“Escobar Season has returned.” With those four words, Puff Daddy launched one of the most epic records in Nas’ prized catalog. With a swelling, gothic arrangement, “Hate Me Now” was Nas’ middle finger to the world. After taking lumps from certain hardcore Hip-Hop fans for they saw as his selling out on his sophomore album, It Was Written…–which featured a more mainstream sound and lyrics that were much more materialistic, in places, than those found on Illmatic–Nas returned to a grittier sound on his third album, I Am… Songs like “Nas Is Like” and “Undying Love,” re-captured the rawness of his classic debut.
However, “Hate Me Now” seemed to deliberately stick out like a sore finger, as Nas collaborated with the man who epitomized the glitz and glamor for which Nasir had been derided on I Am… Puff Daddy was literally known as the “shiny suit man” at the time and celebrated the good life, hedonistically. Nas’ opening lines set the tone for the entire song, “Don’t hate me. Hate the money I see, clothes that I buy, ice that I wear, clothes that I try. Close your eyes. Picture me rollin’. Sixes, money foldin’. Bitches, honeys that swollen to riches, Nas get in ya.” He goes on, though, to assert that his shine takes nothing away from his talent, “Most critically acclaimed Pulitzer Prize winner. Best storyteller, thug narrator. My style’s greater.”
Last night, during the celebration of 20 years of Bad Boy Entertainment, at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Nas took the stage, again fully embracing his “Esco” persona, and cementing its connection with Puff Daddy, by donning the mogul’s 20+ feet long mink coat. Over the years, Nas’ diversity has been showcased and accepted by fans–MC, businessman, father, husband and epic stunter–but the reaction of the crowd when they heard those operatic chords was no less explosive than it was in 1999, when the song dominated clubs and car stereos.