Controversial album speaks boldly
Issue date: 7/11/08 Section: Arts & Entertainment
The Reverend Jesse Jackson and the NAACP decried the album, and dismissed it as a publicity stunt. Major retail chains like K-Mart, Wal-Mart, and Target refused to stock the album, so as corporate America does on a continual basis, it censored Nas' free speech, and forced him to change the title.
That brings us to "Untitled", Nas' ninth solo studio album. The first track is the sonically outstanding, Jay Electronica produced "Queens Get the Money," in which Nas reps his native Queensbridge and addresses his fan base's seemingly unquenchable "Illmatic" thirst. He also takes a few shots at 50 Cent.
"They pray please God let him spit that 'Uzi in the army linin'/that shorty doo-wop rolling oowops in the park reclinin' … my assignment said he said retirement hiding behind 8 Mile and The Chronic / get rich but dies rhyming / this is high science. "
From there, Nas triumphantly blesses "You Can't Stop Us Now," a track that succeeds in delivering his message of self-actualization as well as pride in oneself. "Breathe" has Nas flexing his lyrical muscles as he calls out his detractors, and wonders: what it will take to finally relax and BREATHE?
The next two tracks are obviously radio-friendly hits. First, Chris Brown and the Game make features on the flossy "We Make the World Go Round" which boasts that it is hustlers, ballers and gangsters that make the world go round, not the centripetal force of the sun's gravitational pull on the earth as I had previously thought. Next is "Hero," the first official single from the album, in which Nas explains the title change, as well as why he is heroic himself.
"So untitled it is / I ain't change nothing / but people remember this / if Nas can't say it, think about these talented kids / with new ideas being told what they can and can't spit."
"America" is the first track on the album where Nas is dead serious. He pulls no punches while deftly addressing simple truths concerning the perception of successful African Americans, as well as genuinely echoing a fact John Lennon made about women in 1972.
After this track, all hell breaks loose. Nas begins a rampage through the last two-thirds of this album with a ferocity I haven't heard since Eminem circa 2002. "Sly Fox" questions the journalistic integrity as well as the malfeasance of its anchors, and owner Rupert Murdoch. "Testify" has Nas questioning the fake hip-hop fans buying his and his peers' records.