Nas - Life Is Good | Album Review | By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret
nas-life is good cover cd


Life Is Good

Nas returns with a solid shot for his old King of NYC crown.

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Author: on September 24, 2012
Def Jam
July 17, 2012

Nas and I have a strange relationship, one I am sure would not ingratiate myself much with the artist himself or many of his fans for that matter. Nas’ debut duo of Illmatic (1994) and It Was Written (1996) are two of the finest slices of 90’s NYC hip-hop to be recorded, the former being arguably the finest rap album ever. What followed was a string of diarrheal ooze in the form of 1999’s pair of turds I Am…The Autobiography and Nastradamus that had many genuinely concerned that our hero was regressing from poetic observations and provocative insight to, well – bling rap. Nasir became so caught up in his own fame and perceived grandeur that it took another, equally as rich and talented MC to tell him to simply put up or shut up. The fire lit up under Nas’ ass by Jay-Z is easily one of the better things to happen to the man in his career as what followed were cornerstones needed to truly begin the construction of Nas’ throne in the streets of Queensbridge and save the worse-for-wear Stillmatic (2001) and basically shitty Untitled (2008) he’s essentially been on a tear. If Untitled were that irk in the back of your mind questioning cautiously: “is the ego going bonkers again?” Life Is Good is the reaffirmation that this man is simply one of the finest MCs in existence still.

Maybe his split from wife Kelis was at first a similar flame to that lit by Hova but by the end of Life Is Good’s sprawling runtime the fire is ablaze. I do not think it is too far off the mark to argue this is Nasir’s second purest piece of work behind his eternal debut—I am not exactly sure that I would yet, but this speaks volumes to how expertly Nas has grown as a musician, specifically a wealthy and successful one. Life Is Good finds him inhabiting the shoes of a Kanye or coincidentally enough, Jay: presenting his millions through an everyman’s perspective. This trick is something he has always been exceptional, if not the best at when concerning his music yet Nas has moved from the pavement of his youth to the penthouses, dinner tables and divorce courts of an adult. Though his skills as a lyricist are not any less poignant or for that matter razor-sharp as they were in his adolescent prime they’ve just switched themes, surprisingly enough for the better.

I remember early mornings, syrup sandwiches, sugar water, yeah / Walking up the dark stairwells, elevators was out of order, yeah / Worth two-hundred million now, bicentennial nigga, flat screens and condominiums,” Nas paints almost forlornly on opener “No Introduction.” Continuing, “Brazilian women on Xannies they pulling off panties / I’m pushing forty, she only twenty-one / Don’t applaud me, I’m exhausted G,” keeping a similar tone through a more present reflection. Nas is becoming an old fart, a family man and most strikingly, a single father. “They grow fast, one day she’s ya little princess / Next day she talking boy business, what is this? / They say the coolest playas and foulest heart breakers in the world / God gets us back, he makes us have precious little girls,” he explains on the exceptional “Daughters” casting light onto an aspect of Nas rarely seen. Life Is Good at times reads like a journal entry from Nasir’s personal pages where the ink is still sopping wet.

Life Is Good is a snapshot of what it currently is to be Nas, to live as Nas–-because as he has proven already, even at his lowest, the man gives his all in trying to present shoes for his listeners to walk in. Sometimes they’re grandiose, far-fetched shoes but Life Is Good fits like a fine, plush pair of slippers for you to wear while Nas recollects his recent memories for you over a few glasses of cognac. Nas is most definitely the don he fashions himself, yet all one needs to do is glance at this record’s cover—Nas seated in a white tux, quizzically staring into the void with Kelis’ green wedding dress draped across his lap—to understand the pain and even the pleasure he is feeling right now is not all that different from our own. Which in truth is why Nas the don can exist so engrossingly while Nastradamus was a near careen off a cliff for his career; the ego is present here, but it is acceptable, humbled even at times. Though Nas is not without reason to celebrate, “Silent rage, pristine in my vintage shades / I’m not in the winters of my life or the beginning stage, I am the dragon,” he exclaims on “Nasty” singing loud his refusal to simply go out quietly. And if Nas can continue with the relative excellence he’s showcased throughout his thirties thus far, we’ve no reason to believe he will stop producing scorching hot music for some time to come. Even if there are always a few hiccups along the way; but with Nas, really, it is all about the beautiful flaws and dazzling charms hidden under the soot.

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