This album was released on July 19th this year. I don’t think anyone could ever call me a stan of any artist. However, if someone was going to argue that I was a stan of anyone, it’d most likely be Nas. I’m one of the few people that actually liked NASIR, and I don’t even think Nastradamus is that bad. It’s easily Nas’ worst project, and very mediocre. I just wouldn’t describe it as “bad” personally. I obviously understand why people call it trash though. I even get why people were disappointed by NASIR. Hell, I was disappointed by NASIR. I think it’s a good album, but it’s definitely nowhere near as good as it should’ve been. On paper, a 7 track album by one of the greatest rappers of all time completely produced by one of the greatest producers of all time sounds like a no brainer. I actually have no idea how they fumbled that one. I mean, I like the album. It’s good to me. It should’ve been amazing though. It should’ve been Nas’ best album since Illmatic. Instead, it ended up being his weakest album since Hip Hop Is Dead. The saddest thing about it is the fact that it had more to do with Nas’ lazy rapping than Kanye West’s production. I think the beats are pretty good for the most part. That beat on the last track is fucking awesome. I don’t know what the fuck Nas was doing though. He just sounded really uninspired. I don’t even like the album as much as I initially did. I do like it though. I know I sound really critical of it right now, but I think it’s a good project overall. As disappointing as it was, I really don’t get people who say it was complete trash. I don’t think there are any songs on it that are actually bad. There are just some tracks that are mediocre. Anyway, I’m kinda wasting my time talking about that project right now. I should be focusing on this one. When this project was first announced, I was super excited. It’s a sequel to one of his best projects, so obviously it was gonna be fire, right? Then, he eventually released the tracklist, which kinda put a damper on my anticipation. The features were pretty uh… Well, they aren’t bad I guess. He might as well have not even listed them at all though because I sure as hell didn’t give a shit about a goddamn RaVaughn feature. Seriously, was I supposed to be excited about a Swizz Beatz feature? Fuck that. He has fucking Run the Jewels and Fashawn on his label; why the hell aren’t they on this project? To be fair, this is a compilation of songs that didn’t make it onto his full length albums, so they were probably completed before he even came into contact with the aforementioned artists. My excitement was eventually reignited when he released the production credits. Seeing that shit was like a dream come true. He has some of the best producers ever on this album, and the most common criticism of Nas has always been his beats, so I thought maybe he would finally get his shit together and get some boiling hot fiya to spit over. Eventually he dropped the lead single, and my heart sunk. I’ll save my full thoughts on that song for later on in this review, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I didn’t care for it. Twitter was tearing Nas to shreds for that song, and I was an active member of that mob. Then the album finally came out, and I saw a lot of mixed reactions. I don’t think I saw a single person say that this was a really great album. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure the highest praise I saw for it was pretty much just “well, it’s better than NASIR…” So yeah I was expecting this album to be good, but I certainly didn’t think it’d be anywhere near his best work unfortunately. With all that said, I’ll go ahead and start talking about what I ended up thinking…
1. No Bad Energy produced by Swizz Beatz & AraabMUZIK
One thing I’ve always loved about Nas is that the first song on each album is almost always fire. That wasn’t the case for Nastradamus though. I also loved the intro on NASIR the first time I heard it, but that’s not really true anymore. I still think it’s a good song, but it’s probably the second worst intro he’s ever done. No Bad Energy ended up being fantastic though. I was so relieved when I heard this shit man. I fucking love this song. First of all, that beat is superb. I really love the percussion on this track. Nas’ flow on the first verse is smooth as hell too. He sounds so much better here than he did on NASIR. It actually sounds like he wanted to do this. The way he was rapping on his last album made it sound like Kanye forced him into the booth. He sounds way more comfortable and natural here. The hook is pretty simplistic, but it serves its purpose as a break between the two verses pretty well. I really love how angelic and ethereal the production sounds. Nas murdered that second verse too.
To rappers who never sold crack, telling other people’s lives
Never shot nobody, but be shooting people in their rhymes
Never robbed nobody or re-upped with coke in they ride
I’m probably who they talking about when they’re writing most of their lines
This shit is fire, man. I don’t have any issues with this song at all. I really love that beat, and Nas sounds great over it. This is dope af.
2. Vernon Family produced by Pharrell Williams
This song was actually kind of surprising to me; I guess I just wasn’t expecting him to put a song with such a high energy level right after the relatively low-key intro. This shit is dope though. I really like it. The production from Pharrell is tight, and I love how aggressive Nas sounds over it. His flow is smooth as butter. He killed that first verse.
