Whether you think Nas is back or whether you think he never went away, his new album Life is Good has dropped. The album begins with applause and whistling on “No Introduction,” after which the album really begins. Over a beat so grimy in "Loco-Motive" he rhymes immaculate, “This for my trapped-in-the-’90s n****s.”
“Queens Story” would be an easy listen (for Nas) if it wasn’t for the last verse, “Watch the con realest channel his mom’s spirit/Goosebumps cover me, mother’s here, I could feel her/Blood of Christ covers me, our savior and healer/Drug prices up or down, I know a few dealers/And some accident murderers, they act like they killed on purpose/Liars brag they put work in/You ain’t mean to murk him, your gun’s a virgin/Better stay on point, if not, it’s curtains.” The verse continues on this non-stop trajectory.
“Accidental Murderers” featuring Rick Ross (who somehow manages to put in a decent appearance) is a great track, reminding me of his “Rewind” or “I Gave you Power.” One of his more sentimental tracks, “Daughters,” “Shit for n****s with daughters, I call this, not sayin’ that our sons are less important.”
The next track is “Reach Out” with the ever-reliable Mary J. Blige and is smooth and summery enough to surely be a radio hit.
“World’s an Addiction” with Anthony Hamilton is an instant classic due to his gritty vocals and Nas' talent. On “Summer on Smash” he collaborates with Miguel and Swizz Beatz, is also sure to be a radio hit. With all three of these talented men on one track, you will be bumpin' it with the windows down.
The following song, “You Wouldn’t Understand” featuring Victoria Monet, is a nice, chill track, nothing outstanding about it but there is certainly nothing that detracts from it. “Back When” is a great track on which he reminisces, “The ill reminisce and think about the fly days/ Nothing like them 80s summer NY days.” “The Don,” certainly one of my favorites, has an infectious beat that’s hard hitting and even harder hitting lyrics, “New York is like an Island, a big Rikers Island/The cops be out wilding, all I hear is sirens/It's all about surviving, same old two step/Try to stay alive when they be out robbing/I been out rhyming since born knowledge/Like prophet Muhammad said the ink from a scholar/Worth more than the blood of a martyr.”
Nas' sad reflection “Stay,” has wonderful musicality and is a solid track. “Cherry Wine,” one of the album's best features the late Amy Winehouse. The two shared a special friendship and a birthday. This song is a reflection of their special bond and a wonderful duet. “Bye Baby” is an alright track. Nas reflects on Kelis and while it has its finer moments, it’s not one of the standouts.
“Nasty” is also one of my favorites, it’s hard hitting in its beat and in its delivery. “The Black Bond” has its shining moments, “Heaven sent, cause a storm, typhoon flood you out/You are what a thug about? I’m a fuckin' juggernaut.”
“Roses” starts out with a haunting sample and is quite catchy but otherwise unremarkable. “Where’s the Love” ends the album with a bang and Cocaine 80s rhyming over a smooth beat.
The summary? The more Nas changes, the more he stays the same. While this album was no Illmatic, it was a solid album and if given by any other artist might be hailed as a very good album. But because it’s Nas, we’ll always end every album review with “it’s no Illmatic.”
Maybe it’s just the price of genius.
Track list via Hip Hop DX
1. No Introduction (Produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League)
2. Loco-Motive feat. Large Professor (Produced by No I.D.)
3. A Queens Story (Produced by Salaam Remi)
4. Accident Murderers feat. Rick Ross (Produced by No I.D.)
5. Daughters (Produced by No I.D.)
6. Reach Out feat. Mary J. Blige (Produced by Salaam Remi, Rodney Jerkins, DJ Hot Day & Nas)
7. World’s An Addiction feat. Anthony Hamilton (Produced by Salaam Remi)
8. Summer On Smash feat. Miguel & Swizz Beatz (Produced by Swizz Beatz)
9. You Wouldn’t Understand feat. Victoria Monet (Produced by Buckwild)
10. Back When (Produced by No I.D.)
11. The Don (Produced by Salaam Remi, Heavy D & Da Internz)
12. Stay (Produced by No I.D.)
13. Cherry Wine feat. Amy Winehouse (Produced by Salaam Remi)
14. Bye Baby (Produced by Salaam Remi & 40)
Bonus Tracks for Deluxe Edition:
15. Nasty (Produced by Salaam Remi)
16. The Black Bond (Produced by Salaam Remi)
17. Roses (Produced by Al Shux)
18. Where’s The Love feat. Cocaine 80s (Produced by No I.D.)
19. Trust (Produced by Boi 1da) (iTunes Bonus Track)
20. The Don (Don Dada Remix) (Produced by Salaam Remi & Heavy D) (Japan Bonus Track)
Album stream available here.