After reading the A.V. Club’s interesting interview, I feel like a few words on his new album are in order, mostly because I’ve found it so compelling. The album was initially entitled Nigger, but was predictably changed as the release date came around and the realities of trying to distribute a record with that name became a little more perceivable.
The album itself is great; the production is meaty and dense enough to make you actually pay attention when you’re listening–this is the measure of what a good Hip-Hop album is to me. If you can use it for background music, it’s not worth listening to. As a white person, it’s difficult to listen to; you find none of the convenient and easy-to-listen-to cultural criticism of such groups as Tribe. In this album Nas is at his most vicious and direct: the time for beating around the bush has long gone, and Nas has chosen to point his finger at those who are party to the injustices perpetuated on African-Americans: white people.
Which is not to say that what you will find here is a bunch of irritating race baiting; Nas is at his poetical and artistic best: his words carry the force and fury that are absent from the uninspired albums that followed the epic Illmatic.