Nas – Life is Good [Review]

21 years in the game, there isn’t an intro paragraph that will even speak to the enormity of this album nor this review. Nas fans and stans are some of the most vocal cats in the genre and most supportive. For all the talk of the lackluster Nas projects, of his 9 previous solo albums he has 8 platinum albums and 1 gold. It’s been 4 years since his last album and even that last one was a cowlick in the musical wave pattern of Hip-Hop at the time. We all know the many trials of Nas’ life since we last heard from him and they say that tragedy and pain make the best music. So let’s just get to the music.

1. No Introduction
Produced by Justice League
I love the drama of the Justice League track here. Most albums start off with an intro that serves as a very loose and quick table setter for the album. Far too often though, those moments tend to be more like the first skip on an album. Here Nas takes the time to basically say this far in the game, we’re beyond introductions. I’ll let you know where I’ve been, what I’ve been through, and what I plan on doing. It’s declarative moment not just for the album but for someone who’s been criticized, even by myself, for not being consistent or maximizing his potential.

2. Loco-Motive
Featuring Large Professor; Produced by No I.D.
Nas ends this song saying “This is for my trapped in the 90′s niggas” and he wasn’t lying. No I.D. gives you motivation to break your neck over a relentless tempo and drum hit while Nas gives us more storytelling addressing his motivation for what he does and his life. I think the song has a few meanings but the one that resonates the most is that like a train, he doesn’t stop. No matter where life takes him and how life makes victims of those he sees, he fights through to continue doing what he loves and what pays the bills.

3. A Queens Story
Produced by Salaam Remi
Salaam reaches back and grabs some classic Hip-Hop drums and some orchestra sounding strings to lay the foundation for this Queensbridge anthem. Hell, even I want to claim QB after this song (I won’t). One of the things folks like the most about Nas is his ability to paint pictures with his words. Nas uses that penchant for gritty lyricism to give this track the energy and urgency that marches you along on a brisk four and a half minute song about the streets of Queens.

4. Accident Murderers
Featuring Rick Ross; Produced by No I.D.
Seemingly picking up where his last song left off lyrically, Nas once again uses his skills for social commentary and not just flossing, as he addresses the violence of the streets and fake gangstas…however I can’t help be think that he’s talking to the studios too. I saw this mentioned somewhere and it’s a pretty good point, about how ironic it is that he has Ross featured on a song when he has similarly taken criticism for the same thing. Even still Ross provides some heat and gives us one more morsel to chew on as we wait for his next album. The production is flawless and this was an early favorite on the album. It’s a definite repeat when played for me.

5. Daughters
Produced by No I.D.
By now we’re all familiar with this song and initially, I thought it was a good song. As I’ve had time to listen, my appreciation has grown. We all know the story and conceivably the song too so there isn’t much more to say here to add to this review, but I think it’s great that Hip-Hop is talking directly to issues that affect the community again. Everything doesn’t have to be about cars, clothes and hoes. It’s okay to talk about family, for that alone, we should applaud Nas.

6. Reach Out
Featuring Mary J. Blige; Produced by Salaam Remi, Rodney Jerkins, DJ Hot Day & Nas
When you need a hook, few are better than Mary J. She’s already used this beat too so it seems really natural. Probably one of the most commercial/radio ready songs on the album, which does feature a lot of radio friendly tracks. While the track is familiar, it’s the lyrics that really are the star on this one. Check Nas out.

3:45 am can’t sleep, can’t dream
I’m stuck, money problems pop up
How will I survive, guess it’s best to decide not to decide
So that’s my decision
Whatever happens happens
I keep makin’ my millions
Can see myself in presidential campaign dinners
But I’m gassin’ blunts around a bunch of gang members
When you’re too hood to be in them Hollywood circles
And you’re too rich to be in that hood that birthed you
And you become better than legends you thought were the greatest
And out grow women you love and thought you could stay with
Life become clearer when you wipe down your mirror
And leave notes around for yourself to remember
I like to teach and build
With brothers about how easy it is to reach a mill
All you need is some skill, then it’s grind time
Imagination better than knowledge, say’s Einstein
It’s all in the mind

7. World’s An Addiction
Featuring Anthony Hamilton; Produced by Salaam Remi
Song 7 strikes again. I’m not a huge Nas follower but I absolutely love this song. I’m not sure how you could keep a song like this so dope for so long (5 mins). The track and Anthony Hamilton are just as masterful as the lyrics. Nas is really on top of his game and at his age, few could even get close. I’d like to put all the lyrics here because any verse will do, but the 3rd is especially dope.