Nowadays I’m just showing my age
The new goons hardly heard of these legendary names, it’s strange
The Bridge rappers influenced me, son
But if I was in the Juice Crew, we woulda won
The hook is pretty simplistic, but, once again, it serves its purpose well enough. The second verse was really good too. I think the aspect of this song that stands out the most to me is just Nas’ aggressive flow. He actually sounds hungry on this song. This one was apparently recorded in 2007, so that would have been between Hip Hop Is Dead and Untitled. This is definitely more of a Hip Hop Is Dead type of song than the latter. I still really like it though. This shit is dope to me.
3. Jarreau of Rap (Skatt Attack) featuring Al Jarreau & Keyon Harrold produced by Nas & Xharlie Black
Okay, here it is… Jesus, man… Where do I even begin with a song like this? Okay, I’ll just try to describe the story of my first listen. I just remember seeing a bunch of tweets making fun of Nas one night, which to be fair is nothing new. Twitter makes fun of him a lot. These tweets were about a specific song in particular though. So, I realized that the first real single for the album had been released, and I was very excited. Surely the song wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone was making it out to be, right? WRONG. Well… I honestly do think the song is better than people give it credit for. I think I mentioned this in another recent review, but once I got passed the initial shock, the song was slightly more tolerable. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard from Nas, but it’s far from the worst track I’ve heard this year. Let me get the obvious criticisms out of the way. First of all, that sung intro is fucking unbearable.
Melody, harmony, melody
Melody, harmony, melody, steadily
Melody, harmony, melody
Melody, harmony, melody, steadily
I get that he thought it’d be a cool idea to mix this kind of jazz with Hip Hop. This is not good though. This is like the worst type of jazz to do this with. I’ve never understood the appeal of skatting; it’s always been insanely corny and cringe-inducing to me. This beat in particular sounds more like a hybrid of Hip Hop and Classical music than a Jazz Rap beat. I think the production is lame, but it’s definitely not the worst I’ve heard this year. The way Nas was riding the beat was actually kinda nice too. The issue really just comes with his melodic delivery. It sounds corny as hell, man. I unfortunately wasn’t able to figure out when this song was initially recorded. If anyone reading this happens to know, please put in the comments because I’m really curious about that. Anyway, I think the first verse is cool if you just focus on his cadence and rhymes. It’s just the “melody” and “harmony” that he keeps referencing that makes it so fucking corny. It’s hard to listen to, man. His flow is dope as hell though. I don’t think he could’ve rapped any better on this song than he did. There’s no way anyone can save a song like this though. This shit shouldn’t have been released. I’m not gonna make the insanely cliché and overused joke about how this should’ve “stayed lost,” but… Well, I guess I kinda just did. Damn. One thing I’ve always wanted Nas to do was get more adventurous and take more risks. He finally did that with this song, and it was catastrophic. This is one of the worst possible outcomes of his experimentation. I love traditional Hip Hop, but Nas’ music has been lacking excitement for a while, so I just thought he should spice things up a bit. This song had me feeling like a dumbass for that though. Now that I think about it, I feel like every time Nas tries to do something different and unorthodox it always ends up being trash. The only other example aside from this that comes to mind is that bullshit ass “Who Killed It?” song from Hip Hop Is Dead. Maybe I’m forgetting something. I don’t know. Anyway, this song is fucking terrible. Again, I liked Nas’ flow, but this shit is hard to stomach. It felt long as hell too. The song’s only three minutes and 18 seconds, but it felt twice as long as it actually is. The most frustrating thing about the track is the way stans were defending it. It’s cool if you like the song, but don’t be a pretentious douchebag by telling people they “don’t actually understand music” if they don’t like the song, as if you have no idea why people were shitting on it. Yes, that is a real comment I saw. It’s way worse than anything that was on NASIR, and it’s definitely one of the worst songs Nas has ever made. It’s wack af.
4. Lost Freestyle produced by Statik Selektah
The production on this track is pretty dope, but it’s far from the best beat that I’ve heard from Statik Selektah. I really love the way that this song is structured; the entire track just features Nas rapping the entire time with no hook or bridge. I think the song is really dope, but the way people were talking about this track had me thinking that it’d be far more exciting than it actually is. A lot of people were acting like this was the only good song on the project, and I actually think it’s one of the more underwhelming tracks. Again, I like the song a lot. It’s just not really better than a lot of the other material on the project in my opinion. It’s dope though. I fuck with it.
