Published on July 31st, 2012 | by Retro19200
Review: Life Is Good – Nas
When a poet is internationally renowned for creating an immaculate body of work at the age of 19, what are the expectations for the same poet in his late 30’s nearing his 10th solo composition?
Nasir Jones, 38, has been a staple in the Hip-Hop community for nearly two decades, and with his immeasurable foresight Nas continues to find ways to keep his substance and subject matter relevant pass any generation that will extend his death. On Nas’ 10th solo composition, Life Is Good, the poet from Queens continues to follow his patent formula of taking listeners on an introspective journey, yet this time around an important variable has been placed in the equation – age. Aging seems to have a new effect on Nas’ composition and it becomes a stimulus for his most recent body of work. Life Is Good, captures a moment where Nas, due to age, relies less on foresight and more on his ability to master the use of hindsight and insight. Subsequently, Nas captures his own life story from a new perspective.
Nas gracefully plateau’s on Life is Good, providing a conceptual album that chronicles his life as a young adolescent in New York dealing with poverty and then fast-forwards to current issues penetrating Nas’ psyche. From the first track on the album, “No Introduction“, Nas immediately puts his own life story as the focal point of the conversation. The tone of the first track paves the way for what seems to be Nas’ first shot at a complete autobiographical album. “No Introduction” illustrates the inception of Nas’ transition from street hustler to Hip-Hop legend, a theme which serves as the perfect first chapter of Life Is Good. Nas seems to have only one asterisk by his name and it is always evaluated before a package of his LP is even opened. Hip-Hop enthusiasts declare the asterisk near Nas’ name to be a footnote that indicates the recent fluke of the emcee’s inconsistency to select beats that are aesthetically pleasing. In 2006, Nas proved on his 8th solo album, Hip-Hop Is Dead, that he can still blend great lyrics with smooth instrumentation for the course of an entire album. With the release of Life Is Good, Nas is leaving fans with the thought of erasing the “asterisk” near his name for good.
Though this is Nas’ 10th solo effort, the content on this album is refreshing. Nas exhibits his art from a fresh perspective on Life Is Good, as he trusts his visuals to be brought to life by some of the greatest to ever do it, No I.D. and Salaam Remi. The producers on this project revisit and refurbish the trademark sound of the first and second wave of the golden age of Hip-Hop. Tracks like “Reach Out”, “The Don”, and “Cherry Wine” are great examples of Salaam Remi’s efforts to bring flashbacks of the 90’s to various generations of Nas fans. Nas’ introspective storytelling peaks on tracks such as “Daughters” and “Reach Out.” His most memorable lines may come from the track “Reach Out” where Nas blesses us with a penned memoir that he encounters at 3:45 am:
3:45 am can’t sleep, can’t dream
I’m stuck, money problems pop up
How will I survive, guess it’s best to decide not to decide
So that’s my decision
Whatever happens happens
I keep makin’ my millions
Can see myself in presidential campaign dinners
But I’m gassin’ blunts around a bunch of gang members
When you’re too hood to be in them Hollywood circles
And you’re too rich to be in that hood that birthed you
And you become better than legends you thought were the greatest
And out grow women you love and thought you could stay with
Life become clearer when you wipe down your mirror
And leave notes around for yourself to remember
I like to teach and build
With brothers about how easy it is to reach a mill
All you need is some skill, then it’s grindtime
Imagination better than knowledge, say’s Einstein
It’s all in the mind…
The content and production on this album are definitely strengths. The pallet of Life Is Good is genuinely conceptual and the conceptual agreement of tracks only feel forced on occasions, when Nas gives a forgettable effort of story telling on “Accident Murderers” and the obnoxious resistance Anthony Hamilton presents on the hook of “World’s An Addiction.” These two tracks seems to be the only tracks that do not meet the expectations of the album. With the information recently given, it is safe to say Nas has more than a dozen tracks that will stay in heavy rotation containing unique subject matter and solid production varying from smooth and jazzy to rough, rugged, and raw. As Nas continues to take listeners on an introspective journey through his life and times he makes it self evident that he is a legend who gained his stripes for over two decades, and as best said on Nas’ track “You Wouldn’t Understand” he will die one day… “they gon’ probably make that day a holiday.”
Life is Good is an album definitely worth purchasing and if possible, pick up the deluxe version for the full experience.
Update: My version of Life Is Good, providing a nostalgic backdrop to Nas’ tale of evolution.
Life is Good [Disc 1]
01. No Introduction
02. Where’s The Love
03. You Wouldn’t Understand
04. A Queen’s Story
06. Reach Out
07. The Don
08. Back When
11. Cherry Wine
12. Bye Baby
Life Is Good [Disc 2: Bonus]
03. The Black Bond