There are probably more coins in your pocket right now than there are new releases this week, but don't forget about that big fat precious silver dollar with an "N" on it that's jingling around. That's right: If this week's batch of fresh titles has a mantra, it's "Make Way for Nas."
UGK and Mos Def — and Katharine McPhee, for that matter — postponed their upcoming efforts, clearing the battlefield so Nasty Nas can wreak havoc. A few other hip-hop artists are holding strong against the big guy, though: Styles P, Trick Daddy, Bow Wow and DJ Clue are also laying out fresh slices, and no less than T.I. is anteing up with a spic-and-span compilation from his label, Grand Hustle.
But if you're not into hip-hop, this might be a good week to take a nap: Aside from a Bullet for My Valentine DVD and a Neil Young reissue, rock fans probably won't be debating which new title to spend their money on this week.
Not that he has any reason to worry, but here's the competition Nas is facing this week, and a reason why he can expect to trounce every one of them:
Styles P's Time Is Money: Despite the cautious title of his new LP, the former LOX-er took a spell to put out the follow-up to 2002's A Gangster and a Gentleman. But now Styles has finally come around to do the whole sophomore thing, and he's galvanized his friends for the affair: The LOX reunite for a remix of "Who Want a Problem," which also features Swizz Beatz; Mario Winans throws down on "Can You Believe It"; Talib Kweli guides Styles to "Testify"; Gerald LeVert joins him for "Real Sh--"; Sizzla shows him through "Fire & Pain"; and the band Flipsyde re-emerge to help Styles "Burn One Down."
Why Nas Will Beat Him: On his new one, Hip Hop Is Dead, Nas' guests include Jay-Z ("Black Republican"), Snoop Dogg ("Play on Playa"), the Game and Floetry's Marsha Ambrosius ("Hustlers"), Will.I.Am ("Hip Hop Is Dead"), Kelis ("Not Going Back"), newcomer Chrisette Michele ("Can't Forget About You," "Hope" and "Still Dreaming") and, last but not least, Kanye West (also on "Still Dreaming").
Trick Daddy's Back by Thug Demand: Chamillionaire, Jaheim, Trey Songz, Trina, Baby, 8Ball and others are helping Trick-Trick celebrate his seventh solo LP. "There are people out there that ain't got nowhere to stay," he said in his most recent press bio. "All they can do is rob or gamble or steal or sell dope. I put people on the level where they can relate and understand what other people go through."
Why Nas Will Beat Him: Because as gritty a concept as Trick Daddy is bringing to the table, Nas' is way more controversial. Hip Hop Is Dead sparked a flurry of debate and outrage before its release, even provoking Ludacris to wear to the BET Hip-Hop Awards a T-shirt that read "Hip-hop is not dead, it lives in the South." Even Nas seems to be taking the other side of the debate on "Hope," which includes the lyric "Hip-hop will never die."
Bow Wow's The Price of Fame: Few rappers have put out five albums before breaking out of their teens, but Bow can now consider himself part of that elite crew. Perhaps to help him grieve over former girlfriend Ciara, who he waxes about on his new effort, the rapper enlisted some help, including Chris Brown and Jermaine Dupri. As a bonus, he doled out signed copies of his album to fans who preordered.
Why Nas Will Beat Him: Nas didn't sign any preorders, but he is gifting early birds who use iTunes with something perhaps even better: an exclusive track called "Shine On!"
DJ Clue's The Professional 3: A Roc-A-Fella co-conspirator for about a decade, the mixtape guru from Queens, New York, sure knows how to attract rap's biggest names. The roster this time around includes Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne, Juelz Santana, Jadakiss, Swizz Beatz, Paul Wall, Beanie Sigel, Fabolous, Styles P and Kanye West.
Why Nas Will Beat Him: Because even though Clue has been in Jay-Z's good graces for years, it's the man Jay beefed with for years that he's putting all his power behind to promote. Expect Nas' new one to overshadow his labelmate's latest.
Various artists' Grand Hustle Presents: In Da Streetz Volume 4: T.I. has been dishing In Da Streetz comps since 2002, but finally the mixtape series is getting some extra cred by going retail for its fourth volume. Hoping to piggyback on Tip's five Billboard Awards, the 14-track platter features Young Jeezy ("Top Back" remix), Young Dro ("My Girl"), Yung Joc ("Yeah" remix) and others.
Why Nas Will Beat Them: Those "others" include Xtaci, Alfamega, Macboney and other newcomers. Nas fans, on other hand, won't be distracted by much fresh blood on his new one.
Bullet for My Valentine's "The Poison - Live at Brixton" DVD: The Welsh metalheads have only been around for three years, but they've already proved their salt by selling out the U.K.'s vaunted Brixton Academy for this filmed concert involving 15 cameras. Beyond the live material, there are eight episodes from the band's life-on-the-road "Bullet TV" series, plus an additional hour's worth of videos and more.
Why Nas Will Beat Them: Uh, because it's a rock album?
Neil Young's Living With War - Raw: This limited special edition is boosted by a DVD containing in-the-studio footage for each of the politically charged album's 10 tracks.
Why Nas Will Beat Him: Because it's Nas versus Neil Young.
Song Title of the Week:
"Shortie Like Mine" from Bow Wow's The Price of Fame
New Releases: · Blak Jak - Place Your Bets (Universal Republic) · Bow Wow - The Price of Fame (Sony Urban) [Buy Now] Read: "Bow Wow Fesses Up About Ex-Girlfriend Ciara On December LP" · DJ Clue - The Professional 3 (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam) [Buy Now] · Lorraine Hunt Lieberson - Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Sings Peter Lierberson: Neruda Songs (Nonesuch) · Nas - Hip Hop Is Dead (Def Jam) [Buy Now] Read: "MTV News Exclusive: Nas Previews Hip-Hop Is Dead ... The N" · RBD - Rebels (enhanced; Virgin) [Buy Now] · Styles P - Time Is Money (Ruff Ryders) · Trick Daddy - Back by Thug Demand (Atlantic) [Buy Now] · Various artists - Grand Hustle Presents: In Da Streetz Volume 4 (Grand Hustle/ Atlantic)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material: · Jerry Lee Lewis - Rockin' With the Killer (Fuel) · Neil Young - Living With War - Raw (limited-edition version with DVD; Reprise) · Various artists - The Ultimate '50s Collection (Fuel)
Music DVDs: · Bullet for My Valentine - "The Poison - Live at Brixton" (Trustkill)
December 26: · Good Charlotte - "Fast Future Generation" DVD (Epic/Daylight) · N.W.A - The Best of N.W.A: The Strength of Street Knowledge (deluxe version with DVD also available; Capitol/Priority) [Preorder] · Omarion - 21 (Sony Urban) [Preorder] Read: "Boy To Man: Omarion Grows Up On The 'Personal' 21" · Switchfoot - Oh! Gravity (Columbia) [Preorder] Read: "Life, Death, Social Entropy? Switchfoot Get Weighty On Oh! Gravity" · Various artists - The Family Values Tour 2006 (Firm)
January 2: · Various artists - L-Tunes: Music From and Inspired by "The L-Word" (Columbia) · Carly Simon - Into White (Columbia) · Unwritten Law - The Hit List (Rocket Science) [Preorder]