The “Times” Gives Nas A Nudge

Dec 14th, 2006 // 4 Comments

Today’s New York Times review of Nas’ Hip-Hop Is Dead, written by Kelefa Sanneh, is a must-read for a number of reasons: It uses a recent anti-Nas rant by Young Jeezy to illustrate the regional/generational divide among rappers; it quotes a Pitchfork interview; and it clocks in at over 1,000 words, which ain’t too shabby for a publication that years ago was still pumping out story after story about Bavarian opera houses.

Most interesting, though, is that Sanneh combines a critic’s detached appraisal with a long-time fan’s enthusiasm-slash-frustration: He calls the album “impressive” and “grumpy [and] lovable,” but also notes that Nas grown into a “humorless scold”; clearly, Sanneh loves the guy, but you can almost hear his eyes rolling to the back of his head when Nasir pumps out his umpteenth bar of braggadocio (it makes a slow, squishy sound).

And if that’s not enough to convince you to read it, it also uses the term “ghetto verisimilitude,” which has not been printed in the Times since the Gay Talese era.

Nas Writes Hip-Hop’s Obituary [NYT]

  1. brianp

    It’s a great article from a great writer and it perfectly sums up how I feel about Nas, i.e., that he’s incredibly gifted but can be a “humorless scold.” I’ve heard a few cut off the new one and if nothing else, Nas himself disproves the title.

  2. Chris Molanphy

    Does Idolator have an official position on Sanneh? I feel about him kinda the way he feels about Nas: sometimes he makes me wanna roll my eyes, but when he came in he kind of fucked shit up in a good way. Actually, I find myself agreeing with him at least 75% of the time, and for a Times critic that’s pretty remarkable.

    His view of the world – hip-hop is normative, not the fringe; anti-rockist but not anti-rock; likes his indie but disdains hipsteration; actually listens to country – is the closest I’ve seen a mainstream critic come to real, viable 21st-century music criticism.

  3. Miss Harvill

    The New York Times still pumps out articles about Bavarian opera houses on a regular basis despite the fact that nothing new has happened at Bayreuth in a hundred years. Which makes Sanneh’s writing (and his staying power) in the paper all the more remarkable.

  4. globalbeatfusion

    I do agree with one point here, strongly: the idea hip-hop has “died” is tired. I like a lot of Nas’s work, but this is another promotional effort more than heartfelt sentiment. Has the African griot tradition died? Or the Mexican corrido singers? Rappers, if effective, are folklorists. Just because the form changes, their role in society remains the same. Hip-hop isn’t dying, it’s just becoming an adjective rather than a noun, which is the eventual fate of all musics, in some manner or another.

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