They say good things come to those who wait, and it appears as if Nas’ latest offering is a testament to that. With it being four years since the rapper’s last album, the controversial 'Untitled', which is the longest period Nas has left the spotlight in between albums, fans have been craving something new from the self-proclaimed God’s Son for a while now.
Aptly titled 'Life Is Good', Nas’ life may have had a few bumps in the road over the past few years, but now with a new found personal growth and active lifestyle without marital restrictions - Nas divorced singer Kelis in 2009 - it’s almost as if he’s reinvented not only himself but hip-hop at the same time.
In an era where hip-hop seems to be a tad bit confused - one minute fans and critics alike are eating up lyrical underground acts such as Kendrick Lamar, J.Cole, and Big K.R.I.T., the next they praise the ignorant ramblings of Waka Flocka Flame and A$AP Rocky, it seems as if Nas has taken it back to what it’s really about - lyricism, storytelling, slick production, fun times, and intimate offerings.
Opening with ‘No Introduction’, Nas runs through the past few years of his existence. The autobiographical mesh of events, old and new, make for one hell of a way to introduce his return. Immediately following this is the No I.D. produced, Large Professor featured, nineties inspired ‘Loco-Motive’. Regarded as the Langston Hughes of rap due to his descriptive storytelling abilities in a flawlessly fluent poetry format, he spits, “They asking how he disappear and reappear back on top / Saying Nas must have naked pictures of God or something.” Able to put words together that don’t even rhyme but somehow sound like they are perfect for each other, as well as thinking of things others would not even contemplate, is somewhat of a specialty of the Queensbridge emcee.
With different subject matters throughout that help depict the life and times of a hip-hop mainstay with power and respect in abundance, Life Is Good touches upon parenthood (‘Daughters’), depression (‘World’s An Addiction’), and hip-hop’s early years (‘Back When’), and instead of sounding like too much is going on it flows at a rate only matched by the term near perfect.
The reason for this tarnished perfection is simple, the track ‘Summer On Smash‘ is without doubt a label executive’s decision to include a club smash that’ll appeal to the kids and potentially help sell the record. Firstly, this really isn’t needed, and secondly, positioning it right in the middle of the album was not the best idea. Produced by Mr. Alicia Keys himself, aka Swizz Beatz, it sounds like a forced set of bars from Nas over what can only be described as a racket.
With production featured from the likes of Salaam Remi, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Noah ‘40’ Shebib, and the late Heavy D, the instrumental landscapes on Life Is Good play like
the perfect assist in the NBA Finals. Highlights include the mid-tempo and undeniably soulful ‘Cherry Wine’, which features the vocal talents of Amy Winehouse, whose relationship with Salaam Remi before her death sparked the interest of Nas, and the uptempo street theme ‘A Queens Story’.
Those not too familiar with Nas need to pick this record up for an introduction in to how hip-hop is supposed to sound like. Fans and devoted followers won’t be disappointed, and might even sit this behind Illmatic as their favourite Nas album. A near classic, Life Is Good is by far the finest all round hip-hop release of the past year or so. It’s just a shame Swizz Beatz had to get his hands on it otherwise we might be talking about the year’s best album, genre non-specific.