Tuesday, July 17, 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Did @Nas drop the best album of 2012???

Nas - Life is Good LP receives .9 out of 1 full gram

Nasir Jones has experienced his own fair share of ups and downs. He is after all just a man. His personal and professional life is a catalog of tears and triumph. Through it all, it has been his artistry and superb lyrical ability that has earned him a throne in Hip Hop's pantheon. Since his 1994 debut, Nas has been a wordsmith second to none. His music grew side by side with his personal life taking on the tones of struggle, success, gangsterism, glamour, personal loss, retribution, fatherhood and marriage as he experienced them. The hustler became a king! Even still, no matter how much his life changed or the sonic sound of production changed, Nas remained sharp with the pen and pad spitting fire on everything at everything about everything. Some rank him as the greatest MC to ever do it! Most consider him top 5 all time! That's just the glory you receive when you have dropped 9 albums that have always been honest and true to self.

Life is Good is the 10th solo effort by Nas (11 if you are like me and count The Lost Tapes) and remains true to Nas' life like the first 9. Life finds the Queensbridge rapper in an interesting space. He is a father for a second time, divorced from his wife Kelis and pushing 40 years old while living the good life. On the first track, No Introduction, Nas paints his picture with honesty and swagger as only Nas can, "Worth 200 million now, bi-centennial nigga/ Flat screens in condominiums/ Brazilian women/ On zanies/ She pulling off panties/ I'm pushing 40, she only 21, don't applaud me"

Rarely do MCs who have achieved longevity drop a polished gem late in their career that gathers the most loved elements of their previous albums and welds them together. Nas does though! Life is Good gathers together the lyricism of Illmatic and God Son, the energy of It Was Written and Stillmatic, the sonic experimentation of I Am, Nastradamus and Street Disciple, and blends them with the growth and maturity of Hip Hop Is Dead and Untitled. The album is journey from Queensbridge projects to whatever champagne VIP section Mr. Jones is sitting in on the album cover. There is vintage Nas-fire on tracks such as A Queens Story, the Mary J. Blige assisted Reach Out, Back When and Loco-Motive on which he dedicates to the "trapped in the 90s niggas." However, none of the aforementioned will plunge you into nostalgia like You Wouldn't Understand. The song is a smooth, sweet 80s-styled harmony that forces the listener to close their eyes and feel the breeze. Go ahead and toast and imaginary glass of champagne while no one is looking! The track is so vintage classic you expect AZ to come out and do a verse with God Son.

For Hip Hop heads, the fact that production on a Nas album is superbly done from start to finish is cause for celebration. Nas has longed been plagued with never really piecing together brilliant production on a complete album. Not this time! Backed by No ID and long time collaborator Salaam Remi, Life is Good fits together perfect. And since Nas always delivers when it comes to lyricism and content, magic happens. On Daughters, Nas addresses the pressures of raising a young girl turning young woman in this day and age. The songs displays the open book of Nas' life as a father and also his relevance and connection with his fanbase. Even the Rick Ross assisted Accident Murderers is a successful attempt to bridge yesterday to today remaining true to Nas' standard of content despite the high profile feature of Ross.

Even when Nas experiments with more current soundscapes, he does so with vintage Nas lyricism and style. The Don and Summer On Smash test the waters. The latter features Swizz and Miguel and feels forced by the label. Fortunately for Nas all that means is that Life is Good comes complete with a club banger. Die hard Nas fans may feel that the song is being force fed to them but its placement on the tracklist picks up the energy of the album. Especially, since it follows the most polished gem on the entire album, World's An Addiction. The song finds Nas and Anthony Hamilton standing at the pulpit delivering a sermon on the vices that plague this world. God Son touches on the pitfalls of gun violence, sexual deviance, drug and alcohol abuse and materialism. While most rappers do much to glorify those subjects, Nas attacks it with maturity and venom, "So many vices, habits/ mine of course, bad chicks/ My response to any advice/ on what is the essentials of life/ I'm just rebellious, not selfish/ Guess we all share different definitions of what wealth is/ I need the best things in life/ that's women, that’s cars, Cigars in Venice, bottle on ice..."

The album closes out on a smooth jazzy note. Stay and Cherry Wine are elegant and relaxing. Cherry Wine features the late Amy Winehouse who blends perfectly into the mood of the Nas' current life of looking for love. Nasir closes the album with a personal look into his breakup and divorce with Kelis on Bye Baby. The Guy-sampled song is an honest look at Nas' infidelity and character as a good man.

Life is Good is perfect! The only reason I won't give him a perfect 1 gram is because I wanted this album 5-6 years ago when he first signed with Def Jam. In fact, timing is everything. The album could very well influence the culture to move toward different styles and content matter as most classic albums do. Unfortunately, Hip Hop is moving is different directions. However as far as Hip Hop heads are concerned the album is classic. I doubt it will achieve that status but had it been released 5 or 10 years ago, YES SIR!!! Life is good and Life is Good is outstanding!

1 comment:

  1. And yet surprisingly I prefer Hov. I'm one of those "Nas is the best until Jay drops his next album" type ppl. LOL #FlipFlop