So many vices, habits
Mine of course, bad chicks
My response to any advice on what is the essentials of life
I’m just rebellious, not selfish
Guess we all share different definitions of what wealth is
I need the best things in life, that’s women, that’s cars
Cigars in Venice, bottle on ice, that’s priceless
The other night, just in the emergency room
A patient said she needs to see a doctor soon
Doctor busy operating on a lady who’s sedated
He can barely concentrate cause he’s newly separated
His estranged wife likes entertaining her acquaintance
In the house they were married in, mad people waiting
Some young some old, heads and stomachs aching
Filling out an application cause they all need medication
But the doctor need love or a quick vacation
Calling up his travel agent
Same time, premeditating murdering his ex wife
Life, savage ain’t it
Some need Xanax just to maintain it
We all need faith cause the world keep changing
Let go of the illusion, start some restraining

8. Summer On Smash
Featuring Miguel & Swizz Beatz; Produced by Swizz Beatz
I’d be lying if I said this song was up to the quality of the rest of this album, that’s not to say that this song is bad. You already know what steez Swizzy is on so you can predict the beat, but if you haven’t heard this song in the ride and you’re not feeling it musically, try again. It’s a banger in the ride and that’s the point. Nas spits about lavish summer partying and having a good time, no need to overthink this, it isn’t Untitled. It’s definitely growing on me even as I type this review.

9. You Wouldn’t Understand
Featuring Victoria Monet; Produced by Buckwild
I spoke out when it seemed like Lupe Fiasco just ripped a beat and rapped on it to get a hit, I won’t be a total hypocrite here either. Nas takes “Let’s Start Love Over Again” by Miles Jay and lays some bars down. I’ll even admit that I find it different because this wasn’t a Hip-Hop classic that he used. After saying all that, I never said that Lupe’s song was bad for doing so, and this one certainly isn’t either. As a matter of fact, older cats like myself may even find this particular sample by Buckwild endearing and more acceptable to our age as it blends the old soul music with Hip Hop, it’s the best of both worlds. Lyrically, as the title suggests I don’t understand that lifestyle. He speaks about where he’s from and some more extravagant spending and shopping that I’m not privy to. It’s simply not important that I understand, because it sure sounds good.

10. Back When
Produced by No I.D.
I’m a sucker for soulful music and MC Lyte’s voice so nevermind putting this song on repeat as well. Up to this point, Nas has been very vocal about his beginnings. This time around, he goes a step further and talks specifically about his past as it relates to Hip Hop. It’s not the “story of Nas” or anything of the sort, but a look back on how the culture shaped his career and how he looks at the culture that pays his bills now. He takes a few random shots at nameless folks and speaks fondly of that have passed on. The No I.D. production is dope as hell and the entire song just feels good and classic. Great nostalgia to this entire song.

11. The Don
Produced by Salaam Remi, Heavy D & Da Internz
Man, look here…if someone has any issues with this song they’re full of shit. I’ll keep this one short because there is no need to do more. This song is a banger, classic, neck-breaker, best song on the album, song of the year type shit. Rest in peace Hev, cause lawd knows y’all rockin’ to this beat in heaven. Producers need to be shamed letting this man out-produce you from the grave.

12. Stay
Produced by No I.D.
This is another song right in my wheelhouse. Soulful horns and harmonies backed by a sweet bassline make this one another favorite. Switching back to introspective mode, Nas keeps it all the way real as he raps about relationships. Specifically in this song, he spits a cautionary tale followed by a story of someone that we all can name. You know, that one person in your life that you can’t STAND dealing with…but you continue too because no matter how tough things get, you can’t imagine the joy without the balance of pain that person brings. Initially I thought it was about Jay but I don’t see it. There are other lyrics in the song that makes me think he’s either speaking generally or about someone NOT Jay. Nonetheless, the song is dope.

