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"You Know My Style"

A dive into Nas' unique style behind the mic.

By Brian Published 10 months ago 3 min read
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"Thief's Theme" EP By Nas

Commentary #243

A rapper is nothing without a DISTINCT style. With that being said and after listening to the song "You Know My Style" by Nas, it got me thinking. All artists have that unique style that they present with to their respected artform.

A Dive in Nas' Style

By Brian Salkowski

Nas has long been famed for his creativity and storytelling prowess, which has earned him acclaim from both the hip-hop community and critics. In his early stages, from his first appearance on the Main Source’s Breaking Atoms and throughout the recording of Illmatic, he was perhaps best known for his street-oriented topics, complex lyrical schemes (which often incorporated multi-syllabic internal rhymes), and witty phrasing and imagery. As he progressed and matured, Nas began to branch out into different subjects and developed a richer voice and slower rapping technique.

Following Illmatic’s release, Nas developed a penchant for hyper-visual storytelling and topical creativity. For instance, “Undying Love” (featured on I Am…) is a tale of his wife’s betrayal told in first person, “Rewind” (featured on Stillmatic) is a narrative in which a story is recited backwards, while on “I Gave You Power” (featured on It Was Written), Nas assumes the role of a gun who recounts brutal tales of murder and violence. Over the years Nas’ style has changed significantly.

In contrast to his previous work, Nas’ most recent material is distinctively socially aware and often politically inflammatory. Songs such as “I Can” (featured on God’s Son) convey moral messages of black youth empowerment, while “These Are Our Heroes (Coon Picnic)” accuses several African-American celebrities of being Uncle Toms. Furthermore, controversial songs such as “My Country” and “A Message to the Feds (Fuck the Police II)” (which are featured on Stillmatic and Street’s Disciple, respectively) question the conduct of the American government.

His style also takes on a much deeper analysis on not just his life but life in a general metaphorical way.

Nas has a devastating match between lyrics and production through his eye on everything approach that creates a potent evocation of life on the street. Hence why critics and fans both attribute Rakim for his influence on Nas' lyrical technique. Nas is perhaps contemporary rap's greatest innovator in storytelling. Storytelling that wasn't the same that our older brothers or uncles used to listen to.

His catalog of weaving a tale both in reality and in a metaphysical realm includes songs narrated before birth ('Fetus') and after death ('Amongst Kings'), he's rapped in the voice of a woman ('Sekou Story') and most famous was his personification of all personification rhymes where he takes on a gun itself and the social problems that causes ('I Gave You Power'). Examples of this continue on his 33-year career.

Nas has been transfiguring gangsta rap since Illmatic. Overnight a sudden off-beat flow was the go-to. A conversational, almost, Zen filled lyrics with the transcription of course that explores urban life. Before Nas, every MC focused on rhyming with a cadence that ultimately put the words that rhymed on beat with the snare drum. Nas created a style of rapping that was more laid back yet informative than ever before. I always thought Nas does not always have to make words rhyme as he is "charismatic" and he is also having a densely packed flow, with compound rhymes that run over from one beat into the next or even into another bar.

From effervescent lyrics that have intricacy imbedded naturally inside the man who is very much ahead of his time. A true visionary. Like just how intricate his wordplay is. If intricate had a face, Nas would be on the milk carton. To go from doing an entire song backwards ['Rewind'] which was a brilliant idea and came off so naturally, to the demands of what a "Lion" needs in the jungle of life ['Esco Best'], it's safe to say style is IMPORTANT, INTRICATE & INNATE.......

Especially for the unstoppable force that is Nasir "Nasty Nas" Jones.

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About the Creator

Brian

I am a writer. I love fiction but also I'm a watcher of the world. I like to put things in perspective not only for myself but for other people. It's the best outlet to express myself. I am a advocate for Hip Hop & Free Speech! #Philly

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