Tuesday, July 17, 2012

LIfe is Good for Nas fans

The legendary rapper we know as Nas has just released his tenth studio album, Life Is Good, almost as a friendly reminder. While Nas may not have anything left to prove to hip-hop, recognized as one of the great lyricists of all time, he has graced us with an 18-track memo to ensure hip-hop that he is alive and well. Life Is Good embodies all of the things we came to love about Nas. His unique storytelling ability and jazzy flow were what set him apart throughout his career. Life Is Good is an album worthy of classic standards and a good listen all the way through because of Nas' ability to blend his distinguished old-school vibes with a modern day sound. Life is good for Nas fans both old and new.

"No Introduction" starts the album almost as a necessary re-introduction. With adamant drums and what sounds like a church organ in the background, Nas recollects memories of his past before acquiring fame. "I remember early mornings, syrup sandwiches, sugar water/Walking up the dark stairwells, elevators was out of order/Worth 200 million now, bicentennial ni**a, flat screens and condominiums." The title of the song is accurate in implying that Nas needs no introduction. He reminds us by sharing one of his fond memories, "Remember talking to Biggie inside his Lex truck/Said stay fly when you bummy, keep your pajamas Armani." Almost Nas' way of reminding us of his legendary status, in case we managed to forget after four years since his last album dropped.
"1990's Polo Ralph Lauren on him/Gone a few years, the whole world snoring on him" ("No Introduction")

But Nas does his fair share of storytelling as well, staying consistent with the poetic nature that brought him hip-hop royalty. As expected, the Queens native included an ode to his city in "A Queens Story", in which he pays thorough tribute to people and neighborhoods in Queens. He encourages, "Put your glass high if you made it out the stash spot/And here to tell a story and celebrate the glory," as if to commemorate his own escape from the slums of Queens while paying select homage to those who never made it out. The intricate storytelling is present in "Back When" as well, where Nas shares his own perspective on how times and people change. "Who possesses the testicular fortitude/To blow away myths that's a hindrance to all of you?" 

In addition to his vintage thought-provoking content, Nas takes several tracks to do what I like to call "spazz". Spazzing involves a relentless attack that should make the listener feel as if the rapper was mad when he/she recorded the song. Going punch line for punch line with no hook in "Nasty", Nas begins by stating, "I come from the Wheel of Ezekiel/To pop thousand dollar bottles of scotch, smoke pot, and heal the people." Nas also does some "spazzing" on "The Black Bond", which sounds like a hip-hop version of the James Bond theme where Nas depicts himself as an urban, hip-hop Bond figure who travels the world and gets exotic girls.

The depth of Life Is Good is difficult to describe in reasonable length. Not only has Nas once again shared with us his masterful storytelling and lyricism, but he covers a variety of subjects and sounds to make this an album for Nas fans of different generations. He brings the old-school vibe with a jazzy sample on "Stay", "You Wouldn't Understand", and "Cherry Wine" featuring the soulful Amy Winehouse. Still, songs like "The Don", "Accident Murderers" with Rick Ross, and "Summer On Smash" produced by Swizz Beats adheres to more of the modern day sound which younger listeners might appreciate more. Records like "Daughters" and "World's An Addiction" featuring Anthony Hamilton bring deeper concepts into play. For younger, perhaps less experienced Nas fans, life should be pretty good. The music on this album is diverse, lyrical, and timeless. But for those who consider themselves "original" Nas fans, life should be good also, because this album provides multiple glimpses at the gritty, lyrical Nas they grew to love from the "Illmatic" days.
- "They think it's just music still/Well I am a graphic classic song composer/Music notes on sheets, I wrote this piece to get closure." ("No Introduction")

- Martin S.

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