Nas - Life Is Good Review
Posted by Bill Wannop on 07.17.2012
Nas returns with his tenth studio album, Life Is Good. Is he able to capture the vintage sound that his fans have been craving or it is another inconsistent effort?
Nas since his debut album in 1994 Illmatic, has been regarded as one of the greatest lyricists of all of hip hop. Since the release of the landmark album, Nas’s releases have been inconsistent at best. From trying to balance the line between commercial and the street sound he is known for, Nas has failed to attain both the critical and commercial success of that initial album. Nas returns with his tenth studio album, Life Is Good, but is he able to finally appeal to a broader audience, while still giving his core audience that Illmatic sound they so dearly crave?
1. "No Introduction" produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League
2. "Loco-Motive" (featuring Large Professor) produced by No I.D.
3. "A Queens Story" produced by Salaam Remi
4. "Accident Murderers" (featuring Rick Ross) produced by No I.D.
5. "Daughters” produced by No I.D.
6. "Reach Out" (featuring Mary J. Blige) produced by Salaam Remi, Rodney Jerkins, DJ Hot Day, Nas
7. "World's An Addiction" (featuring Anthony Hamilton) produced by Salaam Remi
8. "Summer On Smash" (featuring Miguel & Swizz Beatz) produced by Swizz Beatz
9. "You Wouldn't Understand" (featuring Victoria Monet) produced by Buckwild
10. "Back When" produced by No I.D.
11. "The Don" produced by Salaam Remi, Heavy D, Da Internz
12. "Stay” produced by No I.D.
13. "Cherry Wine" (featuring Amy Winehouse) produced by Salaam Remi
14. "Bye Baby” produced by Salaam Remi, Noah "40" Shebib
15. "Nasty" produced by Salaam Remi
16. "The Black Bond" produced by Salaam Remi
17. "Roses" (featuring Nikki Flores) produced by Al Shux, Dan Wilson
18. "Where's the Love" (featuring Cocaine 80s) produced by No I.D.
Almost anytime that Nas releases and album, everyone immediately wants to compare it to his debut album Illmatic. However, as the years have passed, Nas has somewhat moved away from that sound and into a more commercial sounding artist. Nas has constantly tried to balance that street sound with the commercial sound, in order to try to appeal to the largest audience, and I can actually say after listening to the album, that Nas has come as close to accomplishing that as he ever will with Life Is Good.
Once you put on the album you are immediately given a taste of vintage Nas with the opening track “No Introductions”, which features production from the Justice league and has Nas going in over a very musical piano beat. Nas keeps the album going with the head nodding “Loco-Motive”, which will be an instant Nas classic, where he spits some hard hitting lyrics such as, “At 17 I made $17,000/ living in public housing /integrity in check, living hard/ they ask how he disappear and reappear/ back on top/ say Nas must have naked pictures of God or something/ to keep winning is my way like France is/ as long as breathing I take chances/ a soldier coming home at 20 years old/with no legs saying there is no sense to try and complain/ just go head, so much to write and say/ yo I don’t know where to start /so I just begin from the basics and flow from the heart.”
“Queens Story” which has Nas at his story telling best describing tales of drugs and other vivid images and “Accident Murders” which has some social-political topics covered will have the hardcore audiences nodding their heads, while tracks like “Summer on Smash”, “You Wouldn’t Understand”` and “Daughters” are more geared towards the mainstream crowd.
Nas seemed to get much more personal on this release, as even on the album cover, it shows Nas holding a green dress, which was part of Kelis’s wedding dress, which ironically was the only thing she left in the house after the divorce. In terms of the couples split, Nas does not avoid this issue either as he devotes three songs to the breakup (“Bye Baby”, “Stay” and “Roses”). While not all of the three songs listed are hit records, you can tell that Nas is getting very personal on the tracks, and really is holding nothing back. He does not seem vindictive, but rather feels a sense of loss and guilt at the failed relationship.
In terms of production, this album is one of the most consistent from Nas in recent years with the majority of the work being handled by No I.D. and Saleem Remi. The two producers seem to know Nas’s style the best and seem to be able to bring out the best in the emcee. While it would have been nice to see some tracks by DJ Premier, as Nas hinted to while recording the album, fans should like some of the vintage sound that the other producers were able to create on this project.
While the album does a lot of things right, there are some missteps on the album. The majority of critics and fans have slated the track “Cherry Wine” which features the late Amy Winehouse a hit, I was not really feeling the track and was expecting much more from the track. It is a somewhat mediocre track and somewhat skippable in my opinion, which was disappointing. Additionally, “Summer on Smash”, while geared toward commercial appeal, has Swizz Beatz at his most annoying during the hook, and really makes you wish that he had not laid down vocals to the track.
Apart from the small missteps, the album is as good an album as Nas has released in years, with the good tracks fair outweighing the bad. The consistency problems that have plagued Nas in the past are gone with this album as he has successfully pleased the underground and mainstream fans with this release. Comparisons to Illmatic are likely always to occur, but with this album, Nas showed the world that those comparisons are unfair at this point in his career. He is a completely different artist and man now. He is no longer living the life in the projects with tales of sex and drugs, he is living the life of a rich man, and his music is telling different tales.
The 411: This is as good an album as Nas has released in years, with solid production and a great mixture of vintage and commercial sounding tracks. Nas has shown his growth and got personal on this album, touching heavily on his recent relationship issues, and the result was one of the best album releases of the year!