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Nas returns here with his best album since Illmatic and one of the best albums of the year. Now as a big Nas fan, for me it will be hard to ever top the Illmatic and this album although very good, does not do so. Don't let that put you off though, as this album is a turning point for Nas and after a few mediocre albums over the last few years has proved that he still one of the best rappers in the game.
The main subject matter revolves around his relatively recent divorce from singer Kelis and he has made a conscience effort to go back to his style from his early albums. His rapping had become slightly more commercial lets put it, and I for one never thought he would go back to this sort of rapping. Old school beats with the Nas swerve from Illmatic. I heard someone else say that this has a very nostalgic feel to it and I couldn't describe it better myself. As usual I will review my favourite tracks from the album.
Life is Good
The first track I heard from the album, and the moment I knew Nas was back with a bang. It features Mary J Blige who is as great as ever. Vocally she is excellent and nails the hooks whilst Nas nails the flows in the raps. It is the catchiest track on the album and very upbeat. The lyrics are also very thought provoking and he talks about how rich he is which makes it hard to maintain his routes. Also he spits another awesome liar, about how it's awkward that he has become greater than the legends he grew up looking to. I highly recommend youtubing this track.
This track stands out the most as it features the late Amy Winehouse. They recorded it a couple of years ago and it is great to hear Amy's voice again. I can't say I was her biggest fan, and definitely not of her drug fuelled lifestyle, but she has a unique voice. With the 80's style beat you cannot ask for a more complementary voice. Nas hits the ground running here, and whilst the flow isn't as smooth as Life Is Good, it is still equally as effective.
This one has a bizarre hook, with a slightly electronic sounding woman. Clearly they have added some effects to the voice, but it all adds to the track. This track I love due to the lyrics, rather than the beat. He raps so many puns and rhymes everything together with topics ranging from tax brackets, going to hell, relationships. It is like a million topics all rolled in to one song, but essentially it relates to Kelis as most of the album does. I could be wrong though and it could be another woman. The beat is quite mellow and simple at the same time. If anything I would describe it as haunting, especially with the hook. Definitely not one to lighten your mood.
Overall this is a solid album, and has a number of great tracks. Even some that could have made the cut for Illmatic, but that album is one of the greatest albums of all time, so nothing was really going to compare, and I can't even compare this album. However it was great to see Nas back to his old school flow and long may it continue. He needs to forget about making tunes that appeal commercially and continue to make tracks for his true fans that have stuck by him through the 18 years since his debut album.
Nas is arguably one of the best rappers of all time. He has delivery, charisma, lyrics, good beat selection and all in all he delivers hit records. Life is good for a rapper who has been in the game when most of the new school generation were in nappies and has seen many come and go. His new effort delivers for those who enjoy rap having grown up on it but may be in a different place in their life due to maturing. He doesn't rap like a person in denial, you know, the type who are millionaires but talk as if they are still in the streets and partaking in criminal activites. He gives us his perspective on his current situation and a truely accurate one at that. He also allows us to understand that older people are relevant in rap, and regardless of your comfortable financial situation and family there is always some struggle and heartbreak in life
Daughters is one of the best songs I have heard from Nas in a while which chronicles his relationship with his daughter Destiny who is now 18 and going off to college. It allows anyone with a child or loved one to relate to him and shows a different role many do not see in the rap game: a father.
The Don is another great song built around a Supercat sample Party in New York which shows the streets and Nas' core fanbase that he is still the one to beat when it comes to lyrics and bravado. This definately deserves respect.
Bye bye baby is about his ex-wife Kelis who he endured a painful divorce with. The lyrics and beat on this song are amazing as well as the old school sample which makes the track flawless.
All in all a great, classic effort from QB's own Nasir Olu Bin Daru Jones.
*Review also posted of ciao.co.uk under HennyRoc*
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 No Introduction
2 Loco - Motive feat. Large Professor
3 A Queens Story
4 Accident Murderers feat. Rick Ross
6 Reach Out feat. Mary J. Blige
7 World?s An Addiction feat. Anthony Hamilton
8 Summer On Smash feat. Miguel & Swizz Beatz
9 You Wouldn?t Understand feat. Victoria Monet
10 Back When
11 The Don
13 Cherry Wine feat. Amy Winehouse
14 Bye Baby
16 The Black Bond
18 Where?s The Love feat. Cocaine 80s