September 7, 2009

Nas - Street's Disciple (November 30, 2004)

In honor of Labor Day, I chose to write about an album that a lot of critics and fans felt was a fucking chore to listen to.

I realize I'm going to get a lot of shit for that statement, but so be it.

The seventh album by Nasir Jones, Street's Disciple, was a double album that started off with cover art that I'm sure most religious followers would find blasphemous, and simply became more audacious from there. This twenty-five track opus follows Nasir's stream of consciousness: he veers from political messages and his self-perceived hip hop dominance to love of his family and his upcoming marriage to the eccentric (to say the least) R&B singer-slash-Neptunes protege Kelis Rogers with reckless abandon: several songs on the second disc follow his thoughts on the union, as he worries about the fact that he won't be able to sleep with anyone else (which, if one is to believe the tweets of Kelis following their divorce, is one of the many reasons for their breakup), but ultimately commits to the relationship and even sounds genuinely excited about it at points. Nasir even dedicates a song to his daughter and collaborates with his father, Olu Dara.

However, for the most part, Street's Disciple follows the same path that Stillmatic and God's Son paved: Nasir Jones, still hurting from the poor reception that his shittiest album, Nastradamus, garnered, was trying to reclaim his throne at the top of the hip hop mountain. Stillmatic was filled with potshots at his rival Jay-Z, but Street's Disciple, like God's Son before it, chooses instead to take on society's ills, looking at both the street level and from much higher up, as he takes on the feds and those who are supposed to be role models for America's youth with equal amounts of eloquent hatred.

With the exception of maybe his debut, Illmatic, all of Nasir's albums have been conceptually random in nature, so Street's Disciple isn't unique in this respect. What makes this project different is that Nas went the double-album route, ostensibly giving listeners twice the music (at twice the price, of course). Just like most of the man's work, Street's Disciple was critically acclaimed, and even managed to go platinum (although as a double-disc set, he only had to move five hundred thousand units (one million discs total) to reach that accolade, so it's really not that impressive when you see it like that), but for the most part, I've noticed that bloggers tend to trash this effort today, referring to it as one of the worst in the man's catalog. I personally don't understand why the songs are spread out over two tracks, but I have my own theory, which I'll get into later.

I'll end by saying that I've never received any requests to review Street's Disciple. Nasir's follow-up albums, yes, but never this one. I don't expect the man to ever make another Illmatic unless he manages to find a way to travel back in time and brings his younger self into the year 2010 with him, but I do expect there to be some entertainment value in my hip hop, both lyrically and musically, which is really the reason why it seems that I'm not a fan of the man's work: his beats almost always suck.

Is Street's Disciple the album that bucks that trend? Even though Nas seemed to go out of his way to secure beats from those who had provided him heaters in the past (Salaam Remi, L.E.S., and Q-Tip among them), the answer is still "nope".

Fuck, did I give the ending away?


Nasir seems to speak directly to the listener, in a manner that weirded me out personally, as some of his sentiments were too intimate for my tastes, but then again, I'm a married man. I like how you can interpret one of his statements as yet another barb towards Memphis Bleek, if you're the type who is prone to reading into shit much more than necessary.

I liked how the intro seamlessly led into this song, which has a ridiculous title but boasts some potent wordplay from Nas. This actually isn't a bad start to the album.

When Street's Disciple first dropped, I remember somebody in a forum describing this song as “Made You Look Pt. 2”. Maybe they only believed that because producer Salaam Remi also handled that awesome track, as I couldn't find any sort of correlation between the two, except that they are both good songs. Nasir's first line “I had bad chicks that blow cum bubbles like bubble gum” is almost hilariously graphic, and may possibly turn off a good portion of his audience, but the song still works regardless.

Any song that features both Nas and Kelis will now automatically sound awkward, but the fact that “American Way” also samples George Clinton's “Atomic Dog” doesn't help matters. Even though Nas exercises his right to free speech (especially by criticizing Condoleeza Rice, which will tell you how dated this album is), the hook itself sounds so bad that I feel you should exercise your right to listen to better music. And this was produced by Q-Tip? Wow. “One Love” this ain't.

Buckwild's beat is as fucking bland as cafeteria food, undercutting the hatred that Nas expresses toward African American sellouts (and minstrel show buffoonery in general) to such a degree that the song suffers as a result. Nas apparently doesn't like Kobe Bryant very much, which works for me, because I don't like him very much, either, but I'm just not a fan of the guy: Nasir seems to take some of the man's actions (*cough* rape *cough*) personally.

