Release date: 13th July 2012
Label: Def Jam
He needs no introduction. And the opening track of Life is Good is proof of that. No Introduction starts off one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year with a bang, not as a skippable intro, but as a proper full-length track that acts as reminder of where Nas has been and what he’s been through, with tales of his upbringing and how his life has changed, but how he still remains the righteous son – an educator for the people:
Hood forever, I just act like I’m civilized Really what’s in my mind is organizing a billion Black motherf*ckers To take over JP and Morgan, Goldman and Sachs And teach the world facts and give Saudi they oil back
On the track’s last verse he sets the tone of the album as a very real revelation of himself and his life, one that he has written for personal closure after his rather public divorce from Kelis. But instead of coming out of a personal struggle to produce an album tainted with bitterness, it seems that Nas has come out as stronger and more sure of himself, with a positive outlook on life and a nostalgic view of his past. On what has been described as an album with a strong throwback feel with heavily 90′s inspired production, we get many references to his youth and his past, as he remembers his roots on tracks such as A Queens Story and Back When, which itself has a very Illmatic feel and sound.
He often compares these trips down memory lane with his current life “Looking for the juks young, now we older chiefing” and admits that he’s now been rich longer than he was ever broke. But of course he doesn’t speak of his riches with today’s generation’s “money-over-everything” attitude. On one of my favourite tracks on the album, Loco-Motive, he proves he knows what’s real “I know you think my life is good cause my diamond piece / But my life been good since I started finding peace“. Along with these tales of growth and change he puts across the idea that his N.Y. State of Mind remains and how he feels like he doesn’t belong is some of the circles he now rolls in, on Reach Out for example: “When you’re too hood to be in them Hollywood circles / And you’re too rich to be in that hood that birthed you”.
His success has obviously not changed him and the best of Nas still clearly remains: his story-telling paints pictures as vivid as ever; whether it’s the grim tales of the Rick Ross featured Accident Murderers, or the trials and tribulations of fatherhood on Daughters. On such an honest, soul-baring track like Daughters, Nas is bringing issues into hip-hop that are not often discussed, paving the way for others to do the same, and it’s probably only he who could have to power to influence in this way. Not just any rapper could do a track like this on the same album as a track about soul mates (Cherry Wine featuring his friend, the late Amy Winehouse) and then take a sentimental look at his failed marriage like Bye Baby and not be considered soft. He’s just real. And his versatility in covering topics of such a wide range is more evident on Life is Good than ever before. It’s definitely nice to see the progression and evolution of Nas as an artist and as a man, and the directions his life has taken him, especially for those who have grown with him following his almost 20-year career.
He has been criticised in the past for poor beat selection and somewhat boring production backing his flawless rhymes. And to argue against that I give you The Don. Produced by the late Heavy D in collaboration with Salaam Remi, this track proves how relevant Nas still is and how his flow can work well with more outstanding, dominant production. Although a lot of us secretly wish there were more tracks like these, we have to remember that this is Nas, he’s no trend-following rapper that relies too much on the quality of production, he’s got a lot to say, we need to listen and we do need to focus on the rhymes. And for that, he will always be relevant.
My Rating: 8.5/10
I’ve got my hard copy, I recommend the Deluxe Edition: