Nas

Street's Disciple

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Ten years deep in the rap game, Nas unveiled Street's Disciple, an indulgent album that sprawls across two discs, freewheeling through a dizzying array of ace productions and thoughtful raps. The album is very much a continuation of its predecessor, God's Son: both helmed primarily by producers Salaam Remi and Chucky Thompson, both uncompromising personal statements that make few concessions to the pop market, and both undoubtedly fascinating, if overindulgent. The difference is, Street's Disciple goes a step further, indulging all the more in the creative whims of Nas. And, with the exception of some first-disc throwaways, the result is nothing short of astounding, especially if you've followed Nas over the course of his first decade. Catchy hooks are few and far between here, granted, with most of the songs crafted as if they were freestyle raps. This works, though, because Nas benefits from outstanding productions, a peerless rap style, and an interesting back-story. The 25 productions here are all courtesy of longtime Nas collaborators Salaam Remi, Chucky Thompson, and L.E.S., with only a couple exceptions (Nas produces a couple himself). These guys know Nas better than anyone, and they deliver the goods: hardcore beats for the streets, usually laced with an inventive sample for a hook effect. These riffs offer Nas ample room to let loose, and he does precisely that on one track after another, often touching upon a specific theme yet doing so in a loose, free-associative manner that highlights his talent for wordplay and storytelling. Within his raps, Nas often mines his own past, present, and future: for instance, he touches upon his heritage ("Bridging the Gap"), his impending marriage ("Getting Married"), his eventual death ("Live Now"), his influences ("U.B.R."), his most memorable female conquests ("Remember the Times"). All of this amounts to a lavish album sure to dazzle true hip-hop heads, who will find much to admire and study here, from the especially deep and twisted raps to the sample-rich productions. On the other hand, all of this also amounts to an album that might prove somewhat impenetrable to those who aren't already attuned to the legacy of Nas. Either way, Street's Disciple is another key album in that ongoing legacy, further evidence that Nas is back on track after falling off during the late '90s with I Am and Nastradamus. It's not a perfect album -- it's far too indulgent for that -- and would have been stronger as a single disc, but its ambitious sprawl makes for a powerful statement that Nas disciples will surely savor.

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