Now, I wasn’t the biggest Nas fan growing up. I wasn’t exposed to him that much; it was more Wu Tang, Biggie & Jay-Z as far as hip hop went. I’ve always known that he’s a good rapper, but I didn’t get into full appreciation of his music until about two years ago when I listened to about 4 of his albums. He’s one of the great rappers of our time because he always brought the streets and his experiences to the music and it is so raw and poetic that it literally just wraps around your brain like a pig in a blanket, I kid you not. If you haven’t been an avid fan of Nas for some time, go back into his catalog and listen to his work; it’s some of the best I’ve ever heard.
This album already caught me from the cover; it’s him sitting with his ex wife’s (Kelis) wedding dress, which was the only item he kept when they divorced. I only knew that from watching his Behind The Music episode, but from the title of the album to the cover, it gave me an idea that it was meant to be sort of an…I want to say an oxymoron, but more of ironic, because although he still has a relatively good life, there’s still pain lingering that he’s holding on to. I anticipated that this was going to be an emotional album for Mr. Nasir Jones, so let me begin.
1. No Introduction
Old School; this isn’t ‘Illmatic’ or any other album. Nas just gets straight to the point of why he’s here and what he’s going to say on the album. he touches on the fact that he’s grown, but yet he’s still reflecting on his life and his experiences going through his growth process with all of his albums. He’s basically contrasting the life he used to live when he was coming up and now that he has so much success, recognition and at this point of his life, it’s like when your life flashes before your eyes before you die. It really sounds like some funeral music, like he’s reading his own eulogy, but it’s not the death of him, it’s more like a rebirth and a point of reflection as far as his personal life is concerned.
2. Loco-Motive (Featuring Large Professor)
Every time I hear a train at the beginning of a song, I think SpaceGhostPurrp is going to come on the track, but of course the beat kicked in, and instantly, you’re transported back to the early 90s with the simple drums & piano – Simple, yet effective. This is a street track; Nas wanted to remind the people that he still has that aggressive delivery that the fans grew to love at the beginning of his career, so he flaunted about the money, girls, clothes and took off the Versace and threw on the Mecca tank top with a du-rag with Timberlands. Very raw track, and he stated it at the end that it was “for the stuck in the 90s niggas,” and it was good that he stated that because everyone wants their favourite rappers to go back to their old roots, and like Jay-Z said once “niggas want my old shit, buy my old albums.” (Not sure if that was wrong to have a Jay-Z quote on a Nas post, but whatever, I do what i want) He brought it back and delivered a punch in the mouth to the new rappers trying to step up and claim his title – no sir. Nas is still here, and he’s making his voice heard. A hard track; lyrically one of the best on the album, and it’s only the 2nd song. The ad-libs provided by Large Professor gave it a 90s feel as well like at the end of most of his songs on Illmatic with his boys talking in the background (I thought of ‘Represent’ first).
3. A Queens Story
If you didn’t know already, Nas is from Queensbridge, NY. I felt the need to get that out there, but it’s basic trivia in Hip Hop. In this song, picture Nas just going through his old hood many years later and (again, staying relevant to the theme) reflecting on the past and just pointing out key events and people who were around then but aren’t now. So much change in his life & he’s just wondering where it all went and how it came to be, but it all started at home. He never forgot where he came from, and that’s important that he still shows home some love.
“Queens to the heavens, salute the hood legends
Crack the Patrón, Hennessy, and Glenlivets
Champagne bottles drowning out the sorrows
Hope the memories’ll get us through tomorrow”
4. Accident Murderers (Featuring Rick Ross)
Another one of my favourite songs on this album. The beat, the Rick Ross feature, the lyrical content and it really seems like Nas is just that older man on the block seeing the younger kids coming up and there’s a sour taste in his mouth because of the way that they’re acting; there are people who do things and they feel good about themselves because they thought they had a kill when it really wasn’t intentional. Nas was basically calling them out and was trying to be the positive one to try to straighten them out, but it wouldn’t appear to be so. We all have those people we hung out with as kids that didn’t seem right, and then they grow up to be criminals; we all have those, let’s be honest. This is one of those stories. More reflection, and a more mature way of thinking by providing some wisdom to the young cats.
