A Theory Explains Why Nas Sounds Off Beat On His New DJ Khaled Collabo

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Hi. We recently created AFH TV, Ambrosia For Heads’ streaming video service, because we believe real Hip-Hop deserves its own dedicated TV home, but we need your help to make it great. Please subscribe to AFH TV. It is only $1.99/month or $12/year, and already features some amazing content, but the best is yet to come. Thank you for all of your support.

As fans continue to await news of a follow-up to Nas’ 2012 LP Life Is Good, DJ Khaled has been one of the leading voices in suggesting that such a return is imminent. A fire was stoked when he released “Nas Album Done” in 2016, and the flames continue to fan thanks to yet another collaboration between the two superstars. “It’s Secured” brought the pair together again, and almost immediately, chatter about Nas’ performance on the song led many to question why the legendary Queens MC appears to be entirely offbeat.

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A theory proposed by DJ Booth addresses the surprising criticism, suggesting that Nas’ apparent stumble is the result of technology, not any shortcoming on his part. “While it might seem hard to believe that a rap legend like Nas could miss the pocket of a beat, according to veteran producer and one-half of Def Jam duo AOE, Dawaun Parker, it’s not that hard to explain,” writes DJ Z, before quoting a tweet in which Parker says “Nas never writes to the beat that we hear him on. Almost always an Acapella [sic] that you gotta shift in Pro Tools.”

It’s a sound enough suggestion. An artist as accomplished and in demand as Nas could very well have stashes of a cappella rhymes in his arsenal, ready to be added as a featured verse at any given moment. According to this theory, Nas “sends DJ Khaled (and his engineer) the a capella [sic] files, and then it’s up to Khaled’s production team—in this case, 808-Ray and Cool & Dre—to make it work…Except, in this case, it didn’t,” argues DJB. Parker followed up his aforementioned tweet in a statement to DJ Booth, saying “I’m not saying that’s how [he] records every track…I obviously have no idea. But I’ve seen it more than once. So, whenever I hear a Nas verse that has interesting timing or flows, I assume it’s an a capella that’s being re-purposed.”

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If indeed this is a common practice in Hip-Hop, whereby a producer or artist is so eager to land a feature from a particular person that a verse clearly written to another beat (or to no beat whatsoever) is acceptable, then one could assume some of Rap’s well-known records came about in a similar fashion. However, rarely does a conversation about just how offbeat an MC of Nas’ caliber emerge.