Published on July 18th, 2012 | by Tawann Guice0
Lifestyles Defined Presents: Nas – Life Is Good (Deluxe Version) Review
How does one charter the career of a Rapper, which in the opinion of many; is short lived? Sure rhymes skills, intelligent word play, consistent hits, and the proverbial cross over track would be just about enough to set a half way decent rapper straight for a time span of seven years; ten if you are lucky enough to be signed to a major label that will back you for the duration. Should you not be so blessed with the latter; your career in Hip Hop “Would Be Short Like Leprechauns”!
More than twenty years ago, a Hip Hop group by the name of Main Source released an almost cult like rap classic track called ‘Live At The BBQ’ that would feature break through rappers: Akinyele, Joe Fatal and Nas. The song never quite made it as a radio hit, but was widely accepted in the underground Hip Hop scene. Both Akinyele and Joe Fatal proved to be track worthy but both would be sub-par to the then 17 year old Nasty Nas who single handedly obliterated the track. Only a few years later in 1994; Nas would deliver to the world his first album dubbed a Hip Hop classic among classic albums. From 1994 to 2008 Nas’s catalog would encompass nine solo albums, one group album featuring The Bravehearts, a couple of compilation albums, and a plethora of singles and features. Some people (including myself) believed that over time Nas’s rap style and even skill may have diminished. Many blamed it on the seemingly “mainstream / crossover” type of music that Nas was putting out. Now in 2012 Nas is back with his tenth solo album and might I say, it has some very interesting songs worthy of saying in plan…”Nasty Nas is back!”
The approach to Nas’s album “Life Is Good”, much to me being presumptuous was a rush to judgment. Believing the album was something I’ve heard before was my fault, it was the total opposite…but still it was something that I have heard before. It was like listening to a Nas reborn into what brought him to the status he achieved nine albums ago.
…and now for the music…
Setting it right off and explaining to the listener that this album needs [1:No Introduction], Nas seems to bring us all to the place where he is at in this time of his life. Breaking down the path of his career while giving us a more personal side of his life over beats and melodies you might hear on Sunday morning while sitting in that old Baptist Church your Grandmother used to take you to.
Moving right along; we are taken on a rough [2:Loco-Motive] subway ride through the boroughs of New York, explaining the city life as a 7 train conductor would announce the next destination. The lyrics are harsh and gritty, like the very streets that surface the railways beneath. The motorman is Large Professor; who better to navigate us through this New York City dimension over beats reminiscent of that old school Hip Hop 90’s feel . Next stop Queens Boro!
As we exit the station to the street, Nas walks us through his Boro quoting his rendition of [3:A Queens Story]. If you’ve ever traveled this borough, you will never find a more personified way of describing ones home town. His explanation of life in Q.B. streets is explained in a way seldom heard before, and then the beat stops… requiring no need of a snare from a drum nor keyboard riff. Nas continues on almost oblivious to the fact that the music has stopped.
In the mean streets of New York, an inner city lifestyle is sometimes not without its trials. Where many find themselves living behind a cocked hammer, an eager trigger finger, and a firing pin that strikes a primer setting off an unintended chain of events. Often times that spent round misses its intended target; taking the life of some unsuspecting, creating [4:Accident Murderers].
The questions of; how are we shielded from those random stray rounds, are sometimes accompanied by how do we as fathers shield our [5:Daughters] from the things that we ourselves can be held liable for. No matter how much positivity we as fathers and mothers try to verbally pump into our children, Nas explains that in the eyes of our children there are few actions that go unnoticed.
Moving on to a Nas we have not heard since the album “It Was Written”. [6:Reach Out] reminds me of a modern day version of “If I Ruled The World”, this time around co-starring Mary J. Blige. An old school hip hop beat with detailed lyrics almost brings you a sense of déjà vu.
Along with one of my personal favorites in R&B Anthony Hamilton; Nas continues his barrage of well written lyrics of life, hardships, struggle in a place where the [7:Worlds An Addiction]. A track using nothing more than a melody, a soulfully played tambourine and a hook sung by Anthony Hamilton.
Until now I began to wonder when that summer time, windows down, top is dropped song would begin. A Swizz Beatz production as well as on the hook, and R&B singer Miguel with a verse of his own; Nas shows us how to have the [8:Summer On Smash].
[9:You Wouldn’t Understand] Nas’s ability to seemingly take you from the guts of the hottest drop top car driving the city in the summer time; to the swagged out lavish life of a boss; speaking on a life that would seem to come ever so easy. With vocals from R&B new comer Victoria Monet serenading the hook; and lyrics that almost describe what life would be like on a private island, Nas shows us a life outside of the hood.
Beginning with words from Pioneer Queens Hip Hop Artist MC Shan’s vocals “You Love To Hear This Story; Again And Again, Of How It All Got Started Way [10:Back When]”, was a clear cut sign of where this track was headed to. Remembering what was; will always give you an appreciation of where you are today. For just a moment Nas made me remember 1987, walking home with a cherry Italian icy with the wooden spoon.
One of the first tracks that I was privileged to hear earlier this year; begins with reggae artist Supa Cat’s words echoing throughout the intro. This would at first raise an eyebrow; but later have my head bouncing to a heavy bass riddled beat. An unorthodox way of Nas to describe why he is [11:The Don] of rap, and very unexpected. Never the less the song featured good produced by Salaam Remi and the late Heavy D, with well placed lyrics that only added to the attack on your eardrums.
Tapping into his roots in Jazz music; Nas spits over horn riffs, smooth bass lines and a moving percussion segment as the hook tell us to do nothing more than [12:Stay]. Well put together, this track remind me of when Nas first did the song “Bridging The Gap” with his dad.
If you are going to describe your significant other or simply the one you love as [13:Cherry Wine], who better to do that with then the late and soulful Amy Winehouse. Her voice is truly a voice that will be missed in entertainment, she lives on through tracks like this.
Beginning with an excerpt from an old school R&B classic “Goodbye Love” by the group Guy; Nas puts his heart on the table and on this track as he tells his ex-wife Kelis [14:Bye Baby]. Lending us the words to a story that in many situations were nothing more than speculations and assumptions, this is the “not a novel” tell all rendition of a marriage that started in heaven but ended somewhere around the corner from hell.
In the intro; I told you that [15:Nasty] Nas is back! This song is just another showing of this to be true.
Following up the Nasty that Nas has found himself at once again, he takes us into the life of what it would be like to be [16:The Black Bond]. Break out the Aston Martin DB8s, and the black suits!
I get the feeling from this track that Nas has more to say about a love lost, and perhaps a frustration that he was unable to get out on “Bye Baby”. Only in the end are the fragrance of [17:Roses] less appreciated.
How does a Hip Hop Artist like Nas conclude an album were he in so many was explains how life is both good, and at times not so good? Simply, he can’t! Nas has been where many people only read about in novels or in the Daily News paper. A life where the mountains peak is no less scary than the struggle to go up that very mountain, knowing that the fall could kill you. Some may believe that Nas fell just a little bit; but not enough to be considered washed up. An album of tight production by some of the best in the business, classic Nas like skills, and topics good enough to keep a narcoleptic awake was displayed on the “Life Is Good” album. Not every song “Made You Look”, but a few took you down “Memory Lane”, and showed you what “Nas Is Like” then compared to now. On this last track; Nas asked us all [18:Where Is The Love]?? After delivering an album worthy of classic album archives; I definitely must say that the love is right here.