13. Cherry Wine
Featuring Amy Winehouse; Produced by Salaam Remi
Even I can’t front on this song. By this point, if you’ve been rockin’ with the Fro, you know that I’m not a fan of Amy Winehouse and not too big on Nas either, but this song proves to be the exception. I love the production and combination of the two here. It’s kinda chilling if you think about how Amy is singing the hook asking “where is he” and Nas is rapping about the same thing as if she’s the ghost he’s singing too. However, even if you don’t wanna put all that on it, it’s simply a song of Nas rapping about his dream girl and it’s done well.

14. Bye Baby
Produced by Salaam Remi & 40
I don’t think it’s possible to go wrong with a Guy sample. This may be the most personal song as it relates to his failed marriage. This song is also the moment that I officially got excited about the album. I’d heard a few other songs but when I heard this one, I was really looking forward to the album. I haven’t been disappointed yet.

15. Nasty
Produced by Salaam Remi
Hey trapped in the 90′s niggas, this one’s for you too. Quite honestly, if you like the culture, this shit is for you. It’s made really simple here, a emcee and a mic. Nas shreds a throwback feeling track complete with scratching and dope breaks. Back on his Illmatic shit, Nas goes in and dismantles those that try to oppose him. The man is still rapping like  he’s 17!  (I only reviewed this one because I think it’s the best of the bonus tracks). 

Bottom Line:
So here we are, the album is done and everyone who read this (or skipped right to this part) wants to know what will I score it. At the end of this album, I’m certain of a few things. First, I can no longer deny Nas’ skill. While I still think there are albums that I don’t think are as good as the masses do, while preparing for this review I’m pretty sure that my doubt about him falls mostly on production, not lyrics. Secondly, I haven’t been this excited about an album after hearing it since, hell I don’t remember. I’ve come across Charity Starts At Home and Untitled both of which I commented that I would have given 5 stars too (I still stand by the 5 star for Untitled) …and this is better than both of those. So that leads me to this, nappyafro’s first 5 star album. My homie ribbed me for giving Relapse such a high score (I still stand by that one)  asked me if I thought this album would change the face of music like The Blueprint, ATLiens, The Score, OB4CL, Ready To Die, Illmatic, Doggystyle, etc. My response is that I don’t think a classic has to magically change music, but it should be definitive of some sort of quality or beacon in what is a fog of like sounding music. Ready to Die redefined how music was selected for an album blending sounds, eras and ideas into one beautiful project. The Blueprint proved that commercial doesn’t have to be wack and that one man can move a culture with his words. ATLiens proved that there are alternatives to the norm and that those alternatives don’t have to be watered down or sacrifice quality. Now with Life Is Good Nas has done something that those before him haven’t done, and that’s delivered an album with this quality 21 years later. He constructed an album that manages to be open and honest, heartfelt but no parts soft. He constructed an album that people that love Hip Hop have been clamoring for. He constructed an album that has one, maybe two less than amazing moments, but the rest of the album shines so brightly that those instances are forgivable and non important. Nas constructed a classic album that may not change the face of music, but will definitely redefine how good someone can be…how good someone should be this late in their career and not rest on the legend title, but strive to prove it.

Now where do I mail this Album of the Year vote, I think it’s over.

rating-five-a

Saule Wright *the "e" is silent* is a chill cat that loves his Hip-Hop and R&B music. At times, he may throw in a few extra words here and there in his reviews, but he makes an effort to comment on the track, the lyrics, and other elements in each song when doing nappyafro's legendary track by track process. If he's not wandering around nappyafro.com trying to spark conversation, you'll find him either on soulections.com or twitter doing the same. Respected by many, disrespected by many, and respectful of both.
  • RTIII

    Great review on a great album. 5 out of 5? I can’t and won’t argue about that. Thanks Saule.

    • http://twitter.com/SauleWright Saule Wright

      thanks for supporting the Fro man. We appreciate you keeping up with us and commenting.

      • RTIII

        No problem man.

  • B-Easy

    As much as I don’t agree with this being a classic, the last paragraph in this review is hard to argue with. Damn.

    Good album either way. You knocked this review out the park though.

    • http://twitter.com/SauleWright Saule Wright

      thanks bruh

  • http://www.misteranalytical.com/ Mr. Analytical

    Man, you know I don’t comment much but I had to co-sign this review and the rating. I love this album and I’m pleased to see you give it 5 out of 5. And your review was equally on point. It’s very fitting that the quality of your review is reflective of the quality of the reviewed…and I’m not just saying that based on biases or my affinity for the album. Good ish bruh.

