Nas 'Life is Good' - Album ReviewThe Man with the Kelis Tattoo
For fifteen years Nas has been an artist who creates bodies of work by pouring the raw emotions in his heart out over fresh hip hop beats. Several stand out songs on his teenage memoir Illmatic (1994) were geared towards his troubles, focusing on growing up in a hellish Queens housing project. 'Life is Good' (2012) is no exception. The album’s stand out moments are when he speaks on the relationship woes with ex-wife, singer Kelis and other wearisome women. At 38 Nas’s 10th studio album proves once again that in spartan times he never forgets how to live a luxurious lifestyle.
In May 2011 Nas mentioned to Billboard.com that he had no concept to sum up the record, saying “I have to do something that feels right, and that will last.” With 'Life is Good' he makes a point to introduce listeners to an album full of uninhibited, intimate emotions. He paints portraits of Queens characters and tells relationship stories that are so personal they may be pages ripped from his diary. An evident idea that Nas portrays, though, is his timeless connection with the community that raised him.
Throughout 'Life is Good' Nas praises those who came out of the hood in one peace as well as those still struggling. He raps about the complexities of being a Black man in Queens, NY. His storytelling abilities are so exquisite that you don’t have to visit the borough to feel like you’re familiar with the sounds of the city’s cries. On the first track 'No Introduction,'
Nas takes a stroll down memory lane while giving us a glimpse into the future with lines like “hood forever I just act like I’m civilized/really what’s in my mind is organizing a billion black muthafuckas/to take over JP and Morgan/Goldman and Sacks.”
Sounding as fresh and original as he did in '94, Nas proves he is made by the hood and for the hood and continues to cater to “trapped in the nineties niggas.”
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In a recent Ruckers Park appearance Nas spoke to hundreds of young black faces, saying “all I care about is the people, I don’t care about Hollywood and all that fake stuff.” They listen because he is relatable. He is not rhyming about places they can’t pronounce or white women with manufactured bodies. He is the prime example of someone from the hood who made it and genuinely wants everyone to do the same. He sees no competitors only fellow soldiers. Nas’ relationships with women, the good and the bad, are all over this album too. He raps openly and unapologetically about the his and her bitternesses in his divorce, singing “when people like my song you wanna kill um right/you resent me every time I make a million, right?” He lets his emotions take the wheel for the greater part of the album and we get the trying times of a troubled genius.
As 'Life is Good' unfolds, we are brought closer and closer into the vulnerability of the emcee. With songs like 'Cherry Wine' Nas lets listeners in on what type of woman he is looking to be with, a selfless someone who drinks chilled champagne and smokes good green. He allows Amy Winehouse’s voice to rule the record “where is he, the man who is just like me?” she sings with her infectious, brilliant melodies. 'Cherry Wine' invites new loves into Nas’s life while 'Bye Baby' invites old flames to never come back.
In his Complex Magazine interview he speaks on what led to his spilt with Kelis, “she had all the answers but I needed something more from her...plus she was younger than me and hadn’t seen all I had seen.” With 'Life is Good' Nas gives us all of him, he describes how the broken heart on his sleeve got there, and lets us watch while he stitches it back up.
Nas’s jazz background shines brilliantly with the carefully chosen production. We get mixes of hip hop beats with scores reminiscent of a Tim Burton film. The outcome is an album full of nefarious instrumentals that match perfectly with the envisions of a failed marriage. The album art is infamous, arguably the best cover of his career. A photo of Nas sporting a lonely mien, holding a champagne flute with his ex-wife’s neon green wedding dress draped across his lap. The inspiration comes from the final breakup the couple had where Kelis allegedly took many sentimental items from the couple’s home, but left part of her wedding dress hanging in an empty closet.
With 'Life is Good' we get familiar with Nas’ hard times and evolve with his feelings. When he is hurt we are hurt, when it’s time to rhyme we are New Yorkers in the '90s and when he is grateful, so are we. Doubtless rap is a youth dominated genre but surprisingly Nas’ age does not play a factor in the relevancy of his content. Actually, the collection of songs sound like young Nas and current Nas refuse to let each other stop improving.
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Songs like 'The Don,' 'Nasty' and 'Accident Murderers' give us graphic memories from his past and the witty, lyrical descriptions that have made him famous. Then we get songs like 'Queens Story' and 'Reach Out' where he acts as a general speaking of and to his soldiers. The album really shines though, with tracks like 'Stay,' 'The Black Bound' and 'Roses,'
where we get the genuine emotions of a heartbroken man. With this album he personally paints us the picture of where it hurts and the outcome is another creatively written masterpiece from Nas.
Nas is still an astonishing emcee, poet, and wordsmith who has strengthened his ability to see and describe different walks of life. He reveals on 'Life is Good' that he likes dallying with air head models but wants someone who he can relate to on an impressive level. He fills the record with his pains, from airing out mistakes he has made in parenting to lyrically kissing Kelis goodbye, and there is no room left for regrets. “Watch me do it all again, its a beautiful life” he sings proudly. He makes his struggles sound so sexy that by the time the record finishes, you’ll wish they were yours.
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