Yet another favourite. I don’t have kids, but I know people who are young and have children; not many do I know that have daughters. This song shows Nas as a father figure with a teenage daughter, which usually comes with a lot of headaches when one is raising a child, boy or girl. We can only protect our children from the world so long before they go and experience life for themselves. In the song he gives examples about her daughter dating a boy in jail, and also an incident involving sex & social networks. It’s a new age, and there are new “worries” for parents in this day when the internet has become more of a teaching method than most parents that are young. Nas has regrets for not being a stricter father and teaching her more about how guys play the game. He’s not the perfect man, but he wants the best for her daughter, so he’s emphasizing that for himself and to other guys that raise daughters by themselves. It’s a great song. I’d play it for my little sister one day. SHE GON’ LEARN!
6. Reach Out (Featuring Mary J. Blige)
Not going to lie – I don’t really like this song to be honest. The beat is cool, but Mary J. Blige on it? Mehhh, if it was during her 90s dominance, this would be a classic, but no..not a fan. Her verse really had me want to skip this song (or at least to whenever Nas was going to start), but thankfully it didn’t last long. Nas contrasts his success with his struggles and even though he’s up there in hip hop lore, he’s still street at heart. The story continues as it’s like a coming-of-age process and he’s just talking about how he wanted to bring his boys from back in the day on his road to success like meeting with powerful people and travelling worldwide, but, life didn’t work out like that. Honestly, I feel like he flipped through a yearbook or some photo albums while writing this album, I swear. It’s like one long tale of reflection, but it stays relative to the theme of the album, which is good. It’s solid so far.
7. World’s An Addiction (Featuring Anthony Hamilton)
If you get caught up in the life you’re living, you can get attached easily and when you get addicted to certain things, you start to lose things around yourself, and that includes the people & the surroundings. There are a lot of things that we can get caught up in, and one thing is the street life. Money, clothes, fame, women – we could get addicted to that lifestyle quickly, and that can be our demise as well. Nas has always been a teacher through his words; he advises people to find something to believe in and stop worrying about the other things that we grow addicted to and can kill us. Anthony Hamilton is so underrated, it’s a JOKE! The man is such a soulful singer. He should’ve had his own verse, but I’m not mad. This was an uplifting song.
8. Summer on Smash (Featuring Miguel & Swizz Beatz)
Club Banger alert. Miguel? Random. Swizzy? Random & Annoying, but hype tracks are (were?) his thing. Everyone needs that ONE club song, but this one? Meh. I get that he’s saying that he’s going to have the summer on lock with this album (he just might), but the beat is so…Swizz Beatzy (I didn’t know another word to really describe it being cool but annoying-as-all-fucks-in-about-3-listens). *unchecks selection on iTunes* Miguel is cool, but uhh, ya…stick to…something else…and Swizz Beatz? Stick to….Alicia Keys. You have that much going for you.
9. You Wouldn’t Understand (Featuring Victoria Monet)
I have no idea who this Victoria person is, but I don’t like her voice that much. This beat is summery like you’re riding down the highway in a top-down and stuff. Another song that really did nothing for me, to be honest. Nas is basically saying, you wouldn’t understand how I got here if you don’t have the mindset of a hustler to get to where he is now because of WHAT he had to go through, so he’s living lavishly and he’s enjoying the moment because he’s worked hard to earn this success.
10. Back When
This song reminded me of Biggie’s ‘Juicy’ because of the back in the day pop culture references he grew up around and just reflecting on how times were before he was popular and now when he sees how the world is now and how the media is one of the prime examples of how the world has changed drastically because of the people who are wrongly portrayed, but at the same time, they bring it upon themselves. Nas is who he is because of life experiences, so he takes you back as to how it all started for him. The personality, the confidence that he had to propel him to success; well he wants you to know about it.
11. The Don
NEW YORK GYAL, DEM A MOD OVER WE! I swear I almost did the Bogle when I heard the Supercat single on some real deal freshie vibes. Most of us already heard the single prior to the album, but it still goes hard. He’s a Don; Nas the Don. He’s a boss and he’s going around letting us know that. He’s flaunting his riches while still being stuck to the streets, aware of his surroundings and being at control of his movements. I dig this track because of the versatile wordplay and putting so much aggression on it. Another great one on the album.
