From Hip Hop Icon to Storyteller name date school class Proof. Name “Rappers – I monkey flip them with the funky rhythm I be kicking’. Musician – inflict the composition” are the first words heard off of one of the most influential hip hop albums of all time. Nas’ debut album Lunatic is considered to be one of hip hops foundational documents and has earned itself a large number of awards, recognitions and record breakers. However, Illimitable was only the start of the Icon known as Nas. Nas would go on to selling 7 U. S. Platinum records, being featured numerous singles and becoming a household name for fans of hip hop.
Nas Is known for his intellectual rhyme flow, while being an outsider who rhymes about many things he has witnessed (Sewer 3). Besides being an iconic rap artist, Nas should be someone for intellectuals to respect as he uses many literary terms and techniques in his lyric storytelling. Nanas Jones was born on September 14th, 1973 to LOL Dare and Anne Jones in Brooklyn, New York. Shortly after moved to the Gingerbread housing project – the setting for Nas’ street poetry (Hess). Some psychologists believe that traits and characteristics are transferred over from the arena to the offspring, and Nas is an example of this.
His father was a traveling Jazz musician who played the trumpet, guitar and also sang. HIS mother’s father and grandfather were also singers in Mississippi. When Nas was younger, he would evils his father In Harlem, New York and the two of them would explore their musical talents. By the age of four, Nas was able to play the trumpet and was also able to play around with guitars and drums (Hess). The artistic ability of Nas did not end and soon educated himself on African history, the Bible and expanded his vocabulary through reading other books (Hess).
LOL Dare seems to have influenced Nas in a creative sense, but it was his mother Anne Jones who truly impacted Nas. While most of the mothers in the Queens Bridge housing project were involved with drugs and crime, Anne Jones’ priority was raising her children. The hardworking U. S. Postal worker tried very hard to provide Nas and his brother Jabber with love, self- actualization and stability in their life – three things a majority of Queens Bridge children would not see in their lifetime. This was especially rare since the Jones’ went through a divorce when Nas was 12 years old.
Nas credits his mother as a very important figure in his life, and even has a song dedicated to her off of his album God’s Son titled “Dance” (Hess). Nas began to indulge himself fully in hip hop culture after he dropped out of high school in 9th grade. Nas became more serious about his rhyming, and Joined a hip hop crew called “Devastating Seven” under the name Kid Wave, and was also part of a crew known as “Breaking’ In Action”. All of this happened with the help of William Graham also known as “Ill Will”, a childhood friend of Nas’ who lived the floor above Nas in the Queens Bridge Project Housing.
Ill Will made Nas into the rapper he is today by introducing him to hip hop by playing records on his turntables when Nas was in his youth (Hess). Ill Will played as the DC while Nas rapped over songs that were then, very popular. However, Ill Will was not able to see Nas rise to become a hip hop icon, something he would have been so proud to see. At a Queens Bridge party in 1992, Nas’ brother Jungle and Ill Will both caught the wrong side of the gun, an event that would ultimately damage two lives, but only the death of one (Hess).
The passing of Ill Will was very traumatic for Nas, as it would be or anyone to lose a best friend, especially under the circumstances of the harsh conditions in the Gingerbread Project Housing. Ironically enough, this incident happened when Nas was first signed as a hip hop artist. Nas viewed these events as a somewhat movie type event – seeing Gingerbread as the setting of the stories that he would tell (Hess). This is a very important aspect of Nas that will later be touched upon – although Nas did participate in criminal activity as a youth, he does not write about it in this aspect.
Nas has been known as a story teller, an approach to his lyrics that’ll easily get listeners interested. This characteristic of Nas is the one that makes him most famous, and is exampled in his debut album Lunatic. The word Lunatic stems from the word “ill” which means ailed in diseased, sickness or any type of immune disadvantage. “Mantic” means classic, old school, and the right way of doing things. Put together, Lunatic is a slang term used to describe something that will forever be great and “sicker” than everything else out there, and Nas could not have picked a better title for his debut album (“Online Slang Dictionary’).
The 1994 classic broke a precedent set by New York Times of hip hops The Source. When the magazine decided to start doing album reviews, they decided not to give a 5 microphone rating out of 5 (equivalent too 5 star rating) to any hip hop album, so they would not waste such a prestigious review on an album that could one day become mediocre (Sewer). However, Nas was the first one to reach a 5 microphone rating, and The Source made a good call that day to break their precedent because Lunatic is still 5 microphone worthy, even by today’s standards. Lyrically, the ‘stuff is superficial” was a sentence written by Shorter, now known as the radio personality “Miss. Info. She also describes the album review as a story book, and something that almost everyone can relate to. “Nas’ images remind me a lot of personal memories and people, both passed and present so the impact goes beyond Just the entertainment aspect. The bottom line is this: even if the album doesn’t speak to you on that personal level, the music itself is still worth the money’ (Shorter). Nas incorporates many literary techniques to his songs on Lunatic such as metaphors, alliterations and allusions.
