RELEASED: JULY 19, 2019, Def Jam/Mass Appeal Records, REVIEW WRITTEN BY MICHAEL GRANT, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U and UK AMBASSADOR for WU-WORLDWIDE DJ COALITION
In mainstream Hip Hop, the media have developed an imaginary ‘Mount Rushmore’. The real one has four heads, Hip Hop has FIVE: 2Pac, Biggie, Jay-Z, Eminem & NAS. For Obvious reasons Pac & B.I.G. are exempt, but for the other three, they could well be the most polarizing figures in Hip Hop. Any major release they do will be praised by their fans, but heavily scrutinized by the ‘True Hip Hop Heads’. With Eminem, it may boil down to ‘white privilege’, with Jay, it’s his dumbing down of lyrics and his global status, had Big and Pac be alive, the true heads would surely find a major fault with them let’s keep it 100, and as for NAS, it’s his ‘bad’ ear for beats… every release from God’s Son onwards leaves heads saying one of two things: One – it’s not better than Illmatic/It Was Written or… there’s no DJ Premier production… Nas & Premo made a huge mistake in 2010 – announcing that they would do a joint project together, and ever since then, that’s what the fans have been clamoring for. Life Is Good came out, NO PREMO. After eight years, a ‘quasi’ follow up came in the form of ‘NASIR’, produced entirely by Kanye West, and that brought major disappointment within the fans, and perhaps didn’t get it until Nas released his mini movie. Now in 2019, Nas finally unleashes the sequel to The Lost Tapes, with the predecessor held in high regard by the fans, the pressure is on Nas to come through here. 16 previously unreleased tracks ranging from Hip Hop Is Dead, The Untitled (N!&&£r) Album, Life Is Good and Nasir with an all-star cast of producers, surely Nas cannot falter….can he????
TURNIN’ NOTHIN INTO SOMETHIN’ IS GOD WORK
When it comes to Nas, fans love to play the comparison game, so we are going to do the same thing here. The way the album starts off, one would think the listener is at church with arms spread out and head tilted up with eyes closed as if the heavens have opened up. If Nas is hoping for ‘No Bad Energy’, social media is the wrong place to start let me tell you. Instantly this track sounds as if Swizz produced an ‘Echo Part 2’… one thing is for sure, the glorious start he achieved with Doo Rags from the first Tapes was also achieved here.
Vernon Family sees Nas flawlessly flowing over a relentless Pharrell Williams beat, already by this time, heads are already playing the game ‘Which album was this made for’? We already know by the recent interviews that these are based on the last four album releases.
As we enter the most polarizing track of Nas career… we know he can have his creative moments. It simply boils down to if you are a fan of the Jazz sub-genre – ‘scat’…you will appreciate this track. If you’re not, well good chance is you won’t. On first listen, your confusion will go into overdrive. From that point, you will either decide to listen to it multiple times to absorb it or immediately dismiss it.
YOU GOTTA LOVE IT
Now the Lost Freestyle screams NAS all day long… Statik Selektah nailed this sound perfectly and becomes one of the albums highlights… one would think that fans on social media completely forgot about this being played in the initial trailer and focussed all of their displeasure on the track previous. To keep the zoning out going, Statik lets the beat ride out, always a beautiful thing… Nas is also one of the few non-Wu artists on the planet who can rhyme crazy over a RZA beat, we know how unorthodox they can be… this time Nas directs his verbal intercourse over oriental sounding sonics and a Renaissance sample.
You have heard Royalty by Gangstarr, now hear Nas’ version. In this tune he contemplates getting married again after the failure of Kelis and RaVaughn providing the chorus enforcing our young women to respect themselves.
‘Who Are You’ is an interesting tale of a black man who made it out the hood, and while he tries to teach values to those still in the hood, he seems to have almost lost a part of who he was… “And we all know the code of the block/And you talking some gibberish, anti-n!&&@ sh!t/’Cause you marched back with Rosa Parks?