The L.E.S. beat at least attempts to sound more upbeat than the rest of Street's Disciple thus far, but since the instrumental itself seems to start up and stop often, its potential is never realized. Nas sounded okay, but he isn't saying anything on here that he hasn't said over the past six albums, so I could give a flying 747 fuck.

The Salaam Remi beat and Nasir's first verse start off the song strongly at first, but then Scarlett (really just Nas with his voice only slightly modified, and I also imagine that he was wearing a wig in the studio just to get into character) starts rapping. The track falls the fuck apart at this point, since Scarlett's vocal inflections are so distracting (read: you're going to keep thinking about Nas in a're welcome, folks!) that you won't be able to pay attention to what he/she is saying. Positive K Nas ain't.

If any rapper was in dire need of a person within their entourage whose sole job was to call them on their bullshit and tell them that not every one of their ideas is a good one, it's Nas. In this, the second part of the “Scarlett” suite, Nasir's first verse is touching, but once again the “female” vocals are incredibly distracting, and the song fails to connect. I get the feeling that Scarlett's voice is based on what Nas thinks Lil' Kim sounds like. Huh.

Thankfully Amerie is not Nas in a dress (because if she was, that would just make me cry). However, this track is awkward as shit, and her contribution is unnecessary. It's not as if “Rule” (the other Nas and Amerie collaboration, which sampled Tears For Fears) was a great song, but that piffle was light years ahead of this. How does that shit happen? You're not supposed to move backward with each subsequent album!

I'm fairly certain that this was originally a Quan song featuring Nas, as the guest gets both the first and the third verse, while Nasir is stuck with the creamy filling only, but even if that's true, I still liked this song. Nas and Quan wax eloquently about lost loved ones, and the L.E.S. beat is a perfect companion.

I thought this was boring as shit. Nas still has a tin ear for beats. Please refer back to my comment above about Nas needing someone to call him on his bullshit.

The old-school sound is appreciated, but this effort was ultimately futile. Luckily (or unfortunately, depending upon whichever side of the fence you reside on), there's an entire second disc of material to explore. Yay?


So Nas produced this song himself, and I have to admit, it isn't as bad as you would expect, considering that the man (allegedly) chooses to spit to wack beats on purpose. (So Nas and Ras Kass have that in common? Maybe they should work together.) This song isn't bouncy enough to warrant its title, and Busta Rhymes was entirely unnecessary, but this could have been a lot worse.

Not to be confused with “Disciple” from the first disc, this is the true title track. Salaam Remi's beat is simple but catchy, made up of nothing but breakbeats and a lingering string section, but I can't remember Nas saying anything even remotely street and/or disciple-esque to save my life. Oh well, at least it sounded alright. My understanding is that the original Billy Joel-lifted version of this track died an honorable death in the sample wars, but as I tend to hate Billy Joel, I can't personally imagine that take being better than this one. You can search the Interweb and compare them for yourself, though.

I thought this was an interesting idea when I first heard about it. Everybody compared young Nasir Jones to Rakim Allah anyway when Illmatic dropped, so if anybody should get the opportunity to pay tribute, it's this guy. What we ended up with isn't bad, but it isn't anything that you'll find yourself rewinding over and over again. Nas was rumored to have written a sequel about KRS-One, the other guy whose name comes up whenever hip hop heads debate as to who is the greatest rapper alive, but that song as never materialized, to my knowledge.

Doug E. Fresh provides the beat (box) and Nasir tries to play the Slick Rick role, but Nas himself is far from fun-loving, so he actually comes off as the weakest link on here. It shouldn't surprise anybody that Ludacris has this type of party rap shit down, though. Sigh.

Kelis sounds as if she was trying waaaay too hard to sound like the perfect significant other. She may as well have bought Nasir a PS3, a six pack, a dime bag, and brought home four of her coworkers who also happen to moonlight as strippers and/or escorts.

Not a cover of the Michael Jackson song that featured The Pharcyde dancing in the background of its video. The prodding of Kelis on the previous interlude results in this ridiculous Nasir Jones Penthouse Forum letter: all this is missing is the introductory line “I never thought it would happen to me”. This sex rap is pretty godawful, and you leave with the feeling that even Nas was ashamed of this song, but decided to release it anyway. (And yet, the man has a lot of unreleased tracks that are of a much higher quality than this shit.)