These are terms that are commonly heard when speaking of great authors and poets such as Shakespeare and Robert Frost, but can also used hen talking about great rappers. Like many rappers, Nas is a fan of using similes and metaphors, but uses them tastefully in his songs, and unlike most rappers they are witty as opposed to being elementary and clumsy (Hess). One such example is a line from Nas’ single “New York State of Mind. ” “Inhale deep like the words in my breath. I never sleep because sleep is the cousin of death. It is rare to find a verse from Nas that contains a lot of metaphors because Nas incorporates many other types of literary techniques in his lyrics, such as allusions and alliterations. His use f these can be heard on the track “The World Is Yours” stating “The mind activation has me acting’ like I’m facing’ time like Pappy Mason”, a notorious criminal during the early ass’s. Nas is very selective and tasteful in his uses of these techniques, which makes listening to him that much more interesting (Hess). Another aspect, which makes Nas such an interesting artist is his famous use of the literary technique known as rhyme.
While many contemporary and past rappers have trouble making a rhyme within two lines, the great Nas is able to accomplish this feat commonly in one line, as seen in the closing verse of “It’s Anti Hard To Tell. “This rhythmic explosion, is what your frame of mind has chosen/I’ll leave your brain stimulated, people get frozen/Speak with criminal slang, begin like a violin/End like Leviathan, it’s deep well let me try again” Taking examples from separate songs off Lunatic displays Nas’ skills in various songs, but to truly capture and embrace the power of this incredible MAC, one should analyze a single song.
The first song off of Lunatic (and the first lines of this research essay) is titled “N. Y. State of Mind”, but as opposed to Billy Joule’s classic, this song takes on a different feel of New York. Nas speaks of the trudges and hardships witnessed in the Queens Bridge housing projects in a way that many rappers of the past and present do not. Nas incorporates his supreme skill of literary techniques to describe New York as a cold and harsh place to live. If Nas’ perspective of New York was not hard enough, than the way he speaks about it definitely is. While critically reading lines off of “N.
Y. State of Mind”, one can see the greatness of Nas. “Running through the block shooting/Time to start the revolution, catch a body head for Houston/Once they caught us off guard, the Mac-10 was in the grass and/’ ran like a cheetah with thoughts of an assassin. Here in the first verse, Nas is telling the story of a gunfight between him and his foes in the streets of New York. The intellectual Nas does not hesitate to let it be known that he is an educated man, and does this by making reference to the revolutionary icon Sam Houston, famous for the Battle of the Alamo during the Texan Revolution.
Nas then goes to state how after losing grip of his gun, he quickly runs like a cheetah, the fastest metaphors and allusions in these few lines, ranging from references from history to biology. By relating himself to a revolutionary icon, Nas is stating that he is not only a deader to the people around him but he is also a revolutionary. When Nas says that he “ran like a cheetah with thoughts of an assassin” he is describing the intensity of this shootout and how the adrenaline made him act quickly, yet concentrated like a sharpshooter.
As these lines display Nas as an intellectual, it should not be forgotten that Nas is also someone who believes should not be fooled around with. In the lines leading to this example, Nas dreams about being a successful gangster, but comes back to reality realizing that at this point in his life; he is a street thug, and that is the only life he knows. Nas being intelligent and tough displays him as the best of both worlds, being able to dominate foes intellectually and physically.
Although in his later album releases such as his album “Distant Relatives” with Damn Marble, Nas takes a more peaceful and mature persona. His lyrics are more concerned with problems facing youths in modern day such as violence and poverty. In his song “l Gave You Power” Nas uses imagery and symbolism, describing himself as a firearm (“l Gave You Power”). This song shows his maturity, in which he is letting the listener now he is tired from the life of crime he once lived. His later lines preaches about violence and weapons being a major issue in his community.
Far less hyped from Lunatic, Nas is still in the rap game, but this is a consequence due to his pride. Nas has lived up to a lyric from one of my personal favorite songs Off later album Systematic titled “Smoking”. In a lack of better words, he states that he will forever stay true and loyal, and will never let a woman come between him and his true friends. Nas has lived up to these lyrics written nine years ago, and has done something that any rappers today seem to have an addiction to: selling out.