditional (and generally highest quality) limit for a single disc is 74. What I'm looking for on "Street's Disciple" right from the start is 14-20 minutes worth of music that simply wasn't necessary, negating the need for the size and expense of this double wide release. While I search for that filler, let's see if Nas managed to make an otherwise good album.

Things start off well enough with a somber (but ultimately unimportant) intro and the guitar rock-laced "A Message to the Feds, Sincerely, We the People." That title is quite a mouthful, no? A personal gripe about the liner notes as long as I'm bitching - dull yellow in small print on a solid black background is REALLY hard to read. Somebody tried hard to design a pretentious and artful inner sleeve but forgot that it's supposed to serve a useful purpose beyond looking good. Nevertheless after I cranked up the lights and squinted really hard, it looks like Chucky Thompson, Salaam Remi, and L.E.S. ALL did production on the track. With that much firepower behind it, one would be positively shocked if the song wasn't good. Nas doesn't fail to deliver:

"But I'm not gon' cry, and I'm not gon' just stand and watch you die
I'ma pass you a .9, I'ma grab your hand -- come on let's ride
A message to those who killed the king, who murdered the Christ
The same regime, what God has built you never can break
What God has loved you never can hate, man makes rules and laws
You just a ruthless dog, your kennel is waiting
You devils will run back into the caves you came from
Whenever that day comes, forty-acres, plantations, see every race won
Sincerely yours, Street's Disciple, revelations"

Salaam Remi comes right back on "Nazareth Savage" with a Barry White sample, but honestly the 2 minutes and 40 seconds of this track is already the first skippable song of "Street's Disciple." It never really goes anywhere, and even seems like the otherwise eloquent Nas is being as crass as possible just to show how much of a 'Savage' he is. Things take a turn for the better on "American Way," produced by Q-Tip and featuring Kelis. While it's a pretty simple "Atomic Dog" loop, it's one hip-hop fans know and have come to love, and it's given plenty of bass reverberation. Nas is calling out the Bush administration on this one, questioning their motives and their behaviour, but there's no love lost for the other side either:

"Tryin to lead my sheep to the slaughterhouse
Talkin 'bout +Rap the Vote+, you ain't thought about
The black vote mean nathan, who you gonna elect
Satan or Satan? In the hood nothin is changin, uh
We ain't got no choices who to choose
Ten-years ago they were tryin to stop our voices
And end Hip-Hop, they some hypocrites
Condoleeza Rice - I don't really get this chick
Tell her if she ever really cared about poor schools
About poor children, then she gotta prove that she
ain't just another coon Uncle Tom fool
Like these MC's, gotta give 'em the rules
Lie to the youth, Uncle Tom you confused
Might as well give the Hip-Hop community a noose
Need a truce with the gangs and some food for the hungry
On Kerry nuts, he look at you like a monkey
You MC's on that old slavery path
The Bushs'll look at yo' ass and laugh"

Buckwild keeps the beats rolling on "These are Our Heroes," a track on which Nas might raise even more eyebrows than the Rock used to do on Smackdown. Bear in mind the original title of this song before release was "Coon's Picnic." If you thought the last track was on some shit, peep what he says about P. Diddy here:

"What's your excuse, duke? You talk Black
but your album sound like you give your nuts for a plaque
You don't ride for the facts like um, say Scarface
You don't know what you feel, y'all too safe
Election done came and went, y'all worked so hard for it
Huh, and in the end we all got dicked
These are our heroes, thanks a lot public school systems still rot
Still harassed by cops, snitches on blocks
Sellin they peoples out - some real folks with clout
Tavis Smiley, Michael Eric Dyson
Stokely Carmichael, let's try to be like them
Nicky Giovanni poetical black female
Jim Brown to the people who sing well from
Fela to Miriam Makeba
The mirror says you are the next American leader
So don't be, acceptin new 'We are the World' records
These pickaninnies get with anything to sell records
Cause it's trendy to be the conscious MC
But next year, who knows what we'll see?"

The L.E.S. produced "Disciple" is not anywhere as close to being as political as the last two cuts, but thanks to a pounding L.E.S. piano it keeps things rolling hard, as does the Salaam Remi sound on "Sekou Story" with a little help from "Take Me Just as I Am." Some of the best beats yet though may be Chucky Thompson's floating and melodically masterful "Live Now," where the beat changes up from verse one to the next. Scarlett jumps on the second beat as a guest, the second track in a row she's cameoed on, but to be honest I don't care for her much. She's half Kim, half Foxy, and not much of the good parts of either. I'm told though that this may actually be Nas' voice, digitally altered. If so that makes it even more whack; and since she/he takes up two-thirds of this over 4 minute long track, I'm going to count that towards "wasted time" as well.

Nas is doing pretty well thus far though, only about five minutes total. Disc one finishes strong thanks to a tight Nas rap and L.E.S. beat on "Rest of My Life," "Just a Moment" and "Reason." It seems like he's getting to be among Nas' best choice for a backdrop and with good reason - the two sound natural together and have a history dating back to "Illmatic."

