When the greats return to release music in Hip-Hop culture there seems to be a stigma attached to them because Hip-Hop is always seen as a young man's sport. Hip-Hop was born from the youth rebelling against the system of racism and classcism in the inner city of New York City. The youth took the charge in leading the voices of the people against the establishment.
As Hip-Hop has evolved and matured generations have been established and the birth of eras have come from the culture. Terms like True School, Golden era, mixtape and blog eras and so on has come from the culture and the emergence of the new voice has always captivated the culture while American culture has influenced the overall genre of always upholding the new and not focusing or respecting the elder of something within it. This by far is not a "Hip-Hop" thing but something done in American culture where always wanting the newest things and throwing something older away is the norm Unfortunately in music this happens so often that it is common practice. With "Black" music, older artists are always thrown away due to marketing and the lack there of, when it relates to veteran talents. With women they are measured on looks, and the measure of sex appeal they can bring growth to the wallets of the label owners in power. In Hip-Hop we are seeing a genre that is turning 50 years old this year, evolve in front of our eyes. With this we see in real time the evolution of the genre, for those of age, to remember the cardboard on the ground with children dancing on it. To now seeing women and men become business execs and entrepreneurs representing something that was birthed out of the pain of inner city youth. Nas was one of those youth that took Hip-Hop serious and has turned it into his life style, funding his different ventures from documentaries to investments and also of course making music. As being one of those legacy artists, Nas has faced criticism on his longevity in Hip-Hop and has been questioned on his relevance within the modern Hip-Hop culture.
Nas is an old school artist and many people in the modern age of Hip-Hop do not know the album, Illmattic. While there are some music purists that do, there are others that know only the past 20 years of music so the 90s era is foreign to them. The people I have talked to when it relates to write this piece are scattered in age and I have heard testimonies like, "Nas is the God", "I know Nas from Stillmattic", or "Nas the guy from Life is Good", and lastly "Nas is old and corny I don't fuck with Nas." So there is a scattered thought about him because his relevance to this conversation spans a 30 year career and with names like God's Son and the messiah of rap, Nas is held in the highest regards of Hip-Hop legacy. His legacy has always been tarnished by his beat selection though as people have stated for years lyrically Nas is 'Amazing" but his beats do not hit. In recent years Nas changed his formula and has worked with Hit-Boy creating 2 series of projects King's Disease and Magic albums.
Nas usually drops albums years at a time but his work with Hit-Boy has seen him drop 5 projects is 3 years which for Nas is life changing to his career. His delivery and rebirth into this new space of Hip-Hop has seen Nas drop classic songs like Ultra Black, Nobody featuring Lauryn Hill, Speechless, and Thun. But in relation to the volume of music dropping from this rap team, Nas still is compared to today's artists and the criticism comes with an album that is dropped hours into the day of release. Critiques like "this album is fire" to "lazy", has dropped and the polarizing spectre of Nas has returned to being the most beloved and often questioned artist remains on his resume. People have questioned Hit-Boy's sound to even Nas' lyricism on this new project. Magic 2 was released 7/21/23 and the flood gates were released on the beat selection, Hit-Boy's sound, Nas subject matter and he opened up the project talking about the hate placed on him since working with Hit-Boy on the song Abracadabra. Magic 2 has been attacked for many reasons but the one that bothers me is the question of why Nas is important to Hip-Hop currently?
As stated earlier Hip-Hop is growing in front of us in real time. 50 years is still young in relation to time. Nas represents someone making it from an era where Hip-Hop was still first beginning to make its way into the world view. Nas is one of many to make it from the 90s we can not discount Jay'-Z, Diddy, Ice Cube, E-40, Master P., Queen Latifah, and so many others that have shown us that Hip-Hop is more than just music. It is a life style and an inclusive industry that has brought in Hollywood, beverage companies and more. Method Man is an example of aging gracefully in Hip-Hop using canibus culture and health to be a physical example of caring for self and bringing a new diversity of youthfully aging in strength, and business into Hip-Hop representation.. Nas has always been held high and with that comes the most sharpest criticism.
Returning to age, Nas is defying the young man's game opinion. He is 30 years in the game and he represents something to his era of Hip-Hop, and a lot of people will miss that point until it is their time to be pushed to the back for something new. Nas is the story of endurance in a music culture that seems to always label something old and to not appreciate or cherish the time in which something happens. Nas' lyrics, and word play come from more age and experience and a lot of music pushed today is solely drug related and violent. A lot of artists that are great today do not make songs like this but due to age in the music scene Nas does not fit that subject matter and I have heard him discounted from top artist conversation due to that opinion. 21 Savage made a statement that Glorilla is more relevant than Nas and the age debate and era conversation came to the forefront in the culture. Thankfully Nas and 21 Savage did a song together which is on Magic 2 to talk about that topic that topic as well.
Hip-Hop may have regional opinions and bias but the fact remains Nas is a pillar to the culture and love him or not, his mark on the culture is stamped. This run inspires many of the veteran artists of this new era to create and keep going when age is an issue and people are shut out due to their timing of release in the culture. We recently had a conversation with Hero of HipHopHeroes podcast on Twitter Spaces about this topic. Click the link below to hear this conversation :
Is Magic 2 Nas' best work to you? Is Nas and Hit-Boy's work credible or subpar to you in today's climate of Hip-Hop? We will let you decide as Hip-Hop further evolves and we see elder statesmen and women return to a youth driven culture and continue to push the boundaries, opinions and views or the culture forward.
Magic 2 is availbale on all music platforms to purchase and stream.