It’s been a month. Sorry to all who were waiting. I admit I had lost interest in doing these reviews but now that I’ve listened to Nas’ album, I feel inspired enough to do more reviews. I will try my best to be more regular. Probably a post per week. We’ll see. But thank you for your patience.
On the cover of the album, Nas sits in a reflective stance as he sits on a leather seat with his ex-wife’s wedding dress, apparently the one thing she left behind after their ugly divorce. One would think that Nas has plenty to be angry about. This is the same man who wrote “Ether” and other venomous attacks towards his foes. But in the opening track (so aptly titled “No Introduction”), he realizes that he is not faultless and instead of spewing hatred on Kelis, he sends love claiming, “life is good”.
Life is good? Years ago, life was treated far differently, as many hip hop fans can recall. But the Nas of today is different from the Nas of years ago. He confesses that he has “been rich longer than [he] has been broke”. The rapper once known as Nasty Nas lived the street life, where a way out seemed impossible unless it meant death. But now that he has been rich for so long, the street life seems to only be a memory rather than reality. Nas sees that his problems lie elsewhere. In “Daughters”, he sees the difficulties in being a righteous father-figure when he himself doesn’t have a clean history. He understands that he was not the faithful husband he should have been. But he also doesn’t hesitate to ask why Kelis would give up so quickly when they had such a close relationship (“Bye Baby”).
Yet all this drama seems to serve as motivation as Nas runs through the album with complex flows and pin-point precision, weaving pictures of his younger days and his life now. It’s a mix of braggadocio and reflection, many times within the same verse. For example, “You Wouldn’t Understand”:
Hudson River, rent a boat, t-shirt with a dinner coat
A vintage Fila like I’m the ghost of Domencio
On any day getting throwed in a tinted vehicle
Like a old BK gangsta, but I’m the CEO
Of Nasty Nas Enterprise, mastermind, made men
My success symbolizes loyalty, great friends
Dedication, hard work, routine builds character
In a world full of snakes, rats and scavengers
And not only is Nas lyrically reinvigorated, but his beat selection has vastly improved with Salaam Remi and No ID handling most of the production. From the dramatic piano and choirs of “Accident Murderers” to the sweet soul of “Cherry Wine” with heavy reminisces of the 1990s sound, the production is almost golden, save for the out-of-place “Summer on Smash” produced by Swizz Beatz. The album also features a small guest-list (Rick Ross is the only other rapper who has a verse), allowing Nas to dominate the album from start to finish with his guests acting as proper guests. Ross, in particular delivers a memorable yet irrelevant verse on “Accident Murderers” (he talks more about rags-to-riches than “accident murderers”).
Life is good for Nas despite all the shortcomings. As the man pushes 40, he feels he has much to look forward to, now that he is a much wiser man, having learned from his past. He understands that neither life nor he is perfect and that his past may make look like a punching bag. But he also understands that his past is what makes him relatable. And the fact that he is relatable factors in his legacy as one of the greatest rappers on the mic. So at the end, you’ll end up laughing at him or laughing with him.