Brother, don’t start, go build your Noah’s Ark/You could float to the end of the world, and pretend what you not/But I know what you are…”
…meanwhile in ‘Adult Film’, even though Nas has been well known to go wild for the night as far as sexual encounters, Nas expresses his frustrations with insecure women, and their friends putting words in their ear… almost sounds as if these are wounds re-opened from the Kelis experiences…
The way Nas is talking in this video? It’s as if he’s thinking of pushing this as the next single under the strength of Lauryn Hill, and there is so much truth in this. War Against Love sounds as if it was recorded for the Untitled album as regards to lyrics and subject matter, talking about the savages trying to kill us off since the days of the Moors… “Cause we could be so great, pray it’s not too late/Put pride aside, coincide, I bet we both be straight/Straight to the top, side to side, twin Rolls Royces/We made choices to be devoted
To go at those foes who come at us with upside down crosses…”
WRITIN’ IN MY BOOK OF RHYMES, ALL THE WORDS PAST THE MARGIN
The production guessing continues in this next album highlight with the Pete Rock Produced ‘The Art Of It’, The Soul Brother flips Naughty By Nature’s Uptown Anthem in such epic fashion, and here Nas reveals when this could have been made in terms of his age at the time. The hook sounds a bit unfinished but that doesn’t matter… this track right here further validates some heads claims that Nas doesn’t know how to pick beats for his albums… this one right here is inexcusable. This is an instant banger. According to Nas, he didn’t want to tarnish Pete Rock’s legacy…so that’s why it never initially came out. Then in Highly Favoured, this sounds like one of the Wu-Tang Killa Beez were actually working on it and then Nas stormed in and said – ‘RZA – I’ll take that – this is Highly favoured for me…’ Next, Nas goes all Marvel on us in Queen’s Wolf, but Netflix might have cancelled that season before it even started.
HOW MUCH OF BIGGIE’S RHYMES GONNA COME OUT YOUR FAT LIPS?
Don’t you think it’s ironic that during the legendary battle between Nas & Jay-Z, Nas calls out Jiggaman for reciting many of B.I.G.’s lines, and in The Alchemist produced ‘It Never Ends’, Nas winds up doing the same thing? It’s like John Cena calling out The Rock for turning his back on wrestling in favor for Hollywood, only for Cena to do the same thing years later… and most likely end up on the same film in the future (Fast & Furious 10?)
They say ‘You Mean The World To Me’ could be the best Kanye West produced track for Nas and was meant for Nasir…if that is so, it wouldn’t stop the Kanye haters going in on the Nasir album. In this track, it seems as if the woman in this tale actually took Skyzoo’s words of advice.
Again, with ‘Queensbridge Politics’, it’s hard to buy Nas’ claim of tarnishing Pete Rock’s legacy especially when when you are paying homage to Prodigy, amidst all the ups and downs over the years. Finally RaVaughn rejoins Nas in the album’s feel good finale – Beautiful Life. It feels as if when this was recorded, Nas was juggling between this and Bye Baby for the Life Is Good album closer. Maybe he didn’t want to put too much spotlight on Kelis at the time. Nas fans wouldn’t have minded, they see Kelis as the enemy anyway… especially in the eyes of Redman & Method Man.
SOMETIMES HATING IS CONFUSED ADMIRATION
And that line right there resonates everything I have seen in recent days… this line stuck with me ever since Nas said it in 2012, and heads are falling for it every time. This collection of unreleased material is a nice project, it could have been trimmed down a little to match the original, but it is nice no less with plenty of replay value. Perhaps maybe not as consistent as the first in terms of production (it seemed like Nas worked with the same team over It Was Written, I Am and Nastradamus which made it flow well). However for those fans who most likely gave it one spin and then updated their status with negativity, they will forever be stuck in their ways and there is no helping them. They want that Nas/Premo project and to that I say this: ABANDON HOPE and tweet Royce Da 5’9 why it didn’t happen…and if Nas brings out The Lost Tapes 3 & 4… the same thing is going to happen – heads will pay attention, they will curse out Nas for having a bad ear for beats, listen to it anyway, and curse him more EVEN IF the album is good, such is the case with this. It’s just how it is.