NAS – “Life is Good” (Album Review)

A common theme of this album is the artist’s struggles from a teen to his successes, downfalls and his journey to the mature man who presents “Life is Good”. The storytelling is vivid and is reminiscent of Slick Rick’s influence of course with that unparalleled poetic aptitude and delivery that only Nas possesses.

I finally cracked open this cd, and injected “Life is Good” to my brain via my ears.  Of course it’s Nas so I was already amped to see what he was bringing after the 6-year hiatus since his last solo project.  Dunno about you, but I STILL have Distant Relatives in rotation while awaiting this very moment!

Upon pressing play I must say I wasn’t ready.  I had to readjust my aural attitude.  Being that I am used to listening to a particular style of production/mix down quality, I had to switch from listening to soul/RnB cuts to a Hip Hop head.  Disclaimer: I am very hard on Hip Hop because I love her so much… but I digress.  With that said, the mastering quality is aurally different; it reflects all that Hip Hop embodies.  So expect a bit of “splashiness”.  The 19-track album boasts a great mix of Nas’ styles and lyrical deftness.  If you get the Deluxe album you get bonus tracks and videos.

After getting past the aforementioned aural adjustment, I found “No Introduction” (produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E League) to be a surprise; a full song? No introlude? Let’s Go!! The song consists of biographical snapshots of Nas’ life and struggles to present. For a fan like me, I can relate to the imagery painted by lyrics about “syrup sandwich and sugar water” or “I’m pushin’ 40, she only 21… Don’t applaud me, I’m exhausted, G…”  How relatable is that?  How real is the philosophy on which “Daughters” is based on?

A common theme of this album is the artist’s struggles from a teen to his successes, downfalls and his journey to the mature man who presents “Life is Good”.   The storytelling is vivid and reminiscent of Slick Rick’s influence, of course with that unparalleled poetic aptitude and delivery that only Nas possesses.  A prime example?  “Where’s The Love” featuring Cocaine 80s, which boasts the imagery, social commentary and dynamic aural stimulation in the form of surround pans in the production.

The collabs are well done.  “Accident Murderer” featuring Rick Ross is a good example of the juxtaposition of my generation’s Hip Hop and the Hip Hop of the current generation.  Anthony Hamilton lends his powerfully emotive voice to “World’s an Addiction”.   I would be remiss if I didn’t take time to acknowledge Salaam Remi’s masterful productions on this album which include the beautiful “Cherry Wine” feat Amy Winehouse and the first single, “The Don”, the Supercat flip done by the late great Heavy D. (both personal favorites).  By the way, Aaron Hall lends vocals to a joint on this record, lets see if you can figure which one..

The album took an unexpected turn to the club with the Swizz Beatz production, “Summer on Smash”.   It is definitely rotation worthy and anthem-like.  The RnB vibe of “You Wouldn’t Understand” featuring Victoria Monet is refreshing and noteworthy.

Again, I digress so I may mention and acknowledge the importance of the producers.  This time the subject is the dope production by NO I.D.  To his credit, he put a shine on every song; and showed his versatility and artfulness on songs like “Stay”.

Nas delivers real issues; time-tested revelations and much needed balance to “main stream” Hip Hop throughout this album.  He manages to highlight the thoughts of most men his age about the young men of today while celebrating both his ups and downs.  The storyteller still has it, with cuts like “The Black Bond” and “Roses” which flips the bassline for “Come Together” by The Beatles!  Needless to say, you would be doing your ears a grave disservice if you pass up adding this to your collection.  You’ll be playing more songs than you’ll skip…  Nah mean?

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