I want to be honest about something: me and Nas have been having a love/hate sort of relationship, musically speaking. There have been times where I haven't agreed with his choices. Still this is on a musical tip. I have no real concerns with his marriage to Kelis, tattoos of her on his arm, and the divorce. It's none of my business really, despite the media's insistence that it is.
All that's ever concerned me with Mr. Jones has been the music. There is no need to reference any of his iconic previous albums or his beef with another New York based MC because your mind has probably covered it already.
Your mind probably also jumps to that fiasco with calling his ninth album a racial slur. I guess it's OK for Black people to reference each other thusly in hopes to desensitize generations of hate but not for a form of expression. I bet the politically correct are reading this and having a fit, both Black and White.
After that he went with Distant Relatives, a collaborative effort with Damien Marley, and after a few weeks, it was exactly that-distant. "As We Enter", the lead track, entered (and exited) rather quickly with an occasional peek back inside.
I was frustrated with such a prolific voice in the hip-hop community for not giving me something more to cut my teeth on. It was one of those moments where I wondered if I would get anything worthwhile form him anytime soon. Disappointment washed over me and I focused my attention elsewhere.
I let things enter my ears and bewitch me. Along the way I heard about Nas' divorce and a new album. I got hopeful.
The title of Nas' latest album was of a clever, tongue-in-cheek irony that I appreciated. The title? Life Is Good. The album art contributes to that with Nas seated in a chair with the wedding dress of his ex-wife across his lap and an unreadable expression across his face. For a second I expected sappy songs about heartbreak but I was pleased to see his brilliance in full display.
As is my custom I listened through the album and allow certain songs to speak to me. And, as always, some did.
The first was "Accident Murderers". What drew me to it was the feel of old school gospel in the first few seconds of the track, organ playing and all. The story is a relatable one: an accidental murder from a stray bullet. He tells it eloquently and Rick Ross comes in and picks up the story almost effortlessly. When you listen to it you feel as if you should be saying "Amen..." at one point here. Moreover, there should be a choir behind him whenever he performs this.
I stumbled upon "World's An Addiction" next. The tittle struck me as a truth that I'd rarely thought of. Life is an addiction. A lot like an addiction, life hurts and kills. And in the same way we sell ourselves for it. Anthony Hamilton conveys every ounce of this misery, this pain in his delivery. Nas comes in and reinforces the melodious miseries that Hamilton first presented. Ironically enough, I was addicted to this song since I first heard it. Still hooked.
"You Wouldn't Understand" is my second favorite. To me this is open to interpretation. I thought of it as a simple thing: unless you've been through it, you will never truly understand it. Another great hook here, this time from the melodic Victoria Monet. She gives that lesson with a beautiful voice and an equally beautiful delivery.
"Stay". It's a piano and horn heavy track that almost inspired a film noir feel. The concept is simple here: staying in two situations. In the first verse situation a famous man falls in with a gold digger, threatening to ruin his happy home and put himself in a negative light in the public eye because of great sex. He stays. Our second verse is a situation where two enemies stay enemies because one cannot live without the emnity of their hatred for each other. This is deep and I love it because of that.
Nas murdered it here. (Not by accident, though.) I hope more of this comes soon. That will make life great...
Lucius Black for Royalty Magazine
Lucius Black for Royalty Magazine