I have to admit that I love a good feud. I mean I really love two sides going back and forth, verbally attacking each other with rancor and a wonderfully crafted turn of phrase. That is why I was a little dismayed when Nas and Jay-Z called an end to their feud on Hot 97 a few years back. I never liked Jay-Z but I have loved Nas since the Illmatic days when he was “Nasty” Nas.
One of the best Nas songs (I have a ton of favorites by the way) is called “Ether” off of his 2001 album “Stillmatic.” I would equate Nas as the Charles Dickens of rap given his ability to effortlessly craft phrases using such artful and descriptive language. Here is an example:
“How could Nas be ga’bage?/Semi-autos at yo’ cart’lage
Burner to the side of ya dome/come outta my throne, I got this”
While the above is quite violent and graphic imagery, It illustrates my point quite tidily. The message still has its venom but sounds intelligent and not like the psychobabble of your local neighborhood sociopath. Nas is more cerebral than that. His lyrics can be superficially violent, but they are not a bloodbath. Beneath the surface, there is deep and profound meaning behind all of his work as evidenced in “Sly Fox,” and “If I Ruled the World,” to name a couple.
The tone that he sets in “Ether” is one of a blatant disrespect for Jay-Z in the song and the ingenious ways that he mocks Jay-Z are brilliance incarnate. “How much of Biggie’s rhymes gonna come out yo’ fat lips?” is my personal favorite quote from the song by which he accomplishes this. I do enjoy the song because I am NOT a Jay-Z fan, but that fact is secondary to the fact that I love Nas and “Ether” is some of his best work.