On my first listen, I was certain it was Nas (rather than Raekwon) spitting the last verse. It's a gentle, almost-tired whisper the sounds wise, not arrogant:
nigga hat game was specialit matched every black pair of Nikesthrowing dice for decimalsthe older head, bolder head, would train a soldier headmake sure he right in the field, not a soldier deadgot made code redbreak up the black skunkthe black dutch, back of the old shedif you can't live, you dyingyou give or buy inkeep it real or keep it moving, keep grindingkeep shining, to every young man, this is a planIn his debut album, Nas was often called "The Second Coming of Raekwon," but that acclaim (and it was acclaim) died off when Nas' subsequent 90s albums demonstrated a bling-mediocrity few would have predicted from his promisings start. Thankfully, he pulled his career back from the brink, and his last six albums have been consistently strong. After years of tirelessly listening to Nas, I hadn't realized how much his style truly emulated Raekwon, so I was excited to hear West provide space on this track, and Raekwon delivers, redeeming one of the drabber songs on the album.
Track three is Power, one of the most pure, "hip hop" songs in the mix, and yet there is nothing simplistic or one-dimensional about it. It's grand and aggressive, starting with a chant that builds and builds, layer upon layer, tribal, punk, techno, alt rock, rap... I'm not sure what it is that makes a film "epic." Lawrence of Arabia is epic. Braveheart is epic. So is Star Wars. All three have sweeping panoramic shots, lush, varied landscapes, rich textures, high drama, a huge number of actors in front of the camera. And yet there are plenty of films with all these components that are decidedly not epic. The same can be said of music, though the components are slightly different. Power is an epic. It's lyrics aren't particularly gripping, but they serve as instruments carrying the message, not the message itself. The message is the whole.
I’m livin’ in the 21st century
Doin’ something mean to it
Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it
Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it
I guess every superhero need his theme music
No one man should have all that power
The clock’s tickin’, I just count the hours
Stop trippin’, I’m trippin’ off the power
(21st century schizoid man)
Watch this video. The man is a narcissist, but there's something about it, isn't there? It's quite something...