The 25 Realest Rap Songs About Prison

Nas "One Love" (1994)

Producer: Q-Tip
Album: Illmatic
Label: Columbia

Q-Tip's jazzy soundscape and hypnotic two-word hook belie the bleakness of this Nasir Jones composition, which unfolds through a series of letters to incarcerated comrades that flip the title of Bob Marley's sunniest anthem into something much colder. "The first time I started seeing the words One Love was written in letters from some friends that was locked down," Nas once explained. "It always starts with, like, I hope you’re in the best of health. And then it would end on 'One Love.' And the letters that I wrote back I would write 'One Love.'"

Here his pen pours out a complex matrix of regrets—"when the cops came you shoulda slid to my crib"—and family tragedies, from the shooting of Jerome's niece and the birth of a son whose mother has already moved on, to Born's mom, who weeps at the sight of a family decimated by poverty and the ravages of the drug trade. Still the song's most heartbreaking line may be this defiantly delusional promise: "when you come home the corners is ours." Though the third verse offers a brief respite via weed smoke and creative release—"I take my pen and pad for the weekend"—Jake is always patiently waiting to catch you when you slip. —Rob Kenner

Stay Connected with
Complex Music
Tags: nas
blog comments powered by Disqus