Hip Hop Is Dead

In an aggressively immature youth culture, aging is a taboo subject. Nas is one of the few major hip-hop artists to gracefully explore it. The title Hip Hop Is Dead was widely misinterpreted as an attack on the South's commercial dominance of rap music; instead, it finds Nas fully explicating a subject hinted on past songs such as "Second Childhood." As a thirtysomething man playing a boy's game, Nas passionately argues for his relevance. He leaves the ghettos of his mind behind on "Not Going Back"; on "Let There Be Light" he rhymes, "I can't sound smart because y'all run away/They say I ain't hungry no more and I don't talk about yay/Like there's no other way for an hustler ... I beg to differ." Hip Hop Is Dead is less remarkable for a battery of outstanding radio-ready hits than a tapestry of tightly woven narratives, the kind of stories meant for adults, not children. 4 stars.