This album was released on August 21st this year. I should apologize now for taking so long with this review. The main reason I didn’t cover it when it dropped is because I was on a strict schedule and had a lot of other shit that I was prioritizing, mainly because I thought this album was gonna be a dud due to the track listing. The features had me really worried. The other reason is that I was super depressed, and covering a Nas album for whatever reason felt like a really daunting task. I’ve seen a lot of surprisingly positive reception for this album though, and I liked the first single I heard from it. I liked NASIR to an extent, and I really dug The Lost Tapes II. A lot of people call those albums trash, so if they’re saying this shit is dope then I think I’m gonna love it. Every track is produced by Hit-Boy.
As always, I’ll write about the songs I liked before covering the tracks I won’t be returning to. The album begins with the title track, which features co-production from Corbett, Pat Junior, J. Pelham & Cyanca. The production on this track is really gorgeous. The song didn’t really blow me away on my first listen, but when I returned to it and paid more attention to the more technical aspects of Nas’ verse I became a lot more impressed.
Family gossiping, pocket watching him
Jealousy keeps blossoming, ain't let it box me in
'Cause you are not a king if you can't come out a thing
That you got yourself in, claiming nobody helping
The stupidest part of Africa produced Blacks that started algebra
Proof, facts, imagine if you knew that as a child, bruh
Nostalgia, how I remembеr things
Remember crowns, remember kings
They want your reign to cease
The actual content of the lyrics isn’t particularly interesting to me, but Nas’ flow and rhymes here are nice. I will say that I was definitely more impressed by the production here, which usually isn’t the case. Nas still did a really nice job here though. The song is dope as hell in my opinion. It’s followed by another highlight entitled Blue Benz. Once again, the production here is phenomenal. Just like with the opening track, it took me a few listens to fully appreciate Nas’ rapping here. I love how relatively aggressive his flow is on the first verse. I mean, it’s nowhere near as fiery as that of Life Is Good, but it’s still really dope.
Razor cutter, nineties, eighties lover, raised in gutters
Raised above it, they made it up out the hood subject, I made you love it
Crazy, I knew this chick, she had a blue Benz
A Jersey penthouse, she used to pimp girls that would turn rich men out
Her coke habits was so savage
She hear voices and see ghosts on the average
Of her stepdad, he raised her from a carriage
She was twelve when he passed, she's been in hell since that
Her grandma raised her, I met her in Kingston, Jamaica
Where veteran kingpins bought acres, rest in peace Louie Rankin
Original Don Dada
I really like how this song is structured; Nas is pretty much just rapping the whole time apart from a quick break between the two verses. I will say that the ending feels a little abrupt, but that’s of course just a nitpick. I think the song is dope as hell. It’s followed by yet another highlight entitled Car #85. I really love how dreamy, yet rosy the production here sounds. The background vocals from Charlie Wilson were a nice touch that just adds to the auspicious tone of the track. The rapping from Nas is really great too. Again, the content isn’t really that interesting to me, but his rhymes are on point.
They called me "Babyface" in '88
On 40th and Broadway they made me stay and wait
Cab service, car eighty-five
Ten minutes, they back in the car
Not safe to drive, narcos are lookin'
No secret compartments in the ride, so keep pushin'
We get stopped, hide it between the seat cushion
Either that, or just tuck it inside your boot
Don't throw it out the window yet, son, that's all our loot
The second verse was even better than the first one in my opinion, although I did find it a little odd that he mispronounced the word “peripheral.” I’m assuming that was intentional since he went on to rhyme it with “trivial.” It’s obviously not a huge deal; I just thought it was kinda funny. Anyway, I think the song is dope as hell overall. Again, I love the dreamy production, and the rapping is dope. Track 4 was the debut single from this album, Ultra Black. I wrote about it in one of my old Best Singles of the Week posts last year.
I’ve been called a Nas stan before, and I’m guessing it’s because I’m not really a Jay-Z fan, and I actually liked NASIR. However, I have to admit that I was slightly underwhelmed by this track. Obviously since I’m writing about it here I enjoyed it to some extent, but I was just hoping that the first single from this upcoming album would be more explosive. This track is cool though. I certainly appreciate the content and general sentiment. I think the production is cool—it actually reminds me a lot of something Thurz would rhyme over. The beat was actually not that great to me on my first listen, but it grew on me heavily the second time I heard the song. My favorite aspect of the song is really just the subject matter. I love how it’s a celebration of blackness.