    • http://twitter.com/SauleWright Saule Wright

      thank you sir. You’re the harshest critic of anything after the golden era so just hearing you thought the album was dope (bias aside) is good reinforcement.

      • http://www.misteranalytical.com/ Mr. Analytical

        Man, I had to revisit after reading the Second Opinions reviews. I feel anything less than 5 stars for this album is criminal. You know the opinionated arsehole I can be so I understand/respect everyone having one but this album right here…this album right here…is ri-damn-diculous. Nothing short of a masterpiece. Hip Hop at its absolute finest. I applaud you again for taking the Nestea plunge and giving this album the credit it deserves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1005162581 D-Major Thomas

    What’s up Saule, i’ve been tuning into the Fro for about two years. I’m just curious, why is this the FIRST 5 outta 5 album? I totally agree with your score, but there have been some albums released in the past 3-4 years that I think could have easily gotten the same exact score. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy literally took hip-hop to its creative limit about a year ago. Phonte crafted, IMO, a classic album in Charity Starts at Home.

    I feel as if a lot of times you guys are afraid to give certain albums a 5 out of 5 because that score is reserved for classic albums. I feel that 5 out of 5 should represent nearly flawless albums. Even this album isn’t without a few flaws. I don’t have a problem with this being a 5 out of 5 album, I just have a problem with it being the first and only 5 out of 5 album. I personally don’t think its the best hip-hop album in the 5 years you guys have been online.

    Just my opinion
    Great Review

    • http://twitter.com/SauleWright Saule Wright

      Thanks for checkin’ us out man, we def appreciate it. We’re going to use your question on the frocast and will answer it then, so I can’t say too much now. I will say that I agree with what you’re saying. I know that the “power of the 5″ was hanging over my head as I did the review. I knew that once that score was revealed, all the typing I did wouldn’t matter. I knew that there’s a lot coming with that score, I’m sure someone will come and rip me and the entire site for giving it a 5 too. So yeah, there’s a lot to it just like you stated. We’ll get into it more on the frocast so make sure you tune in Thursday to get a more definitive answer to your question.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1005162581 D-Major Thomas

        Thanks man, I tune in every week so i’ll definitely be looking forward to it. Been a crazy week for music in general, Nas showing us why hip-hop has been so great over the years with Life is Good, and Frank Ocean showing us the future of hip-hop/R&B with Channel Orange (Good reviews on both BTW). Hopefully we can get a lot more 5 out of 5 albums in the next few years with Kendrick dropping his project this year, Detox (God-Willingly) coming soon, Eminem working on his project, and Tyler preparing to release Wolf. Hip-Hop is looking a lot better than it has in some time IMO.

    • http://www.facebook.com/owen.bryan Owen Bryan

      This is my second time commenting on Nappyafro, but I been following this site since y’all post up The Doctor’s Advocate Review years back around 06-07 if I’m not mistaken. I agree this shouldn’t be the first 5 star album on the Fro, but this album deserves it and other critical acclaim it’s been getting. This is the most personal I heard Nas since God’s Son. This is one of those albums I would like to hear 2nd opinion about on Nappyafro as well.
      I agree Kanye’s MBDTF should be 5 stars, but I didn’t think Phonte’s Charity should be 5 though, but a 4.5. I think Jay-Z’s American Gangster was a masterpiece.

  • Rickjamesbitch

    Let’s fucking go!!! I can’t wait to buy this album! Great review

    Damn Saule.. You got to review a 4.5 and a 5 star album back to back, you taking all the good shit.

    • http://twitter.com/SauleWright Saule Wright

      lol thanks bruh. Yeah, it’s been a busy two weeks lol.

  • http://twitter.com/SauleWright Saule Wright
  • Quintinb777

    Although I do not agree with the rating or everything said in the review, I do like the album and I do like the review. I think it was well written, and our differences are probably mostly just in taste. Good job Saule.

    • http://twitter.com/SauleWright Saule Wright

      That’s cool man and thank you. I have yet to hear of any universal 5 star album in any genre so I get it.

  • Never Faded

    Good Review. I believe this album would have been a classic if it was released in the 90′s. The beats are nice but they just have that 90′s feel. I think Nas to far behind in the times. Example, Al Greene last album was good but it sounded like he’s stuff from the 70′s. Life is Good is meant for older older brothers who enjoys rap. For anyone born in the late 80′s, this album is boring.