With disc two, Nas brings in a few more guests to pick things up a little bit. Busta Rhymes comes in on the surprisingly nice self-produced "Suicide Bounce." The title track "Street's Disciple" features Nas' father Olu Dara getting a piece of the action over a hard and moody Salaam Remi track, among his best on either disc. You can tell Nas is really feeling the beat on this one, and flips shit like only a 12+ year veteran of the rap game could, dedicating a verse to his much-missed homeboy Ill Will:

"Moonstruck stuck, slow as molasses in my actions
That's compliments of a fast spliff in the night life
In my flight jacket, adrenaline heightened, mimickin Tyson
after watchin him cut up Razor Ruddock

In the gutter, which was once ghetto prophecy is now ghetto scripture
Lookin back at it, blowjobs from pretty crack addicts
Older Gods wantin no static, told some lil' niggaz they can have it
Coke baggin and toe-taggin
They took Will, let me describe him, a live one
I think that he was the true +God's Son+ - not Jesus, but fearless
His ear was up on them sounds too, he'd hear somethin
not to his likin, and say 'Son they bitin you"
He never got to see my debut, wild-mannered
But wild with them hammers, niggaz frontin couldn't stand it
Took him off the planet, left us in 9-2
With the philosophy of what arms do, a true street's disciple"

Unfortunately Nas picked the wrong time for a self-produced beat on "U.B.R. (Unauthorized Biography of Rakim)," since it's overly simplistic and doesn't nearly do justice to his attempt to tribute the rap legend. As a result even though the lyrics are fresh, it's another approximately 3:30 of skippable material, bringing us to around 8:30 total. The old school throwback track "Virgo" featuring Doug E. Fresh on beatbox and Ludacris playing the role of Slick Rick will keep rap fans smiling and head-nodding though. The "Remember the Times Intro" is totally unnecessary, which brings things up to 9:15. The song itself is not really an original concept, as 'females I used to bone' raps have been done to death, but with L.E.S. producing it and Nasir rapping on it you can still feel it:

"Used to run my bubble bath, tons of laughs, sexy chick
Mad skills, she used to try to eat my excrement
Used to play Atari 1200, baby-sitter made me kiss her
Put hickeys on her stomach
Toya was a tomboy 'til we played catch a screw
Had her out past her curfew, Sheila had this perfume
that drove a nigga wild, was a child then, Gertrude
used to put my face in her crotch
Spun my tongue around in a circle while she watched
Eiserea knew I was a player, brought Fatima, loud screamer
While I blew clouds of reefer, they sucked juice out my uretha
While Marvin Gaye pumped from the speaker"

"The Makings of a Perfect Bitch" is a take it or leave it type of track, not whack per se but it seems a little bit musically and lyrically like an attempt to resurrect 2Pac in modern times. I'm going to vote "pass" on it, which brings us up to 12:30. "Getting Married" and "No One Else in the Room" featuring Maxwell redeems it though, and you've no doubt heard the harmonica laced "Bridging the Gap" featuring Nasir's dad on mixtapes or XM radio by now. It's one of the strongest all-around songs on either disc:

"The blues came from gospel, gospel from blues
Slaves are harmonizin them ah's and ooh's
Old school, new school, no school rules
All these years I been voicin my blues
I'm an artist from the start, Hip-Hop guided my heart
Graffiti on the wall, coulda ended in Spofford
Juvenile delinquent
But pops gave me the right type'a tools to think with
Books to read, like X and stuff
Cause the schools said the kids had dyslexia
In art class I was a compulsive sketcher of
Teachers in my homeroom, I drew pix to mess them up
Cause none of them would like my style
Read more books than the curriculum profile
Said, 'Mr. Jones please come get your child
cause he's writin mad poems and his verses are wild"

"War" featuring Keon Bryce is not my shit though. It's just a little TOO smooth, and Bryce takes up a hell of a lot of the time on the track crooning. At nearly 4 minutes and 20 seconds, we're up to at least 16 and almost 17 minutes of music that could have been cut, which would have left this album well under the 74 minutes that would fit on one CD. For any of those songs where you disagree with me you could substitute "Me & You (Dedicated to Destiny)," because if there's one thing the unreleased "I Am" bootleg proved it's that Nas is not a good singer and probably shouldn't try to be. I'm also a little unclear on something - why are two of the best tracks released BEFORE "Street's Disciple" hit stores hidden on the album as bonus tracks - "You Know My Style" on disc one and "Thief's Theme" on disc two? Nas should have gone out of his way to PLUG their inclusion on this set, rather than not listing them on the cover at all. Still I must admit as far as double albums and filler tracks goes, "Street's Disciple" had far less than most of these sets do. There's just enough to be cut that this could have been one OUTSTANDING album instead of two discs that overall make a pretty damn good release. Nas fans won't be dissapointed by "Street's Disciple," but a two-disc set was in the ultimate analysis unnecessary. Hopefully that's something even those who hate my double album reviews can agree with.

Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10

Originally posted: November 30, 2004
source: www.RapReviews.com


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