All it takes is the right beat to send Nasir Jones back to 1994. On the latest preview of the Queens lyricist's forever-forthcoming new album, a stammering dancehall sample (hacked up by right-hand man Salaam Remi and the late Heavy D) provokes a cascade of self-mythologizing scenes. "Fuck sadness," Nas argues. "Had this been you having this lavish, habitual happiness, at me you wouldn’t look backwards." But looking backward is what he does most deftly on "The Don," with a concise portrait of the artist as a young man: "I used to listen to that Red Alert and 'Rap Attack'/I fell in love with all that poetry, I mastered that." Bring on the album.
Listen to "The Don":
• Photos: Random Notes