Are you one of those people on facebook and twitter that always update your status about how you’re stressed in life? Are you one of those people who claim you hate the so-called drama but you actually embrace it? Well this review may be for you so listen up…Try putting yourself in Nasir Jones’ shoes…are you always under pressure of matching the classic Illmatic LP? No. How much Child Benefit have you gotta pay a month? 55,000$? Didn’t think so. Let me put it another way: Are you apart of a struggling family in a third world country striving for food and water? Nas is trying to tell you that you are blessed, and Life Is Good. If you are a hip hop fan that likes to compare every Nas album to his first, stop reading this review now. As Nas said in Stillmatic, “It’s always going forward; never backward stupid here’s another classic…” On the flip side, this album Nas shows hints of that Illmatic vibe…
According to Nas, this album has ‘No Introduction’. This is as gripping and mind captivating as ‘The Genesis’, the intros he had in Stillmatic and Streets Disciple. Nas sums up his life story so far in about 4 minutes, and in the end, you will be either laughing at him or with him…and in our case, it would be the latter.
…and as if Nas heard the cries of fans telling him to make another Illmatic, Nas responds to the ‘trapped in the 90s n!**a$’ by kicking the album off with ‘Loco-Motive’, featuring one of the début album’s contributors, Large Professor. As beautifully constructed as this track is, it would have been nice that Large Professor actually spat a few bars and/or produced the track…but who am I to complain…I’m nodding my head aren’t I?
Nas then decides to tell ‘A Queens Story’. Nas goes on an all-out assault on the Salaam Remi produced, Run DMC sampled track with a flow reminiscent of Nasty Nas Pre’ 94. Then cleverly goes into a prelude of ‘Accidental Murderers’ that would feature Rick Ross… an epic No I.D. track that would have been even better if the track featured say Raekwon or Ghostface Killah, or even returning the favour by bringing in the producer’s recent collaborator, Common. But by featuring ‘Officer Ricky’ might be Nasir’s way of staying current, something which he clearly doesn’t have to do.
As his daughter Destiny hit her teenage years, Nas realises his own minor errors as a father…and encourages his brothers with ‘Daughters’ to strengthen their bonds, particularly those brothers that are single. It is also good to see that the author of the Untitled (N!**£r) album ditched the original recording of this track because of the unnecessary over use of the word. Time has flown since his ode to her on Streets Disciple (‘Me & You’).
If Nas has gotta take it back to that 90s flava, he felt that he had to take the ‘Queen of Hip Hop/Soul’ with him. Nas decides to ‘Reach Out’ to Mary J. Blige and revisits the tried and tested sample of Ike’s Mood by Issac Hayes. She sounds as great as ever now as she did in 1995 when she made ‘I Love You’ featuring Smif ‘N’ Wessun, which remains one of my favourite R&B tunes of all time.
Time to slow it down a bit with ‘World’s An Addiction’ featuring Anthony Hamilton. Nas begins to speak the unwritten commandments that we are ignorant to, while Salaam Remi does a bit of revisiting himself by sampling his own track ‘The World’… “It;s better to dead a beef than let it breathe/Then we don’t succeed/Cause then you gotta murder dummies/Waste your time, they allergic to money…” before Nas gets emotionally charged in a the third verse not seen since One Mic but minus the initial whispering…
At first listen, this may sound slightly out-of-place with the tracks heard thus far in the album, but then it quickly grows on you and you understand its purpose. Nas and Swizz Beatz claim that they have the ‘Summer on Smash’. This is nothing more than a party hype track, and one that Tim Westwood would fully endorse on his radio show and would go as far as saying that it is ‘the best joint on the album’, maybe even push it for a single/video. But this is RePPiN4U and we all know that isn’t true as far as ‘best joint’, in fact far from it. Here Nas is celebrating his return to single life after his epic fail marriage…but that’s another track that we will speak on later…
Nas remains on that relaxing, vacation, ‘Life’s A B!tch’ type flow that ‘You Wouldn’t Understand’, a Buckwild produced track featuring vocalist Victoria Monet…however heads’ eyebrows will raise when Nas says he’s in chill mode listening to (Young) Jeezy, Hov (Jay-Z) and Rosay (Rick Ross). I don’t know about you but when I’m in chill mode, A Tribe Called Quest, Slum Village & J Dilla are the artists that spring to mind here. But then again, I wouldn’t understand that now would I?