5. Tanasia produced by RZA
At first, the idea of Nas rapping on a RZA beat again had me really excited; however, I’ve recently come to the realization that RZA’s production hasn’t really been that great in recent years. As a matter of fact, even U-God himself said that RZA’s beats started being wack after Wu-Tang Forever, which is unfortunate. I don’t think I’ve heard enough post-Wu-Tang Forever RZA production to say whether or not I agree. This beat in particular isn’t great though. I don’t really think it’s bad at all. It’s just not impressive to me. I could definitely see Raekwon spitting over it though. It sounds like the kind of beat Nas would’ve used for Street’s Disciple. That’s not exactly a good thing. It’s fine though. The beat’s okay. I did end up enjoying the song overall, but it’s really only because of Nas’ flow. I think he sounds good rapping on this track. The content just doesn’t really appeal to me at all personally. He’s rapping about someone named Tanasia who he really likes. He mentions a bunch of great things that he likes about her. One thing that stood out to me was when he said she rolls joints really well, but doesn’t smoke. I don’t know how most marijuana enthusiasts feel about that, but personally that’s not a good thing. I wouldn’t wanna smoke weed and just be around a sober person. I’d want her to smoke with me. I feel like I annoy sober people when I’m around them while stoned. Also, my experience is like 10x more fun if I’m sharing the high with another person. That may just be a personal thing though. Maybe most people would rather have the whole joint all to themselves. None of this matters though. The song itself is kinda good. I mean, I do like it. It’s definitely one of the more underwhelming tracks on the album to me up to this point on the album though. It’s a cool track, but far from my favorite.
6. Royalty featuring RaVaughn produced by Hit-Boy
I don’t really care for this song at all personally. I’m really just not into the vocals from RaVaughn at all, and the writing on her hook came off pretty hotep-ish to me. I mean, that’s nothing new for Nas if I’m being real. That’s never really been something I’ve loved about him though. I’m also just not really crazy about the Hit-Boy production, which was disappointing to me. This song was apparently recorded in 2012, and I think the hook was written by Frank Ocean. I’m really glad this didn’t make it onto Life Is Good. I actually think Life Is Good might be my favorite Nas album of the current millennium, so a song like this definitely would’ve tarnished it. Don’t get me wrong; this song isn’t trash or anything. It’s just kinda dull. Nothing about it really stands out to me at all. I thought the first verse was kinda cool, but the story doesn’t really go anywhere. I mean, it does go somewhere, but it just feels really random and pointless. I’m not sure what the significance of a dude getting his face cut by his girl for being a cheater is. That’s probably my favorite verse on the song though. The other two verses are fine I guess. It just didn’t really hold my attention at all. This shit is okay, but I’m never gonna listen to it again.
7. Who Are You featuring David Ranier produced by Eric Hudson
This is another track that was initially recorded during the Life Is Good sessions, and it ended up being one of the better songs on this project in my opinion. I think the production from Eric Hudson is pretty solid, and I even liked the sung hook from David Ranier a lot. The main reason I like the song so much is really just the content though. Nas is basically rapping about some black dude from the hood who finds a lot of success and then becomes one of those bougie, stuck up, judgmental fucks who always wants to tell black people to wear button up shirts and pull up their pants and stop blasting Trap music. The whole time I was listening to it, all I could think about was RZA saying “all lives matter” around the time of the Ferguson protests.
You talking some gibberish anti-nigga shit
‘Cause you marched back with Rosa Parks?
Brother, don’t start; go build your Noah’s Ark
You could float to the end of the world and pretend what you not
But I know what you are
The song is great. I don’t think it’s amazing or anything, but, as I mentioned earlier, it’s one of the better songs on the project, especially up to this point on the record. It’s dope.
8. Adult Film featuring Swizz Beatz produced by Swizz Beatz
This song was recorded in 2016 along with Echo & No Bad Energy. After hearing this song, I’m thinking Nas should just do a whole album with Swizz Beatz because everything they did in that session is better than most of the other shit Nas has been putting out recently. This is the best beat on the whole album up to this point. It’s fantastic. I even liked the sung hook from Swizz Beatz. I don’t think the rapping from Nas is that much better than that of the other tracks, but my issues have had more to do with the production. Swizz Beatz is really what makes this song so great to me, which is interesting because I’ve never really been a huge fan of him. I think a lot of the beats he did for The LOX were straight up trash, and whenever he raps I wish God would give him the D.O.C. treatment, but the shit he did with Nas in 2016 was fire. This shit is dope af, and easily one of the best songs on the album in my opinion.