Clearly, I should go back two tracks ago and replace the phrase “perfect significant other” with “perfect bitch”, as that is most definitely what Kelis was supposed to be portraying on that interlude. Nasir's perfect bitch is a genius, a slut, and a chef. Seriously. I have no idea how hip hop continues to gain a female following. I also believe that Nas just revealed why Kelis just dropped his ass: he describes his need for a woman who will disappear and reappear only when needed. Any potential new wifey for Nasir Jones should consider themselves warned, and you may want to sign up for those magic classes at Hogwarts night school ASAP.

Obviously, this song should be considered, along with the three preceding tracks, as some sort of love letter to Kelis Rogers, which, once again, makes this awkward to listen to today, considering how their marriage fell the fuck apart while she was pregnant with his child and all. Chucky Thompson's instrumental isn't bad in an I Am... kind of way, and I found it hilarious how Nas ends his first verse with a sort-of exasperated “I'm getting married!”, as if he's even trying to convince himself, albeit in the most threatening way possible, but I found this shit lacking overall. Nas does manage a pretty good fake-out at the end, though: perhaps the man truly does have a sense of humor?


This collaboration between Nas and his father, Olu Dara, was a big deal on the blogs upon its leak release. In listening to this again, I'm not sure why. It was a sweet notion for Nas to rhyme alongside his father, don't get me wrong, and I like "Mannish Boy" by Muddy Waters as much as the next guy, but when it comes to collaborations between these two, I believe I'll stick with “Life's A Bitch” (also featuring AZ), on which Olu Dara played the trumpet. That's probably just me, though: I'm kind of an asshole.

Salaam Remi's production and Keon Bryce's vocals led me to believe that this was a Lupe Fiasco song featuring Matthew Santos. (“Streets On Fire” is still my shit.) But I still found this very enjoyable.

Nas wrote a song about his daughter. The sentiment was sweet, but this is corny. Which was the point, I'll admit.

The final track off of Street's Disciple isn't listed on the back cover, but is credited within the CD booklet itself.

This was the first single released from Street's Disciple, and it almost didn't make the final cut of the album, since it was leaked so far in advance. Salaam Remi's overt sampling of the Incredible Bongo Band's version of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vidda” works amazingly well on here, and Nas gets grimier on here than at any other point on either disc of Street's Disciple. If there were more songs of this caliber on this album, there would be more fans referring to it as a classic work. But as it stands...

FINAL THOUGHTS: ...Street's Disciple is an unfocused, bloated mess. Nas seems to have released a two-disc set simply because he fucking could. (In reality, this was probably more of a ploy to complete the terms of his record contract in a much quicker manner, but still.) Instead of continuing the positive trends that were prevalent on Stillmatic and God's Son, Nas chooses to switch up his mood so frequently that most of these songs only have the loosest connection to one another. The production is also mostly lacking (not a big shock), although a few of the tracks on here are actually really goddamn good. Nas crafted lyrics for Street's Disciple that are somehow both concise and really fucking obtuse: you're left wishing that he would get to the point and move on to his next stream-of-consciousness thought. Street's Disciple is a prime example of why rappers should never release double albums.

BUY OR BURN? Oh Lord, burn this one if you absolutely have to. A handful of entertaining songs spread out over two discs (there are only twenty-five tracks on the album in total; what Nasir needed was a good editor, just like how Judd Apatow could have trimmed all of the Jonah Hill/Jason Schwartzman material from Funny People and made it more potent) is not enough to warrant the separation of your cash from your wallet. This isn't Nastradamus bad, but still, proceed at your own risk.

BEST TRACKS: “Nazareth Savage”; “War”; “Thief's Theme”; “Just A Moment”; “A Message To The Feds, Sincerely, We The People”


Really? You want to read some more about Nas? Well, if you insist.


  1. I cannot wait to read your opinion on 'Who Killed It?'

    Second disc was mostly boring. If it wasn't for 'Thief's Theme' (why is the first single hidden? First time I read the back cover I nearly panicked), I'd have thrown it out a long time ago, although 'War' and 'Bridging The Gap' are alright. Matter of fact, Wu-Tang Forever seems like the only double rap/hip hop album that has a really good Disc 2 (or maybe I just haven't listened to enough double rap/hip hop albums properly). And it turned out to be a waste, considering the pending divorce.
    I do think you're a bit harsh on 'Live Now' though. I didn't know who "Scarlett" was at first, but when I found out, I just figured it was Nasir trying something new. Besides, "her" verse was pretty good.
    But yeah, Esco really did not need two discs for this.

