“They askin’ how he disappear and reappear back on top? Sayin’ “Nas must have naked pictures of God or somethin’.”
Nasty Nas. A living legend. When he attacks, there ain’t an army that can strike back. As his current release pumps out the whips of just about every Jeep in my distance this summer, Nas’s Life Is Good is what every true Nas fan hoped it would be. A hip hop prodigy at 17, with his ecstatically feverish debut, Illmatic, Nas became the physical embodiment of hip hop with his unmatched lyrics, overtly advanced rhyme schemes, untouchable musical contributions from heavy hitters such as DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Q-Tip, and nearly 20 years later, you can’t name another album that could possibly match the intensity that Illmatic has been fortunate enough to display. The 1994 Columbia Records release is Nas’s gift and curse. Two years later It Was Written, another undeniable classic would be released. But even as a self proclaimed Nas stan, I can admit although he maintained to stay “somewhat” consistent, later attempts that followed didn’t exactly fall in line with his standard. But in his defense, having a project like the aforementioned Illmatic as your first full-length impression, it would be a challenge for most artists to switch into a new lane. Thankfully, on Nas’s 10th LP, Life Is Good, it seems that everything has come full circle for him. Even with his recent divorce from his ex wife, Kelis, “money problems”, etc, Nas doesn’t take the time to let any of those issues slow him down.
First off, Nas gets excruciatingly blunt in this album, but with that lies his charm. His ex-wife’s wedding dress lay across his lap on the album art. Life is Good focused on a certain direction sonically and contextually not to mention there was a concept behind the way it’s exhibited. Every time a song starts, it acts as a prelude to a major event; Nas is prepared to lead his listeners into a path where he wants you to witness this progress with your own ears. He has mastered his delivery throughout his career. Life Is Good, as insightful and introspective, as it is flashy, rugged and grimy. It’s all of the familiar voices of Mr. Jones past works (save Nastradamas…) all rolled into one album. Saying hello to the characters Nasty Nas, Escobar, God Son and Nasir throughout the recording. It’s his most rounded album to date.
The greater portion of Life is Good‘s production does not feed off of the pretentiousness of 2012, but in the same vein it doesn’t submit to the more mainstream audiences of today. Composers Salaam Remi and No I.D. handle the weight behind the boards, sculpting the primary soundwaves Nas sways comfort on. Other producers who assist with the sounds consist of big names such as Swizz Beatz, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, 40 and Heavy D. Nas absolutely proves his worth across every beat on this album, but then again, it IS Nas.
He comes face to face with the reality of his daughter growing up, due to an inappropriate (and more than likely embarrassing) incident where she posted a picture of a drawer full of condoms on her Twitter page in his song “Daughters”. When he allows us to better understand the current status of his relationship with R&B singer Kelis, in a few of the songs, he sounds comfortable and forgiving with the past events and “Bye Baby” best sums up the end of that part of his life. Quite possibly the most anticipated song found on Life Is Good was his feature with the late Amy Winehouse titled “Cherry Wine” (my favorite track on the album). The duet is about finding that perfect match with similar interests. The collaboration also adds a dimension of intrigue to their close relationship before the singer passed.
Despite being 38, a not-so-common age in rap, this album shows you can still mature gracefully at any point in your life and strive your best to make it through unfortunate situations, then ending up positive in the end while holding strong to where you came from. In Life Is Good, he boldly recites: “Fuck it I’ma die anyway and they’re going to make that day a holiday.” Truer words have never been spoken. The finest in Queensbridge lineage, Nas represents the select few who were to born wreck mics. It looks as if the young street disciple who snatched his plate at the BBQ years ago can finally say grace: Life is Good: Blessed.