Nas - "Who Killed It" in Retrospect (Or "The One Where Nas Loses")

Ok, so if you've checked out my post on Thee Arteest, you'll know that today, I spoke on the "Nas Lost" phenomenon. Now, I'd like to take it a step further and dissect a song that several bloggers/critics/people in general, including my Baltimore Hip-Hop Blogger brethren Al Shipley consider to be one of Nas's worst tracks (that doesn't feature his crew spitting harder than him or a Ginuwine feature--even though "Owe Me Somethin'" still got the party popping in 1999, 2000).

That's right, I'm talking about "Who Killed It."

Plus, it give me a reason.
For starters, the Hip-Hop is Dead album was a great concept at the time of its release. In 2006, hip-hop was more of a clusterfudge than Hersheypark being nuked by Stay Puft. Everyone was on their ringtone rap-selling, skinny jean-rocking, faux rock-rap-sounding tip, so purists were crying tears of boom-bap sadness and saying that, well, hip-hop was dead. But, let's be clear here. Every era in hip-hop history has had fluff. And instead of reviving hip-hop as possibly intended, Nas's album came off two ways. One, he kind of came off like Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino. Two, he...kind of came off like Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino. It was still Nas, but it was a jaded Nas (or appeared to be a jaded Nas) effort that tried too hard to place blame on the "death" of hip-hop when it could've facilitated evolution of the genre. Nevertheless, it was a great album. A great album marred by a slight "out-of-touch" feel that is created by attempts to revive and revisit the "golden era," but a great album nonetheless.

"Who Killed It" takes the hip-hop is dead philosophy and places it into a Dragnet-like, film-noire-lite light. Nas plays the Black Joe Friday who's hot on the trail of a caper. The caper, after taking some twists and turns, reveals a "skirt" (in other words, hip-hop and the deterioration of the art behind it) is the motivation behind the caper. Said skirt and Nas Friday, they converse about thinly veiled homages to rap's history and as she "dies," she says "if you really loved me, I'll come back alive." Cool concept, right?

Where it falls apart is its delivery. First, Nas adopts this corny delivery, a la Joe Friday or even Joe Pesci. It's grating as all hell to the ears. Nas's "A-Haaaaaaa, A-HAAAAAAA!!!" moments make me shake my head in sadness. "Who Killed It" is something like telling your four-year-old that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, pro wrestling, Superman, and Shaft (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air references FTW) aren't real. Yes, Nas has made some head-scratchers along with his many head-bangers. But this song, for me, completely pulled the Wizard's curtain back. Unfortunately, unlike Judy Garland, Nas didn't tell me at the end of HHiD that I had the power to bring hip-hop back.

Instead, the guy made me feel like crap for being young and an internet rapper because apparently, I was part of the problem and not the solution, even though I didn't talk about "dumb shit."

Looking back, I now know how J. Cole felt when Nas told him "Work Out" sucked.

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