  2. I ordered this album last week. Today, the package arrived at my house. I checked the site while opening the package, and you just reviewed it... that is a crazy coincidence.

    I guess I'll have to find out if I agree with you.

  3. Max, I couldn't agree with you more. I absolutely HATE this album - but I agree with you when you say that it isn't as bad as "Nastradamus."

  4. Finally. I'm always looking forward for some Nas reviews. Alright, I'm a pretty big Nas fan, and even I admit that this album wasn't anything great. I believe that it could've been great if it was just a single disc album. BUT that didn't happen, so we're left with this. I agree with your review and recommend a burn, but I buy all Nas albums anyway(sort of like your Wu-Tang collection, except I don't spend NEARLY as much money). I was glad to see you quoted that "cum bubble" line because I found it hilarious. I'll end this comment with another hilarious line from the same song.

    "I squeeze nipples like pimples to get the puss, get it?"

  5. You just thrashed Reason...I think I'll take my time elsewhere...
    Only half-kidding(because I really like Reason, and the beat there is good), at least you didn't spit all over Just A Moment or Thief's THAT would have been unforgivable
    And btw, I was looking forward to this review as the next one in Nas' catalog

  6. A Jay-Z stan doesn't like an old Nas album....

    What a surprise

  7. This album is a burn, but I still can't believe this Camel stan didn't recommend God's Son or Stillmatic. Smh

  8. haha max you are going to pass out when you review Hip Hop Is Dead

  9. dude wtf are you talking about?? nas doesnt rap to wack ass beats, this reviewer needs to look up shit

  10. Totally agree with your review. 'Thief's Theme' is awesome, easily my fav track from this CD. It should have been cut to a 1 CD release, leaving out all of that Scarlett crap. 'Bridging The Gap' is overated, I really do like the Marley Marl remix though, why doesn't he get with some good producers like Marley Marl and more Preemo... please!!!

  11. This album isnt THAT bad, I think you kind of exageratted... It has alot of drivel like alot of hip hop double disc albums, but it also has quite a few good songs. Still it probably is one of the few nas albums ill agree with you when you say burn..

  12. I am a self proclaimed Nas Stan (I will buy everything he drops on release day no matter how disappointed I am after the purchase), and other than a couple songs (i.e. Reasons and Remember the Times) you're dead on with your review. Such a gifted emcee should have way better beats to lace - Whateve happen with the rumored Premo colab album he promised at the end of his Columbia deal?!

  13. lol for once when it comes to nas reviews, i agree to this on (i also agree burning I Am and Nastrodomous) Stillmatic and the lost tapes are nas best modern day efforts and dude stop focusing on beats and foucs on the MC, because if not, your not a true hip hop fan

  14. This is a good review but I don't agree at all that this is a crap album. Granted many tracks are a chore to listen to but there are quite a few standout tracks on the album that I loved - conscious and intelligent in lyrical content and mellow retro-style beats like Live Now, Rest of My Life and Just a Moment.

    A Message to the Feds was a fucking awesome track!! And the title isn't ridiculous in the slightest - it incapsulates perfectly the essence of the track's message. There is also a tinge of sarcasm in the title to - it is poetic and just perfect. It might not be his best but Street's disciple is a good album and contains some GREAT tracks.

  15. Max you still haven't reviewed "Hip hop is dead?" The staple and the main reason u created this blog! How ironic. The comment a few back i wouldn't mind.. cause to a suprise, i think you'll like it.. i find the album more of a wake-up call but call it wat u want.. oh am i commenting on "Streets Disciple?" shiiiett, "Just a Moment" is a classic!

  16. Am I the only one who thinks that The Makings Of A Perfect Bitch is unintentionally hilarious? The last two bars of that second verse is literally a fantasy come true for at least of all our lives... "I smack mine on the ass and she takes her first breath". Hilarious!

    Not as well as Nazareth Savage though. That's classic. Rest of the album other than "Street's Disciple" and "Thief's Theme" is ABSOLUTE trash. Nas needs an editor, indeed. I Am, anyone?

  17. While I agree with the vast majority of this review, IDGAF what anybody says- American Way and These Are Our Heroes are for my money two of the strongest tracks on Street's Disciple.

    Nas spits some of his most potent verses of the album on those two cuts and while I normally find his approach to political raps cringe worthy, he sounds like he knows what he wants to say here (for a change) and goes fucking HARD. And the beats fit the sardonic nature of the rhymes perfectly. The only thing I would change on American Way is that fuck ugly singing by Kelis.