Bitch Please: Nas or Talib Kweli?


Welcome to Bitch Please, the newest offering from The Daily Iowan’s rabble-rousing Arts and Culture staff. Bitch Please is a place where two DI staffers argue about all that is wonderful in the entertainment world. In the inaugural debate, reporters Shawn Gude and Nick Fetty tackle which MC is the best at rockin’ the mike, Nas or Talib Kweli?

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When I first listened to Illmatic, New York rapper Nas’ venerable 1994 début, I wasn’t blown away.

Relatively minimalistic beats, standard hip-hop topics (or so I thought), and a decidedly uncatchy overall package — it all seemed, well, average.

What I failed to notice during my initial listen (and several subsequent ones) were the intricacies, the nuances of Nas’ superior lyricism, and the complementary production on the widely acclaimed album.

Without falling into the standard trap of glorification and over-the-top opulence, Nas expertly weaves through tales of crooked cops, crackheads, and gun fights.

Illmatic oscillates between pessimism (“Life’s a bitch, and then you die; that’s why we get high / Cause you never know when you’re gonna go”) and sober optimism (“Life is parallel to Hell, but I must maintain”). But through it all, Nas’ storytelling shines through.

The 35-year old has proven he’s equally adept at delivering biting social commentary, with lyrics decrying materialism (“What you base your happiness around?/ Material, women, and large paper?/ That means you’re inferior, not major”), institutionalized bigotry (“Schools with outdated books, we are the forgotten”) and apathy and indecision in the black community (“We begged, we prayed, petitioned, and demonstrated / Just to make another generation — black zombies”).

Simply put, Nas is the best rapper alive.

Talib Kweli

Unlike many rappers, Kweli was brought up in an upper-class family by parents who were college professors. This shows that rappers that don’t have to be from “the hood” or have a sketchy background to be legitimate.

I like Kweli’s lyrical content. He raps about important social issues and often leaves the listener thinking. Kweli also has a smooth flow to his delivery, unlike Nas’ slightly more hard-hitting style.

Last, Kweli has worked with some of the industry’s greatest. In 1999 Kweli teamed up with Mos Def for Black Star, one of my all-time favorite rap albums. Kweli has also worked with Madlib, will.i.am , and Kanye West.

Honestly, my only criticism about Kweli is that he’s a Yankee fan, or at least sports a Yankee cap.

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