Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Nas and Damian Marley – As We Enter

Two top 10 crashers in the same day! Woo woo indeed…


Martin Skidmore: Nas’s greatness resides in qualities that don’t suit this bouncy, synth-heavy lite-ragga backing — he sounds rushed and lacking feeling. Damian’s okay, if ordinary, and the end result is pleasant enough, but undistinguished.

Renato Pagnani: As someone who feels that Nas’ last three albums have been, for the most part, Big Fucking Disasters (and Nas is probably my favourite rapper ever), it pleases me to say that “As We Enter” is the kind of song he should be involved with these days. When he drops the pseudo-intellectualizing (dude’s really not as smart as he likes to think) and flat-out raps, as he does here, Nas still does it better than most — twisting syllables, relishing in the euphony of language, and flowing like a motherfucker. He works well with Damian Marley, too, in a peanut butter-and-cream cheese sort of way. It might not be a glistening gem, but hey, a spit-shined piece of amber is nice too, right?

Alex Macpherson: The best thing Nas has done in nearly a decade: tracks in which rappers trade lines like tennis players volleying at each other are inherently satisfying, but he and Jr Gong both display champion-sharp reflexes here. This is partly due to the unusual structure — rather than taking one line at a time throughout, the two men switch between exchanging single lines, words and double lines, constantly interrupting each other at just the right moments to pick up the imagery and momentum. Killer bass’n’horns combo, too.

Rodney J. Greene: The hook is perfunctory and unnecessary (perhaps Nas doesn’t speak rap star quite as well as he thinks), but the two vocalists have achieved a symbiosis unprecedented by their 2005 collaboration “Road to Zion“. They complete each other’s thoughts as quickly as the Mulatu Astatke-swiping beat’s fast clip demands, spitting with a vigor I haven’t heard lately from either one. Damian leaps between each of Nasir’s dry declarations, funnelling his voice into or out of certain lines, the Technicolor to Nas’ grayscale. Both sound better for the contrast, interrupting with a sharp quip whenever their counterpart threatens to drift.

Alfred Soto: My heart sank at first when Marley’s first set of verses stuck to his tried-and-true, but as this gathers momentum he and Nas interlock so well that by the time this went past the two-minute mark I believed the two Obamas billing.

Anthony Easton: Love the patois, and how well they fit in together, ratcheting up the paranoia, ending with those rhythmic shoutings of “woo woo”… also love the organ sounds that begin and end the track.

Matt Cibula: Never been a card-carrying citizen of Nasustan, and I’m old enough to remember those sad days when everyone had a Marley on de track fa ta signify dey roots mon… but damn if they both don’t go pretty hard here, spitting all relentless and bubbly like that. Densely packed but still somehow it floats.

5 Responses to “Nas and Damian Marley – As We Enter”

  1. If this is an eight, at least five of those points belong to astatke.

  2. A week later it hasn’t worn out its charm.

  3. The hook is hella awkward… and so is Nas. Everytime he does a track with someone random, I feel like he puts on these “Nas is descending from his Nastradamus cloud to condescend to the masses and awkwardly switch up his flow to accommodate something that, unaccustomed to him, goes at more than 20 bpm” airs. If you want to hear an actually great Nas bar-trading track (from this decade no less!), see ‘Serious’ f. AZ, a rapper/artist, who, unlike Jeezy/Marley/Joss Stone, Nas actually has massive respect for and therefore gives him a serious, and unusually animated for latter-day Nas, run for his money. Great bongos too.


  4. I think the fact that Nas has done an entire album with Marley would indicate that there’s some respect going on there.

  5. This is true. Let’s put it differently then, because I’m sure Nas respects Joss Stone, and even Jeezy in a certain sense. Sometimes Nas thinks it’s a cool idea for him, a rapper’s rapper (and not much else), to do these non-trad-rap excursions, often with Southern rappers who aren’t gifted emcees in the traditional sense, sometimes with pop singers or Kelis or whatever. When he does so, instead of giving them a quality Nas verse, he seems to think, “okay, now’s the time for me to use some weird pop flow at which I suck, now’s the time to talk about shit I would normally never talk about in some little patois.” And he may not be consciously disrespecting the artist or condescending to him/her, he probably thinks this is some new cool experimental I-can-switch-it-up Nas. But it comes to the same thing.