Tracklist Nas – The Lost Tapes
- Doo Rags
- My Way
- U Gotta Love It
- Nothing Lasts Forever
- No Idea’s Original
- Blaze A 50
- Everybody’s Crazy
- Drunk By Myself
- Black Zombie
- Poppa Was A Playa / Fetus
There’s a lot of great albums in the discography of Nas. The most slept on project in his discography has to be the 2002 release The Lost Tapes. Comprised of songs from the I Am…, Nastradamus, and Stillmatic sessions, this collection of songs would stand as one of the most lyrical exhibitions I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing.
Where the album starts off is on the epic tracks “Doo Rags”, which showcases Nas at his most reflective, looking back at the younger days, using the doo rag as a symbolism for things from the past that have returned.
The hook indicates that with the first line “the doo rags are back, fitted hats…”, and Nas waxes poetically about the good ol days so to speak, and my favorite verse would have to be the opening verse, as the imagery Nas has displayed over the years hits the highest point. Check the verse:
“Pushing drop-tops, Stacy Lattisaw tapes / The 80’s had us all apes / Youngest gorillas up to bat at home plate / That was an uncanny era, guns in my pants, yeah / X-Clan hair, with dreads at the top of my fade / Homicidal Feds on the blocks where I played b-ball / That’s when I wondered was I here for the cause or because / Cause Ray Charles could see the ghetto / Was told to stay strong and I could beat the devil / Cause yo, I used to play Apollo balcony seats / Watching niggas swing razors in the front row, then out in the streets / The car show, 560’s, chemical afros / Acuras pumping Super Lover Cee and Casanova / Live chicks be asses busting out of they clothes / Wearing lip gloss, big door knockers peeling they earlobes / So where them years go? / Where the Old Gold beers and cheers go? / But now them shorties here though”
After this reflective look, Nas provides two more solid verses to paint a perfect picture for the listener. After the opening track, Nas goes into his King of NY mode seemingly, as he floats over the Alchemist produced “My Way”.
The drums are knocking and the sample is smooth, as Nas starts off the song with a declaration and love to Ill Will, and speaks candidly and honestly about his legacy, the memories and carrying on for Will, along with the standard bravado we expect from the crafty MC, but with a bit elevated feel to the lyrics. Nas has always been one of the best lyricists in Hip Hop, but there’s something about this particular album that seemingly showcases his best work, to me at least. While Illmatic was more straightforward and It Was Written featured more internal rhyme schemes, Lost Tapes combines his underrated imagery with that straightforward lyricism and internal rhyme schemes and storytelling.
I’ve always been a fan of collaborations between L.E.S. and Nas, and sure enough, this was no different as we arrived to the knocking “U Gotta Love It”. The beat is beyond what we were used to at the time from Nas in a way, as the bass and drums combined behind guitar riffs and keys to create a certified banger. Nas once again coasts over the track with a slower flow, but lyricism is top notch, especially in the first verse, as he begins with some crazy wordplay. See below:
“Nastradamus, astrologic, know when I rep / Flow when I’m set / I got the chips to a lotus my whip / Gold on my neck / Was once a code of respect / For high rollers and vets / Now its loads of baguettes/ Prefer a Mac-10 over a tec / No matter sober or wet / I smack soldiers, cadets / Trees that might eject my hype back / Famous phrase “Nigga light that” / Hoes you fuck, ask you where your ice at /Dun, it’s all about playboys, when we was young / Can only get tongue / Then finally we can cum”
As if that isn’t enough, Nas comes back with another slew of amazing lines in the 2nd verse of this track, making it quite possibly one of my all time favorite Nas tracks and one of the best on this classic easily. Check the way he opens the 2nd verse, this is masterful:
“Some girls get too emotional, fanatic extremist / Compulsive with malice incentives / The foulest of bitches / Hung up my riches / Her childest wishes / Be suspicious of those / Sleeping with fishes, them hoes / Conspicuous and it shows / Tricking this dough / Kicking this flow / Slip in a new fo’ / So when your click roll, I let my clips go / Niggas on opposite polls / I got that confident soul / For those locked in a hole / Inhuman, living hostile opposed / To living on the streets, proper from my top to my toes”
After the sheer brilliance of this particular song, Nas keeps it going with the solid “Nothing Lasts Forever”, yet another L.E.S. production.
