by Dan O
I just couldn’t see what the big deal was. Surrounded by Nack fans in discord chats & my Twitter feed, none of them could give a real explanation as to the Lynn, Mass rappers greatness. Most hip hop cult followings are full of folks giving you lists of reasons & yelling at you to convert. Nack fans are smug, self-assured “Nack is ILL.” So when forces coalesced on the RMPP discord pushing hard about the greatness of V Don & Estee Nack’s new album B.R.A.P. (Born Rewards & Penalties) it felt like the right time to re-engage. V Don is a serious asset. Artists like Willie The Kid & Dark Lo never sound better than when they spit over V Don. You can find a lot of grit in the New York hip hop scene but V Don brings that Harlem size & clarity to an Emcee. Forget grit, V Don gives you clean yet sinister a sonic mid-point between the Rick Ross era luxury rap production & what the NY underground does so often now. I knew if Nack couldn’t grab me over V Don it was unlikely to happen in general.
Five listens deep I finally realized I loved the album. It was like getting bum rushed. Opening Statements is a perfect introduction with strings that take the impact of the beat to another level. If Nack was a boxer he would be burying his opponent in punch count. You get the strings & a brief sample but from 8 seconds on Nack is breathing fire like he has to nail this song to keep living. The confidence of the Nack fanbase makes complete sense, on Opening Statements he even says, “Free the gods yo! I’m lining my streets in marble. Stupid N’s I don’t need to argue or even disregard you.”
I had lumped Nack in with that vast group of hard-headed East Coast rappers in this post-Griselda wave, but some important factors create vast separation: 1) as a hook creator Nack is superb just listen to Penny Pinchin’. This isn’t a spitter who needs to pull others in to handle hook duties. While B.R.A.P. has a few features none of them carry the weight of delivering the song. Nack is completely self-sufficient b/c of his ear for beats & ability to craft a song, hook included. 2) While Nack dances on tracks finding pockets no one could hit like he does, I must honor the inventiveness of his pen. Devils Can’t Fool God addresses the converging of negative forces discussing self-hate, hunger, betrayal while the beat drops out & back in. Nack says “Maybe if I get enough money it will heal the pain,” on The Uncanny. He obeys the Ice-T rule: if you’re going to give a window into the hard life it better appear hard. Don’t make it look cute when it ain’t. I can’t imagine B.R.A.P. without minute & thirty six seconds of Who To Trust where we get brain fragments, sexual relationships you can’t trust, palm trees, photo ops, it makes this album a world unto itself & the majestic nature of the piano keys take us there.
High punch count Nack packs more in these individual lines than you’ll notice on first listen. Fiends with British accents, scary people with weak backbones. Rigz, Eto, Primo Profit all sound great but no one shines like Nack & I have to thank V Don for it. You can’t listen to Vivir/Triumfar/Y/Morir, P. 2 & not bask in how beautiful the production is ,not to mention, Nack’s opening line is “I been listening to Jodeci lately, peace to all the vinyl company owners & promotors that hate me.” At thirty-three minutes with no fat on it B.R.A.P. is addictive & has me down the Estee Nack rabbit hole. It’s a new world with a lot of energy.
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