10Here's a secret about Life Is Good: It is the BEST RAP ALBUM OF THE DECADE THUS FAR.
Before you even read this review, know this: Professional reviews for rap albums are almost meaningless. Pitchfork gave My Beautiful Dark and Twisted Fantasy a perfect 10. That album has a 94 rating on Metacritic, while this album is floating in the low 70s. This album is BETTER. Nas has once again perfected the art of song writing in Hip Hop. His flows and lyrics land over the beats effortlessly, and he has something on this album he did not have on his last effort Untitled: AMAZING PRODUCTION.
When you hear people criticize a Nas album, it's always for one reason: his production. This time around, however, Nas paid close attention to the streets, and Salaam Remi did not disappoint on his end of the music. In addition to long time collaboration with Salaam Remi, Nas also enlisted No ID, Kanye West's mentor, to bless the album with the smooth, laid back ferocity that he laced Common's The Finder/ The Believer album. Justice League gives Nas another great introduction track (Nas has not had a less than stellar intro since The Prophecy on Nastradamus). And of course by now you have surely had the perfectly executed track The Don, which was produced by the late hip hop legend Heavy D with some great after-touching by Da Internz. And for the old school fans still stuck in the 90s, Nas gave them something extra special: not one, but TWO songs featuring The Large Professor. One listen to the track Loco-Motive will have fans wondering if this track is an updated cut from Illmatic. The production on this album is even better than amazing instrumentation used on Nas and Damien Marley's 2010 collaboration album Distant Relatives.
So happens now that Nas has good beats? Well, with this one flaw corrected, this album is nearly flawless. Nas spits some of the craziest rhymes in years, and does it with a variety of style and grace. The story telling on A Queens Story paints a picture of early 1990s Queensbridge so vivid that eyes need not be closed to envision Nas' words come to life upon entering the listener's ears. The alliterations and metaphors used on World's An Addiction cannot be matched by any other rapper in hip hop, other than maybe Jay Z on his A-game. Cherry Wine is one of the standout tracks on the album, as Salaam Remi produces a smooth classical ballad on which Nas shows his maturity as a man and the late Amy Winehouse sings a soulful and infectious chorus that really leaves one wishing she had lived longer to make more beautiful music.
In a 14 track album full of great material, if there is one track that deserves its own special praise and the status of CLASSIC, it must be track number 5, Daughters. Here Nas provides Hip Hop with the first single ever dedicated to the struggle of a single man raising his daughter. Pac had Dear Mama for mothers, Will Smith had Just the Two of Us for sons, and Nas had already made two songs dedicated to his father with Poppa Was a Playa off of The Lost Tapes compilation album and Bridging the Gap from Nas' 2004 Street's Disciple double album. Nas now completes the family with Daughters as he weaves together an introspective tale about his performance as a father and the now-famous ordeal he faced when his daughter Destiny posted a picture of condoms on her dresser on Twitter. This track embodies everything Nas is idolized for: brutal honesty upon reflection, great wordplay, amazing storytelling, and conceptual songs few in hip hop would dare to even attempt to craft. If there is a flaw to be found on the album, it is with Nas' attempt at commercial appeal with the sure-to-be radio single Summer on Smash. Swizz Beats provides a typical Swizz Beats track and Nas flows well over the beat, but the rhymes are nothing special. While this is expected of a radio hit, the problem is not with Nas or Swizz, but rather the feature of young RnB singer Miguel, who raps a lazy verse and then proceeds to sing a decent bridge. Miguel just seems out of place on the song, but I'm sure Def Jam thought this feature would guarantee some more spins on the radio, hence one can't be too mad at Nas- radio play has been something he has not had since 2002's God's Son album. Aside from the small misstep on Summer on Smash, Life is Good is nearly perfect. It will most likely go down as yet ANOTHER classic from Nasty Nas, who is increasingly harvesting the greatest discography in Hip Hop history. This masterpiece has almost everything that one could ask for from a hip hop album musically. The great production, seamlessly masterful lyrics, and ever intriguing topical matter makes for an album that will be replayed for decades to come. When one looks back at Nasir Jones' career, Life Is Good will undoubtedly be placed on the top shelf beside Illmatic, It Was Written, Stillmatic, God's Son, and Hip Hop is Dead. Escobar Season has returned, and Nasty Nas will be here forever.… Full Review »
10Once again, a Nas album will be overlooked by the critics because of his "greater past". True, this album is not Nas' best. However, in today's world of mainstream hip-hop, dominated by party-rap and bragging, this album is a shining beacon of hope.
Nas is one of the few rappers left who still holds on to the mainstream and actually lives through his art. Sure, "Summer on Smash" is a throwaway track, but other than that, Nas appreciates the fact that he still holds the mic in his hands and uses the opportunity to speak his mind . He speaks about anything that he feels deserves attention: his life, gang violence, love, heartbreak, politics, class disparity, nostalgia, success and so on. Furthermore, he does it with incredible skill - his verses are beautifully crafted, thought-provoking and memorable. Nas brings something that mainstream hip-hop lacks - intelligence. While all is well with zoning-out and listening to some Waka Flocka or A$AP Rocky, Nas possess the element that makes music great - it evokes thoughts and feelings. Feelings not like the genereal "Oh, I feel like partying now" that most of music is about today, feelings that are much deeper and lasting than that.
The beats on this album are hit or miss - Salaam Remi does a good job and No I.D. once more proves that he is a legend. The JUSTICE League beat was sub-par and Swizz Beatz failed miserably. Other than that, the beats don't sound "bad" to the ear, but you won't find yourself marveling at the compositions. The features on this album are hit or miss as well - Anthony Hamilton and Nikki Flores showcase their talent with outstanding performances, Large Professor, Mary J. Blige and the Cocaine 80's do quite well and Amy Winehouse provides a somewhat generic, but pleasant hook. Rick Ross, although he brings his lyrical A-game (for what he's worth) to the table, simply cannot stay on topic and falls back to his usual, bubblegum mafioso-rap style. Swizz Beatz has no vocal-appeal at all and Miguel would have done much better on a slow, sexy R&B-type track (don't rap, please. You sound like Pharrell, but worse). Victoria Monet delivers a bubblegum-pop hook, which doesn't really fit with the darker tone of the song. Overall, the hooks are decent, although they don't really fit with the song at times. They are, however, usually very catchy. Sure, Nas is not at the top of his game like on "Illmatic", "God's Son", "Stillmatic", "Lost Tapes" or "It Was Written" - far from it. His star is faded, but compared to what we have today in the world of popular rap, he still hits like a truck, a true 1990/2000's legend, awkwardly milling around in the 2010's, where music is little more than just feel-good instrumentals with mediocre MC's. At times, it seems like he is falling off, but immediately picks back up with another verse - not a very consistent performance, with tremendous highs and embarrassing lows. If you can, I would highly recommend getting the Deluxe version of this album - the regular version would get an 8/10 for me, but the Deluxe gets a 9/10, due to all the extra songs being great. However, I will bump up the 9/10 to a 10/10, considering that this is a mainstream hip-hop album released in 2012. The only track that is a throwaway is "Summer on Smash", but even that track is catchy enough for it to not be a complete turnoff. Get this album, please. Get this album, support Nas - he is a legend, but can't even compare to the success that Jay-Z is getting these days. Why? Any self-respecting rap-fan will agree that Nas is at the very least is a lyrical-equal to Jay-Z, but hey, that's not what really matters these days, is it? Nope. Hopefully, this album can help change that and so can you, by supporting soulful, true music, a bracket of the art that has been severely repressed in recent years. A bracket of art, to which Nas belongs.… Full Review »