Hello, I’m MusiCommentator, and the 2018 G.O.O.D. Music Summer rollout (that’s what I’m calling it, at least) is staying strong with this new release. The albums so far have ranged from good to very great, so let’s see if Nas can keep the ball rolling.
But first, a little info: Nas has been in the game for over two decades now. He’s a name that will bring a smile to any old rap fan’s face, as his work has resonated through generations. His most famous album is his first, “Illmatic”, which is considered one of the best classics of all time to this day. He has made many other great projects, including “It Was Written”, “Stillmatic”, and “Hip-Hop Is Dead”, but many have noticed a trend throughout Nas’s newer releases. He has not really changed that much. Sure, if you have a formula that works, don’t mess with it, but after over twenty years in the game, it can become a bit exhausting getting the same old thing, especially when the age-old argument “Nas picks out terrible beats” can still be used on his newer projects. However, with production from Kanye on every track, I have hope for this project, so let’s jump right into it.
#1: Not For Radio (ft. Puff Daddy & 070 Shake)
This track serves as a strong opener for the album. In this song, Nas assesses the presence of black people and black culture in a white society and how these black influences are perceived. The beat on this is very epic, with the deep choir conveying a sense of urgency and suspense. Nas’s delivery and rhyme schemes are on point, seeming sharper than they ever were on his previous project “Life Is Good”. The lyrics are pretty awesome on here, too, especially his final verse. The majority of this last verse is talking about black presence in white culture, and the points he makes are pretty solid. “Abe Lincoln did not free the enslaved/Progress was made ’cause we forced the proclamation” and “Fox News was started by a black dude”are truly telling in today’s society. The only downside of this track is Puff Daddy. 070 Shake did a great job on her chorus, but Puff’s contributions were basically pointless. He’s pretty much the ’90s version of DJ Khaled, so the track would have been better without him.
#2: Cops Shot The Kid
Acting as the most politically-charged track in this album, Nas joins the boat of addressing police violence against blacks, which has been very popular as of recent, especially with the release of “This Is America“. In my opinion, this track does it so much better than that song. Nas tells the narrative of some African Americans just hanging around and randomly getting shot by policemen, and he uses vivid imagery that he is known for to portray a realistic scene. The surprise verse from Kanye is also amazing, and contains my favorite lyrics on the song: “This fake news, people is all lyin’/Money is bein’ made when a mom cries”. Again, there is only one problem I have with this song. The Slick Rick sample works perfectly for the chorus, but having it repeat through the verses is a bit distracting from the verse. Still, this is a very great track, and it definitely works as a politically-driven anthem.
#3: White Label
Being the first track that strays away from the black pride theme the first two songs set up, this track feels a little out of place. The song focuses more on Nas himself, and while his flow and delivery is superb, there’s really nothing intriguing about the track. Despite the greatly-executed sample, there is nothing that is making me want to come back to this track once I’m done writing about it. Maybe it feels just a bit too low-key compared to the other songs on this album, but I guess I’ll just have to see if it grows on me over time.
#4: Bonjour (ft. Tony Williams)
Going just off subject matter, this song is very much like “White Label”, but I believe it has a lot more going for it. Firstly, the beat is better, with Tony William’s smooth vocals giving the track a nice flow. I also felt like Nas had more to say on this one. While there were plenty of egotistical boasts, there were lyrics that pointed to some bigger messages. A good example of this is “All this money we gettin’/Could be gone in a minute if we don’t invest it/We long-term affected”. This definitely isn’t one of the standout tracks on the album, but it does have a replay-ability factor to it.
#5: everything (ft. The-Dream)
Clocking in at over seven minutes, this is the longest song on the album, and when a song is this long, it always faces the possibility of being boring and dragged-on. This song, though, does not face that problem. When I first listened to this song, I was honestly surprised that seven minutes had passed already. It is just so great that it makes the time fly by! The contributions of The-Dream and Kanye on the chorus are fantastic, and its probably the best chorus on the album. I could complain that Kanye sounds nasally when he sings “anything” and “everything”, but that’s just being nit-picky. The song itself is mostly about the pain and suffering people suffer from in the world, kind of alluding to the things people should change (which is what the chorus is about). He brings up many problems, such as blacks in the media, general racism, and trying to be accepted. The only point he brought up which was questionable was his point on vaccines, which I’m not even going to talk about on here. Besides for this one part, though, this song is fantastic. I’d certainly recommend it!
#6: Adam and Even (ft. The-Dream)
On this track, Nas talks about his life, and addresses many different aspects of what happens to him regularly, from the criticism he gets from his music to how he deals with his daily routine to the people that try to knock him down. The best part of this song is surely the chorus, as The-Dream’s voice glides from word to word swiftly over the mellow piano. This song isn’t bad, but there is really not that much to say about it. Moving on, I guess.
#7: Simple Things
For the final track of the album, Nas talks about his accomplishments. It sounds like a simple song, but I guess the title warned us about it. What I like about this track is that Nas talks on his achievements without sounding overbearing or particularly braggadocious. I’m not sure if it’s possible to brag humbly, but Nas got pretty close to it. I especially like the section in the first verse where he talks about how people rip on his production and how “prestigious schools” read his lines to their students. It’s a big chunk of the verse, so I can’t put it all here, but I’d advise listening to it. This track feels like an underwhelming closer, but it’s not too bad. The only part I don’t like it that it ends kind of suddenly, making the listener feel unfulfilled. Oh well.
Lyrically, Nas doesn’t cover too many new bases on this album. Aside from “Cops Shot The Kid”, he has previously rapped about every main topic/theme the songs on here have. However, this album sticks out from many of his previous works for a few reasons. Pointing out the elephant in the room, the beats on here are some of the best ones Nas has ever rapped over. Kanye did not disappoint with the production on this one, as he was able to make every beat fit in with Nas’s style, but they were all still unique in their own way. Secondly, even though he has covered familiar themes and topics, I feel like his lyrics were much sharper on here compared to his other recent works. His last album came out six years before this, so he really had time to concentrate his efforts and only put what was really good on here, making no line seem like it is useless (except for Puff’s part in the first song, maybe). Finally, even though I do have at least one complaint about every song, there isn’t a bad track on here. There is not one song that I would call subjectively bad, so that’s a major plus.
For my favorite track, I’d have to go with “everything”. The melodies on here are so soothing and pleasant to hear, and Nas’s verses accompany the beat very well. My least favorite track is probably “White Label”, not because it is terrible, but because it is the most forgettable. I don’t remember much about it even now while writing this.
Overall, I’d give this album an 8 out of 10. Do you agree?
Thank you for reading my “NASIR” review. If you liked this review, make sure to follow my website, Twitter, and Instagram, like this post, and be sure to check in to read my future reviews. Also, if you have a song or album you would like to see reviewed, tell me in the comments. Until then, keep listening to good music! I know I will.