Grace Jones skin tone, but multi that
Multiple colors, we come in all shades, mocha black
Accept where I’m at and not fight me on it
Emotional stares like I might be wanted
Pitch black like the night, I’m ultra black
Sanford and Son reruns, jokes are black
Oh yes, oh yes, God bless success
We goin’ ultra black, like the Essence Fest
The writing isn’t amazing or anything, but it’s definitely good. The closing lines of the first verse generated a lot of headlines since he was poking fun at Doja Cat.
We goin’ ultra black, unapologetically black
The opposite of Doja Cat, Michael Blackson black
Honestly, I don’t know why people were so upset about this line. I don’t think it’s meant to be taken too seriously. Like I said, he’s just poking fun at her. It was a huge controversy, so I don’t see an issue with him referencing that. I personally don’t fuck with Doja Cat, and nothing anyone says will get me to forgive her for that “Dindu Nuffin” song she made. I wasn’t into her music before, but now I don’t even wanna give her music a chance. That’s the prize she gets for playing that stupid game. Anyway, I think the song is dope. It’s far from Nas’ best work, but I do like it. I saw a very concerning tracklist for his upcoming project floating around the internet, but I’m pretty sure it’s fake. If it’s real, then all hope is lost. Update: All hope is lost. This song is dope though. The album is called King’s Disease, and it’s scheduled for release on August 21st. Be on the lookout for that.
In hindsight, it’s pretty funny how concerned I was about the tracklist for this album. Anyway, the following track is a really short song entitled 27 Summers.
I really like the Trap beat here, and the way Nas was flowing over it was cool. I just wish the verse was longer to be honest. I don’t know why it’s so short. It’s under two minutes long, so it feels more like an interlude than anything. I’m mainly impressed by the production with this track, but I do like the short verse from Nas.
Smokin' weed in a tux, sippin' Ricard
Sitting on Governors Isle with all the killers
Premier movies with my man De Niro
And Johnny Nunez got all the pictures
It’s a dope track. The next song that I actually like is called All Bad featuring Anderson .Paak. This track cuts deep, man. It honestly probably would’ve resonated with me even more back when it originally came out if I had listened to it then. The song is pretty much about a relationship that soured, and it hits home really hard for me. Anderson .Paak’s vocals here are fantastic, but the actual verses are what hit me.
You used to brighten my day, had me hype as a kid First "good morning, good night," now she leave me on read I'm disappointed, it's different chicks who want it Can't lie, for a minute, I was sick to my stomach
Guess we through, you ignore me, days go by
Missing you be the worst, play the game, who gon' hit who first
Checking my Yachtmaster, Pac blaster
Wonder why they call you bitch, empty shot glasses
Scrolling back on the thread, the nice things you once said
Look at us now, it's all bad
There are zero aspects of the song that I dislike to be honest. I think Anderson .Paak sounds glorious here. Nas doesn’t have the most aggressive, intricate flow and delivery, but the content just hits way too hard for me to not love it. I think the song is dope af. It’s followed by The Definition, which features Brucie B. He basically does what Kid Capri did on Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. album. The song is pretty much just one verse from Nas, and it’s really good. It’s one of the more aggressive verses on the album, which I appreciate. Once again, I just wish it was longer. It feels oddly short to me. The song is only 121 seconds long. The verse is really good though.
Powerful people will silence you, they try to mute you Unethical ways put you in prison, try to roof you Our youth is dead to us, they called us "superpredators" Stupid words from the President's mouth, where are his editors? Antarctica is 65 degrees Global warming, they don't wanna believe And they're hanging people on trees And what the fuck is up with Gayle King?
Once again, the production from Hit-Boy is great. I think the song is really dope. It’s followed by Full Circle, which is notable since it has a feature from The Firm. Personally, I think the Firm album from 1997 is even worse than Nastradamus, but I never thought they were bad rappers. That album was just a misfire. This track ended up being about as good as I thought it’d be. AZ had my favorite verse, followed by Nas, and then Cormega & Foxy Brown were pretty much tied. The verses range from pretty cool to really great in my opinion. Something about the track itself just felt uneventful to me honestly. I think it’s just because I didn’t really sense any chemistry between the artists. It sounded like they emailed their verses to Nas rather than recording in the same studio. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with that in theory. It just kinda makes the final product feel less cohesive. I do like the song though, and the little verse from Dr. Dre at the very end was kind of a cool surprise. It’s not one of my favorite tracks on the album, but I do think it’s pretty good. Track 11 is called 10 Points, and this is another highlight for me. It has one of my favorite beats on the album, which is saying a lot. The verses from Nas on this track are really dope too, especially the second one.
Is it love for a Queens dude in Supreme shoes
Or did the street code expire with these dudes?
