Nas- Nasir Album Review
(By: Thomas Rodriguez)
Hip hop legend Nas returns to the music scene to add a solid yet flawed project to his catalogue.
Few rappers, hell even artists in general, can claim to hold a place in the music scene as revered as that of legendary New York rapper Nas. Ask anyone who’s been a fan of hip hop in general, and they’ll say that Nas’s Illmatic is one of the greatest pieces of rap music recorded. It’s easily one of the most acclaimed, admired, and respected albums of the 90’s, and is what gave the young Brooklyn rapper a nearly god-like status among both old heads and new rap fans. The problem with Nas setting such a high bar for himself is that, well, everything else he’s released afterward hasn’t even come close to reaching that bar. Sure, he’s released a few solid projects, as Stillmatic and It Was Written are respected among the rap community, but people love Nas mostly for his first album. With crappy beat selection being the main problem of his mostly mediocre post-Illmatic work, hype was through the roof and into space when it was announced that Nasir, his first album in six years, would be produced by Kanye West. Good beats and a potentially revitalized Nas? That sounds like a surefire success! However, while Nasir is good, there are a few missteps in its short tracklist that hold it back from being a modern classic.
If a word could be used to describe Nasir, it would be grand. The album, sonically at least, sounds huge, despite its relatively short runtime. Every instrumental here, except for maybe the tender “Simple Things”, sounds like it could be used for a blockbuster movie trailer. The opener, “Not For Radio”, has such an epic feel to it that you feel like you’re in the final moments of a Game of Thrones-esque battle once the beat kicks in. Nas sounds truly alive amongst the amazing choral vocals, hard hitting percussion slaps, and beautiful strings, and it instantly draws you into what Nas is going to say. “Cops Shot the Kid” is equally ambitious in how wild its instrumental is, what with its mind-bending sample of “the cops shot the kid” being repeated over some equally atmospheric orchestral sounds. “Adam and Eve” sounds like a rap song that was recorded in a western saloon, mainly due to its plinking piano and weary singing, but Nas rides the beat as easily as ever and it helps accentuate his analyzation of his own life. However, the crown jewel of the cinematic beats here is the fourth track, “everything”. It sounds absolutely stunning to the ears; its descending bassline, subtle background beats, and heavenly vocals by The-Dream and Kanye are surprisingly complex but still appealing. For a guy that’s struggled with finding good production, Nas did pretty damn well by drafting West onto his team.
With the beats out of the way, it seems as though Nas has the potential to make another masterpiece with Nasir, right? Well, while Nas’s well-known lyricism is mostly solid throughout the album, there are a few missteps here that somewhat hold back the album’s success. “Not For Radio” is a well written introduction, as said before, as Nas has the charisma and confidence to show that he is back for real, and “Cops Shot the Kid” is an extremely insightful look into police brutality in modern day times. I think Nas’s lines about parents burying their own children and Kanye’s lines about being worried to call 911 because of tensions with the law are hard hitting, and do what Nas lyrics do best: make you think. After these two tracks however, the album takes a weird detour into the more commercial, celebratory Nas that many didn’t sign up for. “White Label”, while it has a decent beat, sounds kind of meandering in its bragging and is just a headscratching followup to the previously conscious album cuts. “Bonjour” is similar in it having a decent beat, but when you compare it to the much more analytical and thoughtful tracks, the song sounds tacked on. Tony Williams’s buttery singing and Nas’s half-assed cockiness here sound like they were made especially for radio. It’s a whiplash in tone that slaps you in the face, leaving you confused as to what Nasir even wants to do. Thankfully, the rest of the album shows a more lyrical Nas, as “everything” raises a lot of interesting questions about the music industry and suffering in life as a whole, bringing back the poetry Nas was acclaimed for in Illmatic. “Adam and Eve” takes a much more interesting look at the rich lifestyle that Nas currently lives, seemingly comparing the life the street poet has now to the sinful one Adam and Eve lived. “Simple Things” shows Nas at his most vulnerable, and makes for a solid closer despite being a bit cheesy in its praise for the simple things in life. It’s always good to see an artist appreciate life for what it is, especially in the age of lean-soaked, percocet popping goofballs.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: Nasir is not as good as Illmatic. But is it realistic to expect Nas to beat out what many consider the best rap album ever? Hell no! Despite a few stumbles in its runtime, Nasir still finishes relatively well. It’s one of Nas’s better releases in general, and there are a few truly masterful tracks here. I’d definitely recommend giving Nasir a try!
…But you should definitely listen to Illmatic too 😉 .
Tracks to Save: “Not For Radio”, “Cops Shot the Kid”, “everything”, “Adam and Eve”, “Simple Things”
Tracks to Skip: “White Label”, “Bonjour”
Listen to Nasir here!
What did you think about this album? Any comments or criticism? Comment down below and let me know; I’d love to hear what you think!
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