9. War Against Love produced by DJ Khalil & DJ Dahi
Unsurprisingly, this song has a fantastic beat. It’s easily one of the best beats on the album. I actually don’t know if I like the previous instrumental more than this one. They’re both superb. This one has a sunnier atmosphere in my opinion. The first verse from Nas is dope. The way he was flowing seemed kinda strange to me at first. It just felt really different compared to all the other tracks, but I guess that makes sense since this is a compilation of songs recorded over a span of 11 years. I just felt like his flow was more laidback on this one. It’s not necessarily worse than that of the other tracks. The hook is pretty simplistic, and it doesn’t really stand out much, but it serves its purpose well enough. Speaking of Nas’ flow, the way he switched it up for the final third of the second verse was really dope. This is another one of the best songs on the album in my opinion. I love the production, and Nas did his thing. This shit is dope af.
10. The Art of It featuring J. Myers produced by Pete Rock
Pete Rock is another legendary producer who I’ve been a little mixed on in the past. I was really let down by that album that he did with Smif-N-Wessun, but I’m still usually looking forward to hearing his work when I see a placement from him. I don’t know what happened with that album, but it just didn’t hit. That thankfully wasn’t the case here though. This beat is awesome. I think this song was originally recorded between Untitled and Distant Relatives. I still haven’t heard that album yet by the way. I need to get on that when I have some time. I never have time though. Anyway, this is actually another major standout track for me. I’ve already mentioned the great production, but Nas really did a great job too, and I even love the sung hook from J. Myers. He sounds really good to me. I think this song has some of the best rapping from Nas on the album. I really dug how violent the content got on the second verse, and he spazzed on that final verse. That’s definitely the best verse up to this point on the album. This is definitely one of the best songs too. This shit is dope af.
11. Highly Favored produced by RZA
The beat on this track isn’t amazing or anything, but I thankfully like it a lot more than that of Tanasia. I think the main reason I like this one so much more is because it just sounds a lot weirder. Tanasia sounds like what I’d hear if I searched “wu-tang type beat” on YouTube. This one has that classic RZA sound without sounding conventional. It’s dope. Nas killed this shit too. Both of the verses are great. The hook is just as simplistic as the others on this album. I was pretty pessimistic when I saw a bunch of singers featured on this album, but I’m more impressed by the guest vocalists’ hooks than Nas’ hooks on this album. There are some exceptions, but for the most part they’ve been surprisingly good. I usually don’t feel like it adds much to the song when Nas chooses to do the hook himself. That’s fine though. They’re acceptable. This record as a whole is really dope though. I like this RZA beat much more than the earlier one, and Nas did a great job rapping over it.
12. Queens Wolf produced by DJ Toomp
I was really intrigued by the DJ Toomp placement on this track. I typically associate him with T.I. & Graduation, but I liked his work on N.I.G.G.E.R. a lot, so I was hoping this beat would be as good. Maybe that was an unrealistic expectation. I do like this beat though. It’s not one of my favorites on the album, but I think it’s pretty solid. In terms of the actual content, I think this is definitely one of the best songs on the album. Nas delivers a concept song about being… Well… It sounds kinda lame on paper. The execution is really on point though. As the title implies, it’s about being a werewolf. I really love the way he starts the first verse. The rhyme patterns are gorgeous.
At fourteen tried out for the ball team
Junior high, they denied me
I shot bricks that made the backboard scream
Fightin’ Italian rival gangs, they was sniffin’ glue
I was skippin’ school, smokin’ green, that was the shit to do
Stole somebody team jacket at practice, slept through my classes
The borough Queens, so it’s rep the Q to the casket
Average student, had illusions of the supernatural
Horror movie addict, werewolf fanatic and Dracul’
I get why this song was saved for this compilation. It would’ve felt really out of place on any of his more recent projects. Most of his latest albums have had a specific theme, so this would be really random on an album like Life Is Good or Untitled. It’d have to be on a project like Street’s Disciple, but this was recorded long after that album came out. I think this song has one of the better hooks that Nas performs himself, but it’s still not amazing or anything. I think what really kept this song from being too ridiculous is the fact that Nas wasn’t literally rapping about being a wolf. He kinda used the whole werewolf idea as a metaphor for him becoming a ruthless hood dude who did violent shit during the nighttime. I really love the song. The content actually had me hooked. This shit is dope af.
13. It Never Ends produced by The Alchemist
The Alchemist is in my top 5 producers of all time, and I loved his work on the original Lost Tapes, so I was really looking forward to hearing this shit. I liked this beat when I first heard it, but I wasn’t really that impressed. It kinda grew on me as the song progressed though. I love it. It might have something to do with the fact that Nas fucking rapped his ass off on this shit. The way he was rhyming was awesome.