    Didnt mean to give it -12 stars.

    • http://twitter.com/SauleWright Saule Wright

      Interesting perspective. I will say that I think Al Greene is a different situation. His fans aren’t TRYING to hear him do autotune or have rap features. His stuff should sound like the 70′s. This Nas album sounds pretty honest to who he is and where he is right now, and since I’m closer to his age range, it may resonate with me more than someone who’s 16. The flip side to that is that the lyrics and delivery themselves as well as the production don’t feel like they have an age parameter on them. More specifically, I think the level of production on here may be more complex than the bulk of new stuff that is out that younger folks are listening to. That’s not a diss, but there is a lot of beat raps that have minimal musical production to them such as Rack City, Big Seans music, etc. The sound of “music” is different nowadays, so I feel what you’re saying.

      I have yet to meet anyone that calls this joint boring though lol. 80′s or otherwise.

    • B-Easy

      Sidenote: I love that last Al Green album.

    • P-Body

      Are you serious? You think this album is boring??? How old are you mane? Were you born in the 90′s or early 2000s? I’m over 25 and this shit is live as fuck to me. I been a hip hop dude since I came out the womb…. Speaking of Al Green he make what he want to make. He is a legend and personally me I don’t want to hear him sing over modern music unless it is really dope not the same typical music we been force fed to listen to on the radio. Back to Nas, dude is helping keeping diversity in mainstream hip hop.

  • This Guy

    I gotta say, it is a great review. How long did it take? Hmm, 5 stars huh. I’m still unsettled for a score myself. Nasty is the shit though. I think Amy Winehouse did sound chilling, or haunting in a good way. U really woulda gave Untitled 5 stars too?

    • http://twitter.com/SauleWright Saule Wright

      Eh, I’d been prepping for this review for a solid week. Listening, taking notes, repeat. It was actually a lot easier than the Frank Ocean review. Yep, I listened to Untitled over the week too, and it still rolls. I know it’s a slower album, not as much music to make you dance, but it’s music that speaks to your mind/soul a bit more to me. Definitely a different sound, but no less dope. Thanks for reading homie, we appreciate it!

      • This Guy

        I see. Yeah, I woulda gave it a week too. For awhile I didn’t realize there was a number of people that didn’t really like Untitled. I think cuz its slept on and then there was the track like Make The World Go Around. I just don’t understand how some don’t appreciate jewels he be droppin, or even the substance he put in Queens Get The Money. But yeah, I tune in like at least once a week. Ha.

  • H2O

    This is one of the best reviews on the site.

    • http://twitter.com/SauleWright Saule Wright

      damn, Hdouble, thank you.

  • P-Body

    This is one of the best reviews but to me this album is a 4 out of 5. Definitely one of the best albums I heard in a long time and one of Nas best albums. I guess the Swizz Beats song threw me off, it sounded out of place.. Not a bad song at all but that should have appeared on Lost Tapes 2 or as a Bonus Track. The other bonus tracks such as Trust, Where’s The Love and etc were dope as hell too. The Don is not the best song on the album, it’s a dope song though. Back When is better….. I don’t understand why you never been a Nas fan. You like Mc Lyte & Rakim but you never been a fan of Nas who is clearly superior and make better quality music than them two. Dude is clearly one of the best rappers of all time even back when he first appeared on Main Source & Mc Serch albums he was still one of the best rappers then. I’m appalled about the Amy Winehouse statement, she was ill man, and how you not like her music?? Her first album “Frank” is ill as fuck mane. Salaam did some production on that album too. Anyway once again dope album. As you can see Nas still have respect for 2Pac til this day, that’s the real king of hip hop. I’m sure Stretch, E Money Bags, and all them dead NY rappers would be proud of Nas for that A Queens Story song. Out of all Nas albums I’ll have to say this is probably my 5th favorite Nas album with God’s Son being number 4, Lost Tapes number 3, illmatic number 2 and It Was Written being number 1.

  • Arkitekt702

    Very nice review Saule. Definitely one of the years best along with Trophies and RAP Music. MBDTF was no classic imo, doesn’t have the replay value for me. I still regret not giving Distant Relatives a 5 tho.