y'all exploit rap culture, then y'all flip on us
on the charge that Nas is "cynical."
"We trust no black leaders, use the stove to heat us
Powdered eggs and government cheeses
The calendars with Martin, JFK and Jesus
Gotta be fresh to go to school with fly sneakers
Schools with outdated books, we are the forgotten
Summers, coolin off by the fire hydrant
Yeah I'm from the ghetto
Where old black women talk about their sugar level - it's not unusual
To see photos of dead homie's funerals
Aluminium foil on TV antennas
Little TV sit on top the big TV, eating TV dinners
Girls dye their hair with Kool-Aid
They gave us lemons, we made lemonade"
...and that's from the one called "N.I.G.G.E.R. (The Slave & the Master)!"
Next, from the Pitchfork review, on the consensus embarrassment "Sly Fox":
"The main difference is that "Channel Zero" risked alienation by confronting its target head on, whereas when it comes to preaching to the choir and picking easy fights, Nas has no problem being the Morgan Spurlock of this rap shit."
I know the guy who wrote this, and I respectfully dissent: who was the target of "Channel Zero?" Women? TV? Women who watch TV? Why is it less "head-on" to name the target "Fox" in the title? The Morgan Spurlock comparison...fair enough, but this is hip-hop, a genre with a rich history of cheap attention-whoring, cheaper controversy and butt-blatant political talking points. Enjoying the Obvious on Parade boils down to personal taste I guess, but what are we expecting, the 9/11 Commission? The Roots' album ain't deep either; it's also great. These albums are to put us in the mood for "revolution;" music alone doesn't change shit. And please, if he didn't want C-R-E-A-M, he'd be in the non-profit sector. Let's not pretend that by announcing a polemic venture Mr. Jones was taking some kind of Bodhisattva vow.
At which point, someone will point out that the beats are dull. I count two of those: "America" and "Testify." And they're still pretty good, easier to handle being sandwiched around a rocker. Actually, there's more variety here most of Nas' historically dull past beats. Besides the no-argument-here excellent "Queens Get the Money" and "Fried Chicken": blues guitar on "You Can't Stop Us Now" giving way to tastefully regal horn charts, "Sly Fox"'s dated and fun riffs 'r' us, "Louis Farrakhan"'s quietly intense backward-string collage, and--like it or not--two beauteous synth-poppers to rest your head, one featuring--egad--a teen heartthrob. Maybe this is another matter of personal taste, but I like a little "I burn so many trees I keep environmentalists angry" and "I'm over their heads like a bulimic on a seesaw" between manifestos.
Is Nas confused? Yes. Has there ever been a rapper who wasn't?