Nas & No I.D. take another element out of the Illmatic archives, this time taking it ‘Back When’ it all got started. Nas tells the story on how he fell in love with the hip hop art form in the late 80s when he listened to MC Shan, who ironically enough, was the inspiration behind this track, when 2Pac ‘left him’ in the rap world, and that he hates doing interviews because he feels that he doesn’t get enough credit…that is a very arguable point.
The album’s lead single, ‘The Don’, is the true summer anthem. If Hip Hop is Dead, then Heavy D left this beat in his will and wished for Salaam and Nas to bless the Supercat endorsed track. This is one that will stay in heavy rotation in the hip hop jams since ‘Made You Look’.
Time to zone out now and indulge your mind into some thought-provoking. Nas wants you to ‘Stay’ as he finds himself in catch-22 situations with a hot chick that doesn’t deserve her throne because of her behaviour and thinks bad about his enemies but wants them to stay in his life to further drive his ambitions forward.
Where Nas failed to return the favour to Common for this album, he more than succeeds with Amy Winehouse. As both sip that ‘Cherry Wine’, they both look for that perfect partner, this standout track is more likely to get the single/video treatment simply because of Winehouse’s amazing vocals and popularity. If you don’t find this track instantly infectious, may I suggest that cotton buds are widely available from all good pharmaceuticals and apply them inside your ears and clean thoroughly. While this track would be perfect to close the album, Nas is not done; he still has to address a certain somebody who he thought was his soul mate…
…and we realise that the person that Nas is referring to is Kelis. When Streets Disciple dropped, he broke a lot of women’s hearts around the world over when he announced that he was ‘Getting Married’. But fast forward 8 years and we find that situation has changed and women can now rejoice once again. In the Guy-Goodbye Love assisted ‘Bye Baby’, Nas breaks down the marriage and why he had to walk away but at the same time counteracts guys who talks bad of him marrying her in the first place when they haven’t attempted to commit to their own partner. Maybe Method Man can take back his apology to the now divorced couple after he emotionally expressed his views about the situation…
Fans will rejoice that ‘Nasty’ Nas included 4 tracks in the Deluxe Version of the CD. The original 2011 banger that was later freestyled by Inspectah Deck among others is here. Salaam and Nas then create a cinematic vibe that would be perfect for a James Bond soundtrack, entitled ‘The Black Bond’. Nas tells the story of how he would embody that well-known character.
Almost as if Kelis feels regret for the destruction of their marriage, ‘Roses’ are dropped on her ex-husbands door. Nas starts contemplating his dating options with female fans ticking the appropriate boxes; “Who should I date/Project chick or Cuban actress/A White chick, they might flip talking that Blackness/Should only attract Black sh!t,/I’m an @$$ magnet/If you mad at that/You’ll be mad forever/Never played you/I prayed we would stay together…”
Just like his comrade Common, Nas teamed up with No I.D. and the Cocaine 80s for ‘Where’s The Love’. Nas reaches out to the younger cats that this ain’t no Truman Show but rather, the Human show… “Younger generation, they want to mimic and mock us/Laughing, separating themselves like they not us, like/”Cops’ll look at you like they look at me? That’s preposterous…”
The album’s main producer Salaam Remi has put in arguably his best work here, whereas No I.D. compliments it well with his soulful, jazzy grooves throughout. Unfortunately Nas broke his promise again to real hip hop heads because he stated that he would be working with DJ Premier and RZA for this album, and if those tracks exist, they didn’t make the album and hip hop purists will begin the hunt for those unreleased tracks. So is ‘Life Is Good’ the album of the year? Well to the mainstream eye, that answer is YES. But to RePPiN4U, it has joined the race with Apollo Brown & OC – Trophies, DJ Premier & Bumpy Knuckles – Kollexxxion, J- Dilla –Rebirth Of Detroit and Ras Kass & Doc Hollywood – Spit No Evil. And if 2011 has learnt us anything, the race is not over until it is over – we thought that Elzhi was gonna run away with the title with Elmatic until Common unveiled ‘The Dreamer, The Believer’ right at the end of the year. It’s gonna be a close one like the 100m dash finals at the London Olympic Games. ‘Life is Good’ indeed in the world of hip hop right now.