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Nas, Life Is Good

The last line of Nas’ Illmatic still rings true 18 years later. The Queensbridge lyricist never fell. He never ceased to be celebrated as one of the most revered wordsmiths in the game, but—though he’s continued to cement his legendary status with solid efforts album after album—he hasn’t come close to matching his best works in quite some time. The tide, though, has changed with Nas’ 10th LP, Life Is Good.

As it’s historically been the case, Nas is at his best when facing adversity. His last two superior releases—2001’s Stillmatic and 2002’s God’s Son—were inspired by his heated rivalry with Jay-Z and the death of his mother, respectively.

This time around, a divorce with R&B singer Kelis and reports of outstanding tax liens are at the center of his topical palette, which still ranges from fly shit to revolutionary ideals, as evidenced on the opening number, “No Introduction.” “Hood forever, I just act like I’m civilized/Really what’s in my mind is organizing a billion Black muthafuckas/To take over JP and Morgan Goldman and Sachs/And teach the world facts and give Saudi they oil back,” he rhymes. He comes closest to addressing his alleged financial troubles on the No I.D.-produced, “Loco-Motive.” “I started out broke, got rich, lost paper then made it back/Like Trump bein’ up down up, play with cash,” he spits.

Creatively, Nas continues to reinvent the wheel. He takes reckless shooters to task on “Accident Murderers” featuring Rick Ross—the LP’s only rap guest appearance—and retraces his fatherly missteps on “Daughters.” On the Amy Winehouse-assisted, “Cherry Wine”—a song that sounds like a lost cut from the British singer’s Frank sessions—Nas fantasizes about his dream girl, before coming to terms with his failed marriage on “Bye Baby.” Over Salaam Remi’s sampling of Guy’s “Goodbye Love,” Nas finds closure with a heartfelt letter to Kelis. “Wanted you as my shorty since before I saw you screamin’, ‘Hate you so much right now’/Should’ve saw the man in angry Black women/Actions of a demon—I’m leaving,” he offers.

Nas’s beat selection has long been called into question, but not this time. Salaam Remi and No I.D. split the bulk of the production for a cohesive sound bed filled with soul and jazz overtones. Though the Swizz Beatz-produced, “Summer on Smash” has potential to garner radio play, it feels out of place and is the disc’s only substandard moment.

Still, Life Is Good is arguably Nas’ best LP since Stillmatic. In a climate where substance is scarce, the album is necessary. It’s potent from the excellent cover art to Nas’s sharp bars. It’s balanced. The Queens MC is open, but not emo. Hard, but also thought-provoking.

On “Reach Out,” Nas rhymes, “And you become better than legends you thought were the greatest.” Again, the Nasty MC’s words ring true. At this juncture—21 years and 10 solo albums in—no other MC has ever rhymed at such a high level this deep into their career. Not Rakim. Not Kool G Rap. Not Slick Rick. Not Big Daddy Kane. Not LL Cool J. No One. —Carl Chery (@cchery)
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  • Young Champ

    The album will sell 200,000 at the very least

  • Angelo

    The way it’s been sold out at most retail outlets…I’m going for the high mark 275,000 1st week. I know quite a few people that bought multiple copies as well.

  • Terry

    NAS ALBUM IS SOLD OUT IN ST. LOUIS/ METRO EAST BEST BUY,TARGET, ETC! THIS IS PROBALLY HE BEST ALBUM PERIOD!!!!!!

  • Spirit Equality

    Before I say all this, the important thing is fans like the Nas record for how it *sounds*.

    But if you want to talk sales, let’s talk sales. If the Nas album sold out in Best Buy and Target, it’s because it was undershipped. Brick and mortar big box retailers decide how many physical copies to stock based primarily on radio play, presuming that radio success in their region means that a certain amount of records will be sold (not an unfair presumption). Nas, unfortunately, hasn’t made much of a dent in radio this time around. He probably shipped more than a new artist based on his past sales record, but not enough to sell 200,000…he’s currently projected to sell between 115k-125k by Hits.

  • YEEEON

    jst wondering why this is the second time i have read a article, n the comments is on Nas’s lp wtf

  • DAN

    “Really I was [surprised] because dudes that really supposed to come from the street, we could have met and spoke face to face and maybe did this another way, but homie wanted to go through the courts and say that I was rapping in all of my songs about his life and in my songs I’m talking about his life and it’s just not true,”

    WILLIAM IS A JOKE WE ALL KNOW HE STOLE HIS IDENTITY AND WHEN HIS LABEL FOUND OUT THEY TOLD HIM TO COPYRIGHT THE NAME

    HE SAID THE SAME NO ITS NOT TRUE MAN ABOUT BEING A CO

  • TruthBeTold

    hahahah officer ricky’s gonna get exposed one way or another. dude literally does exactly what the REAL freeway says he does. fuck officer ricky dont push keys hahah and to all you fans out there , OFFICER RICKY DONT WRITE HIS OWN SHIT. his whole persona and act is the product of DEF JAM and WARNER BROTHERS. hmmmm warner brothers i wonder what their known for… acting? sorry bout the rant but DAMN i actually cant take this guy, if he at least admitted to it or didnt say shit about it i would respect him way more.

  • Brian

    Like One Of My Favorite MC’s Still Makin Some Great Music! I Lost Pac And Biggie My Freshman Year(96-97) At Aquinas. Just A 13 Year Old Kid, My… Everyones Go To Guys Were Stolen From Us. Its Great To See Artists Like Esco Wayne And Ross Thrive And Continue To Make Great Music!

  • Brian

    Great Job Charles!

  • Erik

    who ever voted for the “s” on the voting pole please kill your self

    • dhk

      I’m pretty sure they listen to 2 Chainz

  • Mike

    Life is Good get’s an XL, Illmatic gets an XXL….BIG difference.

  • CYRIL XOLANI

    nas is the greatest mc ever

  • BLUEMAGIC_Dawud

    on point review. classic lp gettin many plays round herrrrrr

  • Hercucheese

    Agree.

    This track was so disappointing. Its not awful I just expected more.