Nasir

Nas

G.O.O.D. Music, 2018

http://www.islanddefjam.com/artist/home.aspx?artistID=7312

REVIEW BY: Daniel Camp

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/04/2018

I wanted to like this album. Nasir was conceived as the pairing of two all-timers, with Nas behind the mic and Kanye in the booth. If you thought Nas had lost a little off his fastball recently (it has, after all, been nearly 25 years since Illmatic), then perhaps Kanye could draw out something some of the old magic from behind the board. If you thought G.O.O.D. Music’s spectacle of weekly Kanye-produced album releases was producing more mediocrity than memories, then maybe pairing West with someone on his artistic level would bring more focus to the fourth of G.O.O.D.’s five releases.

So when I pressed play, I wanted to like what I heard. I wanted the promise of a socially relevant album, assured by the cover artwork, to be fulfilled. Yet the opening track, “Not For Radio” immediately left me with a bad taste in my mouth, as Nas’ would-be anthem for black empowerment is sullied by conspiracy theories (“SWAT was created to stop the Panthers”), historical revisionism (“Abe Lincoln did not free the enslaved / Progress was made 'cause we forced the proclamation”) and outright untruths (“Fox News was started by a black dude”). “Cops Shot The Kid” doesn’t suffer from this problem, but neither does it have anything new to say about police violence, a problem rappers (including Nas) have been chronicling since the genre’s inception – the bouncy sample of Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” that propels Nas’ rapping can’t overpower the listener’s suspicion that this track was perfunctory for Nas, not passionate.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I wanted a tight album that earns its short 26-minute runtime (continuing G.O.O.D. Music’s pattern of these Kanye-produced releases all clocking in at seven songs and less than half an hour.) Unfortunately, it feels like Nas uses all his lyrical bullets on those first two tracks, as “White Label,” “Bonjour,” and “Adam And Eve” leave little impression on the listener other than that Nas is well-traveled. Reveling in your wealth and fame is a time-honored tradition for established rappers, but it ought to be escapist fun – here it sounds more like filler, something an album this short shouldn’t have room for.

I wanted some reflection on the state of the world, or the state of hip hop, or even the state of Nas himself. Instead I got “Everything,” the chorus of which has West crooning “If I had everything, everything / I could change anything / If I changed anything, I mean anything / I would change everything, oh yeah.” Don’t let the wordplay fool you—that message amounts to meeting the world’s problems with a shrug. I wish we could do something, Nas and West seem to be saying, but for now we can’t. Not exactly the kind of message that stirs your heart.

I wanted to like this album, and upon my initial listen, I kind of did. Kanye’s samples go pretty well with Nas’ rhymes, never stealing the show while adding some melody. For fans of traditional hip-hop, this album has more rap in it that ye and KIDS SEE GHOSTS, including bars from famous Nas friends Puff Daddy and The-Dream. And Nas still has a voice made for rap, the kind that gets your attention the moment he starts spitting rhymes.

Unfortunately, that voice doesn’t have much to say in Nasir. Hip-hop needs more than beats and rhymes to be relevant in 2018, it needs a message. If Nas has one, I wanted to hear it here—but I didn’t get what I wanted.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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