Nas: "Hip Hop Is Dead"
Producers: various
Def Jam
Release Date: Dec. 19

Nas and Jay-Z ending their feud and teaming up is one of the most unlikely entertainment-related partnerships ever; prior to 2005, theirs was the Wikipedia entry on "beef." One can't help but think such distractions are what Nas had in mind with the eyebrow-raising proclamations here, on which he stands "on the roof of my building" to issue a venomous indictment of the state of hip-hop. The concept has powerfully crystallized Nas' lyrics: he spits a roster of "lost MCs" on "Where Are They Now" and delivers a wrenching series of body slams in the Iron Butterfly-sampling title track. And, of course, Jay's at-long-last "featuring" on "Black Republican" comes fashioned with a fanfare of horns and a "Godfather"-sampling beat). Tag-teaming with Jay certainly doesn't hurt Nas' sales potential, but what you take away from "Dead" is his steel-eyed determination, and the sense that he's pushing himself at full speed again.--Jeff Vrabel

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