Shout out to No I.D, who was the main producer for this album. This sample in this song, I first heard on CyHi’s ‘Woopty Do’ track with Big Sean (nice joint) so I instantly recognized that. This is a positive song that is really uplifting in a way because he’s sending a message that it’s a cold world, but you have to take the good within every bad that comes your way. There may be snakes and there will be people who deceive you, but they only make you make you stronger as a person. It instills the motto of ‘Keep your friends close & enemies closer’ to make you more human. A smooth song, and very soulful. At this point, I feel as it I’m repeating myself too much because this album really is one big story of reflection & appreciation while airing out emotions that Nas had bottled up.
13. Cherry Wine (Featuring Amy Winehouse)
Rest in peace to Amy Winehouse. I can’t believe that it’s been one year since she passed. It still doesn’t feel real, but unfortunately she is. A great talent that just got caught up in the wrong things – the common downfall. Cherry Wine is a drink I would know nothing about, but as Nas describes it, it’s a smooth, sensual drink that is easy on the eyes and tastes sweet. Imagery is at play here because he’s using this wine to compare it to a woman (how fitting to have Amy WINEhouse on this song). The ideal woman Nas is rapping about, is the type of woman who I would probably want for myself. Some attitude, but always well-matured with a great personality. It’s hard for us to find the person that we want, but that person does exist. Despite the fame and fortune, many people who are well off have lonely souls, and they just want someone to complete them. A simple thing that we all want. I can definitely relate to this song. Amy Winehouse’s vocals gave me chills. Such a beautiful song.
14. Bye Baby
The last song if you don’t have the deluxe version (there’s 3 additional songs on the Deluxe). This is one of the best songs Nas has done (in my opinion) and here’s why: He’s letting go of his pain of divorcing Kelis. A lot of celebrities don’t like talking about their relationship woes if they have any, but he made a great song out of it. With pain, you can create some memorable stuff. This is like the last song for him really to get his true feelings off of his chest. It was good for him to get some closure and let his fans know how he felt. It takes a lot to put that into a song, so you have to respect him for that, because he loved the hell out of that woman.
Going back to his old roots, Nas went with an aggressive flow, boasts about the money, hoes & clothes. You know, the usual “I’m rich & still hood” mentality, but that’s how he started, and that’s how he’ll finish it. Classic Nas.
16. The Black Bond
Ultimate luxury status. James Bond is the contract killer but with the smooth swagger that compliments his lifestyle, that’s the role Nas has placed himself into this song. He’s on a level higher than most, and he’s expressing that on this song. Makes me feel SO BROKE. Like, I don’t even want to look at my bank account, because I know that I’m definitely not sleeping on Gucci pillows. I loved the Bond music hat was sampled. It’s so chilling yet eerie & captivating. Greatness.
My favourite song in general. The singer, and the content. This is like the burial song if there was a funeral for this album. Roses are the last flowers that are usually tossed into a casket when they’re putting the dirt over it. Roses are beautiful to look at, but harmful to touch because of their thorns. This is his reaching out to Kelis & yet another song dedicated to her about his pain and expressing his loss around the person he loved. Deeply touching, because we all have that person that we wish we still had, but it could never work out that way. Another song to relate to.
18. Where Is The Love (Featuring Cocaine 80s)
There’s a lot of unfair treatment for those who live in more less fortunate project housing complexes. The police love to treat other people down and look past the bigger picture, and black kids get profiled all the time by the government enforcers. Nas brought this issue to light, and it’s true – there’s no love in the ghetto. Well said, Nasir. Well said.
I was nervous to write this review, as I am for all of them. Reason being is because I liked this album a lot and I didn’t want to do this review a disservice. Nas isn’t one of the great storytellers of all time for no reason. This is one of his best works, and it was something that I haven’t heard from a rapper in a while, or at least since Common’s album. It’s human, it’s refreshing, and there’s something in it for everyone. It’s not just a traditional hip hop album that is generic. This is something that was heartfelt and brought a great vibe to the music. Production is great, content is great, and Nas fans should be happy with this album. I’m not the biggest Nas fan, but this is a great album. Hope you enjoyed the review, have your opinion on it, but for now,
That’s My Word & It STiXX