.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/43ae5a617627ad357b1fc6fb4c9b8215b6cbd3b5.jpg Stillmatic

Nas

Stillmatic

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 2.5 0
January 8, 2002

On Jay-Z's "takeover," one of the many vicious volleys in the ongoing Nas/Jay-Z battle, Jigga brutally sums up Nas' back catalog, crediting him with "one hot album every ten years, average." He's got a point - aside from his classic 1994 debut, Illmatic, the Queens-bred rapper's output has been uneven, to put it nicely. The fact that he invokes the name of his beloved first album with Stillmatic only makes the new disc's shortcomings more pronounced.

Stillmatic, his fifth full-length, isn't a complete washout. The Jay-Z beef has brought out the best in both MCs, and on "Ether" Nas lands some solid jabs, ridiculing Jay's sparse mustache, tai-bo workouts and Hawaiian shirts. On "You're Da Man," Large Professor's moody strings and spare boom-clap beat set the scene for some nightmarish introspection. "What Goes Around," an inflamed indictment of evils ranging from TV and religion to poor parenting and plastic surgery, drives with knee-buckling intensity. Even "Got Ur Self a . . . ," with its twinkly toy harpsichord and booming Sopranos-theme-song chorus, sounds fine after a few listens.

Sadly, the cuts that reveal Nas' depth and drive get lost in a jumble of sloppy filler. The hyperbolic urgency of "One Mic" feels staged, the trick of backward storytelling on "Rewind" comes off gimmicky and rushed, and the cadence that Nas rocks on "Smokin' " sounds startlingly elementary. Striving to maintain street cred while reaching for pop success has left Nas vacillating clumsily on past projects, and this record is riddled with similar inconsistencies. One moment he casts himself as a gritty cat who feels most at home on a project bench, calling out neighborhood snakes ("Destroy and Rebuild") and ducking gunshots ("One Mic"). The next, he's delivering dumbed-down verses over the Track Masters' rinky-dink rendition of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."

In the end, there's little here to refute Jay-Z's harsh assessment of his rival's discography. "This is my ending and my new beginning," Nas spits on the album's intro. But for an artist who built his rep traversing breath-defying lyrical heights, Stillmatic's by-the-books beats and rhymes don't sound like the start of anything good.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Hungry Like the Wolf”

    Duran Duran | 1982

    This indulgent New Romantic group generated their first U.S. hit with the help of what was at the time new technology. "Simon [Le Bon] and I, I think, had been out the night before and had this terrible hangover," said keyboardist Nick Rhodes. "For some reason we were feeling guilty about it and decided to go and do some work." Rhodes started playing with his Jupiter-8 synth, and then "Simon had an idea for a lyric, and by lunchtime when everyone else turned up, we pretty much had the song." The Simmons drumbeat was equally important to the sound of "Hungry Like the Wolf," as Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor stated it "kind of defined the drum sound for the Eighties."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com