This song is dope, bit the hook seems to be sloppy and it takes away from the song a bit, but as usual, Nas kills it with the verses and lyricism. The beat also seems a bit too happy for the content of the lyrics, but we know Nas hasn’t always had the greatest selection in production over the years.
However, the next track is where this album reaches the apex. Alchemist turns a simple Barry White loop into production gold for Nas, as he spits what I feel is one of the greatest verses ever in Hip Hop on “No Idea’s Original”. The entire song is one long amazing verse, and it is my favorite thing about this whole album, and a top 10 song in Nas’ discography just because. Check why:
“If niggas could look inside my mind, you’ll find / Where bodies are buried, first look past the hotties who dimes / Go to the center, enter with caution / Pass the brain cell graveyard, where weed’s responsible for memory losses / Witness, the horrific, the stench’ll make you nauseous / See what I seen every day I live with this torture / Lighting spliffs up to stay high like 24 hours / Sleep with my heat, wash with my gun in the shower / My tongue is power / It thrills women, kills demons / Long as I’m still breathing / I’m still winning, I’ll teach ’em / The hood converted from trey bags to 20’s a girl / Everybody had money, every summer was real ill / Four-finger rings, dope dealers, ‘caine-Kane / No Half Steppin’ with flat tops when Rakim reigned / Radios on card tables, Benetton, the Gods building / As for today’s mathematics, we Allah’s children / And this was going on in every New York ghetto / Kids listened, Five Percenters said it’s pork in Jell-o / We coincide, we in the same life / Maybe a time difference, on a different coast, but we share the same sunlight / Your part of the world, might be like colors and gangs / While on my side, brothers’ll murder for different things / But it all revolve around drugs, fame and shorties / Stuck for your bling, stripped for your chain, the same story / From, Czechoslovakia / To Texas metropolis / Them, treacherous rastas / And the mexican mafias / Be scrapping with tats on they back, violent wars / Nothing less than a lethal injection if ever caught / Courtrooms, eagles and flags, American style / While in our world, the ghetto stays incredibly foul / Watching for paint chips, don’t want no led in yo’ child / But them gangstas put lead in yo’ child / The bezzy be out / The chain be like a hundred K / Shining since Roxanne Shante’ made Runaway / That’s been a minute…. / Genesis is deep, my features are that of a God / It’s not a facade it’s a fact, these rappers wanna be Nas / My Exodus doesn’t exist, I’ll never leave the streets, it’s all in my mind / Even with sleep I’m duckin nines/In my dreams, si-rens, wide awake, why’d I think it would change / Can’t hide when you famous or even try to do the same things / Somebody’s always watching/ My life, before I, walk out the door I size up every option / Eyes cut every direction, it’s like God or guns / Which is better protection? Can’t decide, that’s a hard one / I mean they wanna see me in prison, in chains bamboozled / Headline reading ‘rapper Slain From a man shooting'”
And that’s how you craft one of the greatest lyrical displays ever. It’s so intricate, with everything you could ask for and more. There’s a reason why Nas is seen as one of the greatest ever and this just gave us more evidence as to why he is.
After this one, we get treated to the splendid storytelling track “Blaze A 50”, as Nas tells the story of a woman he encountered who was seemingly caught in the underworld and hell-bent on trapping men in power. From Terrell Davis giving Nas information on the chick to finding her man played for the Raiders to her cheating on said player, Nas crafts a tale that goes awry very quickly and Nas is forced to put this woman out of her unbeknownst misery. It’s a dope story and I wish Nas would have included it on the album it was intended for (I Am…).
Moving on to the one song I’m not really that fond of overall, we reach “Everybody’s Crazy”, produced by Rockwilder. I was never a fan of the production from Rockwilder and this is why. The beat is very bland and adds nothing to the song itself, and while Nas is solid lyrically, the beat brings the song down a notch, as does the simple hook.
