Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rating an Album: Nas - Life's Good

I had formed an opinion on Nas's latest release when it first came out but I wanted to hold off on writing about it here until I had a couple weeks to listen to it, hear everyone else's opinions, ignore/disregard them, and come back to it and form as objective an opinion as I could for an album that dropped less than a month ago and had high expectations. Finally, I think I'm at a point now where I can talk about it and not feel like I'm going to say something that I'll completely contradict in a conversation later.

The first thing I would like to say is that this is a good/solid album. It's NOT classic but for Nas STANS it will be. It's not the best Nas album ever. It's not in the top 3 Nas albums ever (Illmatic, Stillmatic, God's Son). This is a solid Nas album for today's market conditions.

Let's get this thing rolling song-by-song:
  1. No Introduction: I honestly can't get past this beat. I think I'm in the minority on this one but this beat is really just underwhelming. Not to be lost is Nas's lyricism and ability to paint vivid pictures but yet-and-still, this just didn't set the tone for me to the point where I was excited about what I was about to hear on the remainder of the album.
  2. Loco-Motive: This is a joint I heard a minute before the album dropped and this actually got me excited to hear the album. This is that vintage 90's Nas flow right here and that sinister style production complements him well when he flows like this. One of my favorite tracks on the album. I guess I'm trapped in the 90s too, huh? Lol.
  3. Queens Story: Mehhhh. This is the type of back to Queens type of track that really only works with me when he has a beat like the previous song. I can listen to this but it doesn't draw me in. I'm not even all that impressed by how he leads into the next track at the end.
  4. Accident Murderers: Hardest beat on the album and Fat Ricky doesn't ruin the song and holds his own pretty well though he doesn't stick to the topic of the track, lol. Nas's verses are real talk.
  5. Daughters: Another one of my favorite tracks on the album. This is just a great track for younger guys with daughters. Learn from Nas. This is the type of masculine yet vulnerable stuff that Nas does well.
  6. Reach Out: Blatant radio joint. It's not a bad song at all I just hate that I know this is a contrived second or third single. That beat, MJB, come on man can't we be more creative here. I won't even mention how Jay-Z does the contrived radio joints so much better (oh my bad, I just mentioned it). Nas's first verse here is pretty good though.
  7. World's An Addiction: If there was one song I'd skip it would be this one. The lyrics are on point but the song overall just doesn't cut it, definitely not within the flow of the album. Jam this in-between two radio joints? Who's A&R'ing/Exec producing this project?
  8. Summer on Smash: Another radio joint and it just feels like something is missing and there's a little too much at the same time. Perhaps the too much is Miguel's "verse" and Swizz's voice. I don't mind Swizz so much but there just seems to be something sonically missing here and I can't put my finger on it.
  9. You Wouldn't Understand: My favorite radio joint on the album. I actually hope that he releases this as the next single and makes a video for it. For some reason this feels much more tolerant and less contrived than Reach Out or Summer on Smash. At the same time, this feels like it could have fit in on that Nastradamus album too, lol.
  10. Back When: Of the NYC back in the day joints on this album, this is my favorite, lol.
  11. The Don: This knocks but much like Summer on Smash I feel like something is missing.
  12. Stay: The horn on here is dope but don't be fooled, we've heard it before. Yep, CyHi samples this same horn on his joint, "Woopty-Do" though his track isn't nearly as good as this one. If I were Nas I would have left off World Is An Addition and replaced it with this and kept it at this spot on the album. He's going in on this track in terms of the topics he's addressing.
  13. Cherry Wine: Overall, the best track on album. Perfect radio song for urban and pop markets. Let's see how soon they drop this as a radio/video single.
  14. Bye Baby: You knew it was coming. The "you got issues and they ruined us and I got my issues too yet-and-still we had great moments so I can't really be mad at least I tried I thought you was a nubian queen but it's over and now I'm about to smash 20 year olds because I'm pushing 40 but still look 21 and I'm not going to let you know I'm really effed up in the game as much as you think but I've grown from the experience and feel like a better person now" track. You knew it was coming.
  15. Nasty: Vintage "Nasty" Nas. Nothing else needs to be said.
  16. The Black Bond: I literally have nothing to say about this song.
  17. Roses: I like this song. I think it should have been the last song on the album. So much so that I made it the last song on my mash-up of Ross and Nas's albums.
  18. Where's The Love: I like what he's talking about here but I'm not feeling this beat.
Overall I give this album 3.875 out of 5. I will admit that I have my own little rating system that I use - that I won't divulge in this post but in due time I will - and that's why the rating goes to 3 significant digits, lol. But I'll just say this, I think Nas covered a lot of different stuff here but I would have like to hear a tad less of the swaggerifficness and Imma smash this and that from HIM. But at the same time I understand he probably is still mentally going through it somewhat from his divorce and that may be a part of his coping process (sorry ladies, it happens). Daughters and Bye Bye Baby are stand-outs to me in terms of content but yet-and-still I could stand to hear less of Nas talking about how he is 40 bangin' 20 year olds or another story about how things were in Queens when he grew up. Those records have their place but they don't resonate with me as much and that's likely because I have heard similar tracks before and I'm also not from New York. When it comes to lyrics, Nas never really disappoints. Even when Nas is talkin' that swagged out semi-humble brag shyt he does, he is still sick with it. He's lyrically sound on this album as usual but content-wise I think there are some things he's somewhat redundant about.

My usual problem with Nas is that his production is questionable for the current state of hip-hop with respect to him wanting to actually move units nowadays. This album flows nicely for the most part in that there are really no points during the album where you feel like there's a noticeably abrupt/bad change (some people might sight "Summer on Smash" but I'm not going to I think "World Is An Addiction" is that point). But at the same time, there's nothing really special and/or cohesive about the album's arrangement of songs either. Like I mentioned above, I normally take issue with Nas's beat selection but I have definitely seen worse when it comes to his albums. Moreover, the beat on "No Introduction" underwhelms me and when I first heard it set somewhat of an underachieving tone for the rest of the album. And the alleged supposed-to-be club banger by Swizz is decent but it feels like something is missing. And similar to what I said above, "Reach Out" is a blatant attempt to pull on the nostalgic senses of those who know where it's primary sample came from. But in general, the album is listenable all the way through for the most part. The only real sticking point I'd have is World Is An Addiction.

All these thoughts are what lead me to my 3.875 out of 5 ranking. I'm sure many of you will disagree with this and say it's classic, which is fine but I challenge you to find a verse on Life's Good that's better than Nas's verse on this song. If Nas could do this for an entire album, it would be another undeniable classic (Illmatic much?).


Ann White said...
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T.C. said...

waiting on the scale...i actually really like bye baby...mainly for the guy sample...that's one of my fav songs period....