Friday, 15 August 2008


There are so many anthems in this miraculous year of hip hop which I ought to be hearing sung and/or shouted in every street, bus, train and house I pass and "Hero" bulges with intentional bigness. Nas' burningly intense and righteous sleevenote to the New Album Which Has No Name (Reclaim!) pulses with as much justifiable anger as Shepp's did in the sixties, and given the welcome miscegenation of which "Hero" is just one of many recently added parts it becomes even more absurd that this music should have to plead or yell for proper air time or respect.

Now Nas takes it upon himself to stride out into the streets with his banner of stellar hope; swim in the tremulously twinkling starlights of the verses, plucked harp strings from a Vangelis arpeggio until everything is SLAMMED together in an unbelievable all-Human-League-choruses-at-once resolution, Keri Hilson coming over the mountain top as Nas reluctantly agrees to heroism. Astral bodies converge, converse and fuse as the rapper continues on his quest, even though he be beset by "crooks and castles" alike. He reflects on his fallen colleagues who had to be content with breaking into shops rather than having shops closed especially so they could shop but his most ferocious roars are reserved for the "universal apartheid" that corporate media are keen to promote everywhere, the continued conspiracy on the part of mainstream radio, television and press to present their willingly traduced demographic with the illusion of greater choice even as they narrow any real "choice" down to make it as invisible as possible, and on the part of multinational record companies to prevent Nas from using the words and terms he knows that he needs to use and cleanse; over a sudden surge of angry rock guitar he yells "Try telling Bob Dylan, Bruce or Billy Joel they can't sing what's in their soul!" "Think about these talented kids," he warns, "with new ideas being told what they can and can't spit" and we know why he has to go on, as the colours of the chorus again unfurl and crystallise in the black-blue sky with its awe-filled surges, its Barack-ushering in panopticon of hope. Number one by November, please.