Nas is many things, poet, innovator; despite naming his fourth studio album Nastradamus, he can’t see the future. Released on the cusp of the millennium, this messy project shows a fascination with the new century. There’s even a feature from the Millennium Thug aka Nashawn, whose career died on 1st January 2001.
Rap in general was in a bleak place in 1999 and Nastradamus is no exception. It’s filled with shallow hedonistic raps and improbable first-person anecdotes about moving cocaine by the kilogram. In a word, it’s similar to today’s rap but without all the Auto-Tune crooning. Having said that, Nas does engage in a spot of singing on “Big Girl”, but without electronics to massage the vocals it’s as bad as you are probably imagining.
Special mention goes to “You Owe Me”, widely regarded as Nas’ worst moment. He’s never been good at making love songs but informing his lady-friend she owes him sex like the US government owes slavery reparation is thoroughly unsexy. Even J. Cole called Nas out for this nonesense.
We’re not here to pile on with this rare missteps in the hallowed Nasir Jones catalogue, instead, we’re going to talk about one of the better tracks, “New World”. Over a sample of Toto’s “Africa” we hear Nas embracing the new millennium and making some bold prophecies. It’s now 2018 so let’s see how well he can predict the future, from best worst:
7. Driverless Cars
“Solar-energized rides, no steering wheel / tell it how to drive”
Strong start. We now live in a world where driverless cars are a reality, surely only a few years from mass adoption. When they aren’t mowing down cyclists, driverless cars can be controlled remotely and by apps so very good from Nastradamus.
6. Mars Exploration
“Waitin’ lists for the rich to get tickets to visit Mars”
A few lines into the song and we’re looking good. While humans have yet to hit Mars there’s been plenty of talk of space tourism. While the Red Planet remains a lofty ambition, science is aiming to land humans on Mars.
5. Computers Taking Jobs
“While the poor people starve, computers takin’ over they jobs / A man’s forced to live off land”
Ok, here’s where things get a bit shaky. In the past 20 years we’ve seen computers destroy several industries like travel agents. Amazon’s cashless and staffless stores mean retail could realistically go this way too.
But Nas’ suggestion that humans will be disenfranchised en-masse by the computers and move back an arable society is a touch alarmist. It’s been 20 years and we’re no closer to a feudal society.
4. People respecting Donald Trump
“The new Don Trump is Bill Gates / Not because his occupation, it’s cause we respect his cake”
We can’t really blame Nas too much for this one, in 1999 people still liked Donald Trump. At this point he was merely an amusing billionaire with a surprising amount of cache in the rap community.
In 2018 Trump has been exposed for the manipulative, egomaniac he is, yet he remains President of the United States, and is supported by a vast amount of his country. Your thoughts on this prediction depend on where you sit on the political spectrum.
3. The Email Dating Revolution
“Alexander Graham Bell made telephones, yes / But now we request for your e-mail address”
In 1999 Nas must have thought he was ahead of the game by incorporating cutting-edge email addresses into his chat. Smooth.
Since 2000 we’ve had several notable landmarks in the age of online chirpsing, in order: Text messages, MSN Messenger, MySpace, Facebook, and Tinder, but phone numbers remain just as effective.
2. Toasters will be obsolete
“Say goodbye to the toasters and Pop-Tarts / Yo, it’s real”
Verse 3 is where things derail, as Nas calls out the mighty toaster. C’mon Nas, the toaster is one of the most perfect inventions we have.
Since 1893, the toaster has been an unrivalled invention that has barely been improved since the 1950s. We haven’t even got smart toasters yet because of the machine’s simplistic genius. Pop the bread in, come back in a couple minutes and it’s all nicely toasted.
1. Food Pills
Swallow a little pill, there’s a four-course meal
This is coming from someone who grew up watching The Jetsons eat their meals in pills-form, Nas imagines a future where we get all our food in pills. This scenario appears extremely unlikely instead the biggest threat to our meal-times is vegans.