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[Video Anthology Vol. 1] Nas :: Video Anthology Vol. 1
Label: Columbia Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

One of a growing number of DVD compilations showcasing the video side of popular rappers otherwise known for their aural side, "Video Anthology Vol. 1" is the first collection of Nas to hit store shelves. It's little wonder that this isn't hard to find at most retail outlets in the same year that "Street's Disciple" is released, as Nas seems to be making a statement about both his importance to the history of hip-hop and the influence he both has and continues to have. Who would have guessed that the same Queensbridge rapper that once looked for a little shine on Main Source's "Live at the BBQ" would become an international icon of rap?

Nasir knew. You can see it in the cocky swagger he has throughout "Halftime," a song which was originally spawned from the "Zebrahead" soundtrack that would eventually wind up on "Illmatic." You can tell the history of the song by the stripes that Nas raps in front of throughout the video. It's gritty and low budget, with shots of his crew chilling on stoops and in project hallways interspersed between his vividly visual raps. In fact, it's the raps that paint the pictures here, since it predates him being a big star with a big budget. It's a shame there aren't more videos like this today, with a stripped down and raw feel and appeal that really makes the MC the star. No scantily clad females or big name guests in this one dunn. It's also a video that must not have had much airplay back in the day, because (1) I don't remember seeing it on Yo! MTV Raps and (2) the verbals are entirely uncensored, as Nas spits lines like "now in every jam I'm the fuckin man," "I used to watch Chips, now I load glock clips" and "versatile, my style switches like a faggot." Can you imagine any executive at Viacom letting Nas do all of that, let alone repeatedly make the sign of a gun being fired with his hands? It's all incredibly innocuous but to overly sensitive politically correct FCC asskissers it would be cause for a heart attack if it ever got on the air.

The order of the videos on the album isn't exactly biographical or chronological, but it hardly matters. What's important is that all of the classics are here, from popular underground bangers of the DJ Premier produced "Nas is Like" ilk to the controversial "Hate Me Now" video featuring Puff Daddy. How controversial? Music channels actually required Nas and his label to run a disclaimer before the clip, and most of them would only air it after 9 o'clock in the evening. If you missed out on the drama, it was basically a bunch of uptight Christians who felt it was sacrilegious to see Nas being carrying a cross to his own crucifixion and being stoned along the way. While there's no question that the director Hype Williams was intentionally trying to put Nas in a light analagous to Jesus as a persecuted man, the disclaimer correctly notes that "since 600 B.C. many thousands upon thousands of men and women have been crucified for their beliefs." Shit to some Christians, you'd think that the cross was invented solely for Jesus, and that he was the only one in history to ever be crucified on one. Besides I tend to side with the comedians on this one - wearing a cross around your neck is little better than wearing a gold gun on a chain and saying it reminds you of 2Pac. Personally I'd rather celebrate his life than his death, y'knahmean?

Anyway if I'm done pissing off conservative pricks, let's get back to what's important here - the videos. It's no coincidence that since music videos are made for singles, and singles are usually the hottest songs on an album, this is a pretty hot collection of tracks. The themes in these videos run the gamut from the mob fantasies of "Street Dreams," to the sextastic freaking ode "You Owe Me" with Ginuwine, to the gritty anthem "Made You Look" which basically took Nas full circle back to his "Halftime" days by featuring just the rapper and the mic as he hung out in a variety of hood locations and at the Queensbridge North Houses. Of course at this point in his career Nas could afford better quality video cameras and he flaunts an expensive chain along with his cordless mic, but the point is the same - without the lyrics and the flow, there's no Nas.

As a result there's really nothing you can hate now about "Video Anthology Vol. 1," and by including everything from his debut all the way up through "God's Son" he's also making the statement that he won't stop now. In fact, by ending on the hopeful song and message of "I Can," featuring a bunch of shorties mugging for the cameras as Nas tells them they can be "an architect, a doctor, maybe an actress," Nas is stating that just like his own career, there's a chance for the youth of the world to grow from small-time roots to future success. For Nas there seems to be no end to that successful road. There isn't much for extra features, but the one that they included is a bombshell - each of the 14 videos includes a commentary track where you can hear Nas discussing where he was at in his career and what the videos are all about. For a Nas fan or a hip-hop fan either way, "Video Anthology Vol. 1" should be considered a must own.

Content: 10 of 10 Layout: 10 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 10 of 10

Originally posted: December 7, 2004
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