Nas did it again.
Ok, this is an album review, and I’m precisely 1:15 seconds into the first track, and I’m making that statement declarative. The hook “God’s son across the belly” and I’m convinced that perception was correct. Nas comes out the box with a lava flow over a melodic bottom-heavy beat and chorded keyboard progression. The song switches beats halfway through and resolves into a synth outro. The tone is set, and I look forward to this highly anticipated album.
The second track is an up-tempo track that documents the East Coast West Coast beef that ultimately lead to the death of Nas’ contemporaries Pac and Big. The song ends with Nas clarifying a long-standing rumor regarding Pac’s murder offer an exculpation of Stretch.
EPMD 2 is the hotly anticipated track featuring Eminem and EPMD. Given Nas’ verse referencing Renegade, I expected him to come correct, and I was not disappointed. “They don’t give you one single rose while you can smell it”. EPMD’s reference to the former VP is the kind of 90’s punchline we all miss. Eminem did what Em does, rapid flow, triple time rap, constant energy. Does anyone do more to fill the space between kick drum claps than Em? This track does not miss!
Store Run feels like a Ye track, a classic Ye track. On research, it’s Hit-Boy, the wunderkind that produced classics like Ni**as in Paris and Clique while with GOOD Music. The track is immaculate, the rhyme is sublime, the shoutouts to the lost legends DMX, Shock G, and Ecstasy is a nice touch. Another one for Mr. Jones.
Unpopular opinion alert! As much as it was nice to hear Ms. Hill, as happy as I was to hear her voice, her flow sounds unevolved. Sure the lyrics are tight “let me give it to you balanced and with clarity. I don’t need to turn myself into a parody. I don’t do the shit you do for popularity”, she admonishes the listener while asserting her independence. That being said, she’s always in my pantheon of greatest rappers and well, it was lacking. None of the melodic intonation of her past work and strictly AB AB rhyme patterns. No doubt I’m judging against the highest standard possible, her own, but it falls short.
Whoever sequenced the track seems to have the same opinion. No Phony Love follows Nobody and it features some of Nas’ best flows on the album at an uptempo pace. Not to mention Charlie Wilson absolutely killing the chorus. Solid effort.
Composure is another classic sonic experience by Hit-Boy, who kicks the track off with his own tight flow. Nas comes in with his rasp languidly gliding over the horns chronicling another great rhyme using the story of his parents’ meeting and childhood travails as a parable for dealing with life’s challenges.
Check out this classic Nas, album and if you are like me, be grateful for a mumble-free zone.