Producer: Heavy D, Salaam, and Da Internz
Abstract: Single from Life Is Good
It's called "The Don," and it's the type of lyrical exercise Nas only throws down once or twice per album. It starts with Super Cat explaining the importance of music to the streets. “Some of these people do not even have TVs, 'cause they can't afford cable. Some of them can't afford a radio, so the only thing they can listen to is the music," the spoken intro offers.
The rest of the song lives up to the promise of a steely anthem. Nas, after, all has built his career on maintaining his status as a street poet. There are gun threats, car boasts, thoughts of rooftop sex, shoutouts to New York rap pioneers, and references to real drug rings.
"The Don" is a new spin on an old topic. And it's nasty. Brazen. Militant. Raw. That ol' gritty New York vibe. It's hard to guess where Nas gets his fire from these days, but he's unusually hungry for a "been there, done that" veteran. "The Don" is a strong poetic performance in the vein of "Nasty."
The beat is tough, too. "Heavy D gave this beat to Salaam for me to rap on," Nas reveals in the song. With the late great Heavy, Salaam and Da Internz splitting production duty, you'd expect this to suffer from a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, but it doesn't. Instead, we get a cohesive, hard-hitting, face-melting, reggae-tinged beat.
By the time you reach the third verse, Nas is no longer in a hurry to affirm his excellence. His boasts are more assured, his tone oozing quiet confidence. "Don sh-t/Under fire, I remain on some calm sh-t," he whispers.
As long as he's still kicking raps like this on every album, he can recline in his chair, kick his feet up and light an escubano, rest assured that his place as one of hip-hop's all-time greats is guaranteed.