Record Label: The Jones Experience/Def Jam/Columbia
Release Date: July 15, 2008
Nasir Jones has been a pivotal force in hip-hop, weaving in and out of the spotlight for over a decade now. Since 1994, Nas has made sure to challenge the pressures of conforming to mainstream sound while maintaining intellectual and thought-provoking rhymes.
Nas has seen nothing but controversy surrounding his racially and politically charged ninth studio album. At its conception, the album was originally titled Nigger, but after much deliberation, Nas would eventually cave and change the name to Untitled, when the album’s release began to hang in the balance for outlets such as Wal-Mart. However, Nas released a mixtape with DJ Green Lantern in early June to push his original concept, spitefully titled The Nigger Tape.
On Untitled, Nas wastes no time as he begins to flow effortlessly over the hushed piano chords of “Queens Get the Money,” and forces himself into the hip-hop game as he raps, “Hip-hop was aborted/Nas breathes life into the embryo.”
Untitled follows a very loose concept of the awareness of African Americans, heard in songs like “The Slave and the Master” and “America,” but also tackles many political issues. “Sly Fox” is a lyrical assault on the 'visual cancer' tendencies of the Fox News Network. Likewise, “Black President,” a snare-heavy track complete with sample of Tupac Shakur’s “Changes,” alludes to the 2008 presidential nominee Barack Obama.
Nas’ strong suit is and always be his lyrical prowess. The veteran emcee has a way of writing songs that feel completely natural and graceful. Even on “Hero,” the album’s lead single, Nas finds himself rapping over a radio-friendly beat, but manages to rise above the average mainstream talent.
There are very few roadblocks standing in the way of Untitled from becoming a near-classic album. The awkwardly placed “Testify” and the forced rhymes of “Breathe,” hinder the album’s power. “Make the World Go Round” is a little atypical of Nas, considering the fact that Chris Brown is the last person one would expect to provide guest vocals for this album. However, Brown and West-Coast powerhouse The Game collaborate with Nas for one of the strongest songs on the album.
Untitled is not a mainstream-friendly record by any means. Other than “Hero” there are very few tracks that will see commercial success. However, Nas has always kept a level head, and never seems to make records for a buck. Not to mention, the support of his dedicated fan base will always allow him to remain relevant. Nas is one of the few remaining emcees in hip-hop with a purpose and as long as he’s creating music, there is very little chance of hip-hop being dead.