Buckets like Gilligan
Still I peep reptilians in the Filligan blendin’ in
My quintillion ton brain got me revealing men
Quintessential Queensbridge poet back to the grill again
I don’t know what the fuck “Filligan” is, but the rhymes are beautiful here. He might not have said “Filligan,” but that’s what Genius transcribed for the lyrics. This might actually be my favorite song on the album. I haven’t decided yet. This shit is really fire though. The way Nas rapped here is fantastic. I like how he got a little more aggressive for the second verse. The song is fantastic. It’s not overly ambitious or anything. It’s just three really well written verses and a Biggie-inspired hook. I have no issues with this track. I wish every song on the album was this good. This shit is dope af.
14. You Mean the World to Me produced by Kanye West
This was the only song from this album that I’d actually heard before the project was even announced. This song leaked over a decade ago. It was originally recorded in 2006 for the Hip Hop Is Dead sessions, but for whatever reason I always assumed it was made around the Stillmatic era. I don’t know why. Anyway, I’ve always liked the song, but it’s far from perfect. I love certain aspects of the beat, but there’s one issue that kinda fucks it up for me. I just don’t like that prominent Leroy Hutson sample. The way it repeats “GIRL YOU MEAN THE WORLD TO ME” over and over again during the chorus annoys the fuck outta me honestly. It just sounds even more awkward when Nas tries to perform the actual hook over it. It just clashes with his vocals in an ugly way to me. Everything else about the song is too great for me to not fuck with the track overall though. The other aspects of the beat are fantastic—particularly that ominous, low-pitched synth. Nas killed this shit too man. The story he told has me hooked every time I listen to it.
Baby girl had a son
He was three; yeah, I took him in
Now she call him little me, I even look like him
Nah, I mean he look like me, a couple shades darker
She be calling him “Blackie,” that’s ’cause his real father jet black
So she treat him like it’s a setback
I don’t respect that
It’s a really well written track, and I love the beat for the most part. It’s literally just the annoying ass sample that comes in during the hook that kinda mars the track for me. Everything else about it is great though. I even liked the uncredited vocals from Tony Williams. The song is dope.
15. QueensBridge Politics produced by Pete Rock
This is yet another standout track for me. The relatively somber production from Pete Rock isn’t amazing or anything, but it’s an appropriate backdrop for the mournful content from Nas. It’s basically a dirge for Prodigy of Mobb Deep. I’m 99% sure this was the last song Nas recorded for this album, since Prodigy didn’t die until the middle of 2017. I don’t really think Nas could’ve tackled the subject matter any better than he did. The song sees Nas reflecting on the musical influence of the Queensbridge Houses, and his relationship with Prodigy. In an interview Nas said he had to stop himself because he didn’t want the song to be too long. I think he should’ve just kept going personally. I think people would’ve been understanding of the length. I know I personally wouldn’t mind hearing him continue. It’s not a problem for me if you can actually keep me interested with the lyrics, and I wasn’t ready for the song to end. It’s just barely over three minutes long, and it almost felt too short to me. I do love the song as it is though. I think it’s dope af.
16. Beautiful Life featuring RaVaughn produced by No I.D.
This song is fantastic. It was obviously meant to be the original outro for Life Is Good, and it’s kind of unfortunate that it ended up being left off that album because it would’ve been the perfect finale. This is definitely one of the best tracks on the project in my opinion. Nas is rapping with the same aggression and hunger that was flexed on Life Is Good, and the production is just as extravagant and polished as the other beats on that record. I have no issues with this song at all. I say it would’ve been the perfect finale for Life Is Good because the song has him reflecting on his entire life for over 6 and a half minutes. All the other tracks on this album kinda feel like they could be on their own projects, but this one really just makes me feel like I’m listening to Life Is Good. That’s not a bad thing though because I love that album. It’s just a shame that it didn’t make it onto that record. Whatever. I’m just glad we eventually got it because this shit is dope af.
This album is pretty great. I think it got off to kind of a rough start, but once I got to the halfway point it got really fucking good. There are a lot of tracks I love here. I think he maybe could’ve trimmed the fat a little bit, but there are really only two songs here that I don’t like at all. This is actually way better than I was expecting it to be. The way people were talking about this project had me thinking it was gonna be another dud. Is it one of Nas’ best albums? No. Is it as good as the original Lost Tapes? Of course not. I think it’s far better than projects like NASIR and Hip Hop Is Dead though. I’m not disappointed at all with this record. Honestly, if he trimmed this down to like 10 tracks it’d probably be one of my favorite Nas albums. It’s longer than it needs to be, but overall I really enjoyed it. This shit is dope.
Favorite Song: The Art of It
Least Favorite Song: Jarreau of Rap (Skatt Attack)
Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album.
Who Are You was actually recorded for the Untitled album not for Life Is Good.