Nas goes back to ba­sics

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MUSIC - JAR­RAD BE­VAN

WHEN life gives an artist a bad trot, it can be a cre­ative gift, an in­spi­ra­tional spark.

For one of New York’s great­est rap­pers, life has not been so great lately.

Nas got a tax bill in the mil­lions from the IRS. He got pub­licly and nas­tily di­vorced from his wife, pop star Kelis. Oh yeah, and she was preg­nant with his baby daugh­ter.

Nas has some­how chan­nelled this trauma into a blis­ter­ing new record, his best in many years.

The truth is, he hasn’t been rel­e­vant for a long time.

Hip- hop is a young man’s game, un­less you are liv­ing off an im­age and rep­u­ta­tion ( Snoop Dogg, ahem).

Per­haps it sounds ridicu­lous and hy­per­bolic but this al­bum is Nas’s best, his coolest, his most hon­est since the clas­sic de­but Ill­matic.

And that al­bum is a Top 20 rap al­bum of all time, of­ten plac­ing at the No. 1 spot.

In­stead of com­pet­ing with the kids and their lame raps about be­ing street thugs, rich pimps and lady killers, Nas has gone back to ba­sics, writ­ing an al­bum in­spired by his real life. Adult rap? Get up on that.

Life Is Good delves into Nas’s strug­gles, from his daugh­ter giv­ing him grey hairs on so­cial me­dia to a lot of ma­te­rial about Kelis and their break- up.

On the al­bum cover he is hold­ing her wed­ding dress, sup­pos­edly the only thing she left in their house af­ter mov­ing out.

The al­bum be­gins with hard drums and wal­lop- pack­ing chords and lyrics about writ­ing to get over his for­mer lover.

Later, on the al­bum’s high­light, Bye Baby, he paints a vivid pic­ture of love torn apart.

On such a heart­felt, pow­er­ful song he man­ages a lit­tle hu­mour with a gag about tak­ing half of her stuff.

Nas lifts a sam­ple for the cho­rus from Guy’s ’ 88 tune Good­bye Love, just like Brand Nu­bian, Mary J. Blige, Black­street and Mariah Carey have done in the past.

The al­bum gets jazzy on Cherry Wine, with the late Amy Wine­house singing the hook, and there’s killer NYC raw at­ti­tude on the hard and heavy Don.

There’s also ur­ban gospel tones on Ac­ci­den­tal Mur­der­ers with Rick Ross, and then a touch­ing num­ber that is in part an ode to his son and also the rap game with Stay. The al­bum has a slight lull at num­ber seven and eight but aside from that, the qual­ity is im­pres­sive.

At the back end of A Queen’s Story, Nas stops the beats and raps a cap­pel­lastyle over grand pi­ano flour­ishes.

Some­how he still sounds fierce. Nas is a tal­ented sto­ry­teller, mov­ing eas­ily from the streets to swank clubs full of yup­pies.

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