Especially now, I don't expect you to bow, but stand
Creating jobs, named my venture from after the land
I came from, that's unheard of
A hood that's known for murder now doing mergers
The streets is a lie, don't believe these dudes, jail or death is all you get
They tell you never move, but when they get money, they split
The only aspect of the song that I’m not really crazy about is the hook. I mean, it’s a fine hook. I can’t really say why I don’t love it. It’s not bad at all. I just can’t say it really added much to the track for me. It’s cool though. Overall, I think the song is dope as hell. The penultimate track is a major highlight for me entitled The Cure. Again, the production from Hit-Boy is top notch. I think the main reason I like this song so much is due to the structure. He’s pretty much rapping the whole time with no hook or bridge or anything like that. There were a couple other tracks like that, but they all felt a little too short. This one’s nearly four minutes long though, and it’s fire. There’s even a beat switch after about 80 seconds, which is great. I just feel like Nas killed this track more than he killed the others.
Life is school for the soul and I'm in life seven already
Life's simple but heavy, incomprehensible shit
Everything from sexy to deadly, I done been through that shit
Still goin' deeper like I grew a new inch on my dick
We looked at robbin' as a way of resolving our problems
My moms cooked food, but some of my niggas was starving
And whatever they was down to do, I was with 'em regardless
Turns out I was hungry and was hittin' the hardest
Decisions was sharper, my predictions was on it
No fortune teller, just going off regular signs
Niggas often tell ya they moves
Without a word, just reading they mind
Wasn't needin' no nine
Not that he wasn’t killin’ all the other tracks. I just feel like he stepped it up a bit for this one. I think it’s dope af. So yeah, those are all the songs I like. Now I’ll talk about the tracks I won’t be returning to, the first of which is called Replace Me.
I think it’s an okay track. Nothing about it stands out in an especially terrible way. I just don’t really like this style of Hip Hop. It’s a little too Poppy and clean sounding for me. This isn’t the sound I want from Nas personally. I also think Big Sean‘s verse was pretty lame. That “I’m not your ex, I’m your ecstasy” line made me throw up a little in my mouth. It’s far from Big Sean’s worst performance though. The production is cool I guess, and Don Toliver‘s hook is cool. I don’t know… Again, I think it’s a decent track. It just doesn’t have much replay value for me. The content definitely resonates with me though. Honestly, I feel like I’d probably like this song if it wasn’t for Big Sean. I can enjoy the song to an extent, but not so much that I’d willingly listen to that verse. It’s decent though. Same goes for the following track, ‘Til the War Is Won. It’s an okay track, but that Lil Durk feature is really hard to stomach. It’s also just super random. I don’t think anybody was fiending for a Nas & Lil Durk collaboration, and they don’t really have any type of chemistry on this track. It just sounds like a forced collab in order for Nas to reach younger generations. I guess there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. I just don’t personally like anything Lil Durk has been involved in since 2015. So yeah, it’s a decent track, but it’s not for me. The only song on this album that I think is legitimately bad is the bonus track, Spicy.
I don’t even like the beat on this track to be honest. I just find the repetitive loop really annoying. Remember how I said Nas sounded like he was trying to appeal to younger generations? It’s even more apparent here. It just sounds awkward as fuck when I hear him using Gen Z lingo. His verse was fine I guess. Honestly, I actually think A$AP Ferg sounded the best on this song. He makes sense over this beat. Fivio Foreign’s verse was fucking terrible. I like that Big Drip song he has, but this ain’t it. His and Nas’ styles don’t mesh at all. This was a super awkward collaboration. I think it’s wack.
This album is great. However, I don’t see it as a huge improvement over The Lost Tapes 2 like everyone else. In fact, I actually enjoyed The Lost Tapes 2 more than this personally. I think it’s because there was less room for error here, and there were a couple misfires. I will say that Hit-Boy killed this shit. This might actually be the first time ever that I’ve come away from an album more impressed by the production than Nas’ rapping. Not that Nas’ rapping is bad here because it isn’t at all. I still wanted him to spaz out like he was on Life Is Good though, and I just don’t think that’s what he’s doing these days. He hasn’t rapped like that in about half a decade. I’ve personally never had a huge issue with Nas’ production choices, but this probably is in his top 3 best produced albums. If not top 3 then definitely top 5. Even though I don’t see this as a huge improvement like most people, I do think it’s a great project, and I’m not disappointed personally. I’m glad I finally got around to it. I think it’s really dope.
Favorite Song: The Cure
Least Favorite Song: Spicy
Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album.