Nas goes back to basics
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.