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Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups

The Nasir Jones Conspiracy Theory

For the better part of my career as a crusader for rap music, I’ve been a fan of Nasir Jones. There was a time in particular – in the ninth grade – that I was bumping Wu Tang & NaS before either act’s music/influence had even reached California. When cats began mumbling about some dude who rapped about going to hell for killing Jesus, I know the kids name. & I had more of his music. By the time dudes were talking about how tight of an album illmatic was, I had most of the album memorized. I can say with 90% certainty that I’ve never heard a truly wack verse from NaS, but that’s not to say that he’s never made a wack song. Because he has. & this is coming from an admitted & documented fan of his music, since back in the day when some of y’all were still in elementary school.

NaS, regardless of lyrical prowess, seems to have a knack for deflecting certain types of tracks while prominently featuring others. This is a well known fact to anyone following his career. Since the late-90’s, “Nas picks wack beats” has been his unofficial motto – at least to his fans & foes – & I can’t imagine that after all these years he hasn’t heard this “rumor” about himself. Assuming that’s true, & he’s indeed aware of the criticism of his co-production, it’s safe to say that he doesn’t give a damn what people think. & that’s understandable.

Put yourself in Nas’ position, MC-wise. It’s apparent that he has something to say, whereas a lot of rappers just rap about the same 3 topics in a variety of ways. Now, if you have all these messages & ideas & bursts of brilliance, would you want to take the chance of getting “outshined” by the beat? By no means am I defending or condoning such behavior if it’s the case, but I understand. Let’s assume that – at some point – NaS decided to roll with the hottest producers money could buy. How long before the rap listening public would cry “Sellout!” or outrightly shun him for blatantly chasing mainstream success? If he’s trying to drop science & what not, the last thing he needs is an argument over the “hottest” production or debates over his strip club value. Keep in mind; Nas began making a name for himself when “rapping” was more about social responsibility than it was about social status.

& granted, NaS did release a fistful of radio-friendly songs throughout his storied run, but for the most part, NaS picks “wack” beats, & I believe it’s intentional.

In my experience, most rappers that make noticeable music are decent lyricists that purposefully surround themselves with good music. (& before you think “Duh!”, plenty so-called rappers have no idea how to play the game.) Of course there are exceptions to this generalization, but it’s pretty formulaic. Rarely does the superrapper become a mainstream success simply by outrhyming the competition. This staunch reality can easily create a fork in the proverbial road, & a rapper could either become discouraged, or more focused on becoming the best per-bar rapper of all time. Being the pessimistic optimist that I am, I choose to believe that NaS decided – back in the day – that he would end the rap rat race as the best lyricist the game has ever seen. & if that means broadcasting from a modified platform, so be it.

For what’s it’s worth, this is just a theory (& NaS is one of the best to ever do it, in my opinion), but it definitely speaks to a lot of questions that Nas probably won’t ever be asked.

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16 comments on “The Nasir Jones Conspiracy Theory

  1. Walter Lee
    May 8, 2012

    Pretty funny you also posted Nas in a pic with Rakim who I suspect does the samething (x’s about 100) in his beat selections

    9th Wonder’s whole reasoning for “God’s Stepson” was to here Nas on something dope for a change.

    Still no disrespect to two of the greatest to ever touch a mic Rakim and Nas!!

    Like

    • Tony Grands
      May 8, 2012

      Pretty funny you also posted Nas in a pic with Rakim who I suspect does the samething (x’s about 100) in his beat selections

      No coincidence, bruh…lol

      Like

  2. Walter Lee
    May 8, 2012

    But to Nas’s credit that last joint “Nasty” was monumental when first heard by me and my peers

    Like

  3. Walter Lee
    May 8, 2012

    @Tony Grands LOL classic!!

    Like

  4. bigfamily
    May 8, 2012

    Very valid points, however I see it moreso that Nas feels it’s a collaboration,a collective statement that is being made. And when the right people are involved ( Premier, RZA Salaam Remi ) is when he’ s at his best.

    Like

    • Tony Grands
      May 8, 2012

      But technically, the right people should always be involved & every best should be trump tight. This is NaS for basedgod sakes. He’s a living legend. Only thing that can stand in his way after all these years is him. I doubt Jahlil Beats or Marco Polo would deny Nasir Jones a fire track but I also doubt he’d want one.

      Like

      • bigfamily
        May 8, 2012

        He’s went that route, working with Alchemist and Khalil and it didn’t work. I’d love to hear him on Khrysis or Black Milk production.

        Like

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  6. Curtis75Black
    May 8, 2012

    “How long before the rap listening public would cry “Sellout!” or outrightly shun him for blatantly chasing mainstream success?”

    We all know it wouldn’t take too long !! It also depends on what he’s rapping about on those tracks. I honestly never had a problem with Nas productions – whatever he did, it fit him at the moment. Some of the songs I didn’t care for was more lyric wise and what he was trying to say. A lot of times he comes off trying too hard to be something he’s not – a scholar. His voice compliments the topics but you can tell when he puts on that Rakim/Paris hat and tries to run off with it.

    Like

  7. Malcolm Maximillion
    May 9, 2012

    Same reason Em used to make those stupid ass sing song singles.

    I think that people want to hear Nas rap over better beats because they think it’ll make his message more enjoyable. I think it’ll drown his lyrics a bit depending on how “poppy” the beat is. Like “Hero” for example, nice poppy beat but it wasn’t his best lyrically. He didn’t really sound comfortable over a Polow Da Don instrumental.

    If we want Nas over hot beats that he’ll be comfortable with, I think we should look more to Premier, RZA, DOOM, Pete Rock, Tip, and etc for the production. I don’t want to say people with simple beats cause I don’t want to feel ignorant. All those guys are my heroes but we need the early 90’s simple approach to beats when it comes to Nas and just pray it doesn’t sound too dated.

    Like

  8. markdub7
    May 9, 2012

    I kinda agree w/you Grands; there was a time Ras Kass was saying he don’t give a fuq about a beat b/c he could make anything he rapped to hot. Though I can understand his hubris, tragically, this was not so. And I kind of feel its the same way for Nas. How can you be in the game for so long and not recognize a hot beat? Ironically, I think some of NaS’s hottest joints are often the ones on his albums that are most slept on.

    Like

    • Tony Grands
      May 9, 2012

      Damn, good call on Kass. I shoulda squeezed him into the picture with Nas & Ra.

      Like

  9. This is continually been my argument with Nas. Weak Rappers need Big Sounding Beats to keep your attention (Rack City, Any Jeezy or Ross song, Future, Fuck-Just listen), while this guy actually has had something to say for 20 years. This is our King in this game. P.S. I’ve never had a problem with his beat selection. His words are more important. Meanwhile, look at MTV2 or any of this 2012 “Hot shit”. Notice the beats are louder than these sorry ass excuses for “artist”.

    Like

  10. Pay Adams
    June 1, 2016

    I have had this conversation plenty of times in defense of Nas’s beat selection. I’ve been a huge fan for awhile.(before Halftime was on the Zebrahead soundtrack) I have always respected the fact that he didn’t chase trends like who’s the hot producer at the moment. His words are too powerful to compete with the beat. Even though him and Premo make memorable tracks everytime they link up, I think it’s more of damn the messager (beat), did you get the message (Nas). Pun intended. Great article

    Liked by 1 person

    • TGDC
      June 1, 2016

      Good looks Pay. Precise all you support, fam.

      Like

    • TGDC
      June 1, 2016

      Preciate all the support, fam.

      Like

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