However, after this little misstep, we arrive at one of the best songs from Nas in “Purple”. The smooth piano driven beat is provided by Hill, Inc., who I am not that familiar with, but he killed it on production. Nas comes into the track with a renewed vigor, starting off with some iconic lines before carrying that energy throughout the entire first verse. Check it out:
“The whole, city is mine / Prettiest don / I don’t like the way P. Diddy did Shyne / With different lawyers, why it’s mentioned in my rhymes / Fuck it / It’s just an intro / Hate it or love it / Like it, bump it or dump it / Writing, across the stomach spell GOD son / Life is like a jungle black, it’s like the habitat of Tarzan / Matter of fact, it’s harder than most can imagine / Most of my niggas packed in/Correctional facilities, half of them passed on, mac strong, couple of shots / May the ghost leave a body, now they haunting the block / Where they used to stand at / Somebody’s taking they place, a younger man perhaps / Hand slaps / Can’t understand that / Same walk, same talk, I wonder can that / Be possible / A thug dies, another steps inside his shoes / And they will hurt you / Laying low with a bottle, I’m blowing circles / My state of mind purple”
After this verse, Nas goes through another tale of the streets and the way things have a tendency to change depending on what you do and your reputation. From the big time killer or dope dealer who is seemingly loved but the neighborhood really hates to the young soldiers of the block who get taken before their time, Nas does another masterful job of painting a picture.
When I think of this particular project, “Purple” is the first thing that comes to mind right along with “No Idea’s Original”. After this, we get the super dope yet slightly oft-kilter “Drunk By Myself”, and you can instantly tell this was 1998-1999 Nas, as the song is completely from that era and with the production and rhyme style it brings, it invokes those memories of the QB chain wearing, champagne popping Nas Escobar time. The song is solid, but I’d be lying if I said it was my favorite on the project. It’s in my lower choices for best song on the project, but it’s still dope overall.
As the project nears the end, we get an eye opening track in “Black Zombie”, where Nas talks candidly about our people and the whole ‘monkey see, monkey do” thought process that is within some. He presents some very solid logic and dope lyrics in the 2nd verse, which is his strongest point on the entire song IMO. Check it out:
“They’ve already gave up / Cut our own heads off, stab our own backs and dream too much/ Without fulfilling reality, too greedy and / Can’t have one or two chains, we need three of dem / Can’t have one or two guns without squeezin ’em / On our own people and, fuck black leaders cause whites ain’t got none leading them / The rhythm is cosmic / Nas is divinity, the deity’s prophetless”
While I may not agree with everything said in the song, Nas does raise some solid points. As we enter the final song, we get a treat. Now, “Poppa Was A Playa” is a great song and Nas tells the story of his father and the crazy ups and downs experienced and how he passed down his ways to him, but the best song comes at the end of this.
The hidden track “Fetus” is one of Nas’ stronger tracks from this era of his and it shows him in reflection mode once again with a conceptual twist. He speaks of the pregnancy that brought him in the world, expressing how his mother and father considered abortion to the moment he arrived. The opening lines of the song really set the tone:
“I existed in a womb, just like an abyss / Came straight from spirit land, my hands balled in a fist / Punching on my moms stomach, kicking on her cervix / Twitching cause I’m nervous / Thought my intended purpose / Was to be born to reign / Not in scorn or vain / But to take on a name / My pops chose for me… / Bloodstream full of indo / Developing eyes looking out my belly button window”
As the song continues, Nas details his arrival in the most accurate way possible I’d say, as he takes you through nearly every moment of the 9 months and the song ends when he finally enters the world. A very slick way to end the album and a reminder of the level of talent Nas carries. When it’s all said and done, The Lost Tapes is likely the 3rd greatest Nas project behind Illmatic and It Was Written (I personally prefer it over Illmatic nowadays due to the lyrics), and I’d consider it a classic. Who would have known the leftovers from Nas’ albums could be something so great?? Makes you wonder what greatness our other favorites are holding. Release the vaults!