When you’re as well established as Nas you can do anything you want and not have to answer to anybody. He’s a legend who has built an empire upon a standard of excellence and instead of selling out and cashing in which he could have done countless times before he’s maintained his integrity by penning rhymes that go above and beyond your average. The problem is is that when you have that type of authority it’s hard to find new and challenging summits to climb. Nasir is a product of that conundrum; not lazy in any way, but light in content and more nostalgic than it needs to be.
Kanye‘s production does add an edge, but not enough to create a palpable atmosphere for Nas’ narratives. At seven songs Nas has little room to do what he does best, which is tell stories. That mark may have worked for Pusha T and Kanye, but Nas demands a larger stage and the minimalist formula proved to be too small a runway for him to take flight. For long time Nas fans it’ll be a luke warm effort, but for new fans who might not be as in tune with his work it’ll be a good point to start at and work your way backwards. A solid project, but not enough meat on the bone to satisfy a hungry appetite.
‘Not For Radio‘
Nas kicks off his eleventh studio album by reasserting his core values, the ones he’s stuck by for the length of his career. It can be taken in multiple ways: he’s been able to thrive despite his style not being radio friendly, and he’s dropping the type of knowledge that would shock the mainstream. It’s never been about the glitz and glamour, but rather the pursuit of knowledge and excellence: [LISTEN]
‘Cops Shot the Kid‘
No mistaking the thesis: cops are hunting black people and not even the kids are safe. Nas scales back and delivers a straightforward rap. Not much has changed since Emmett Till and it’s why Colin Kaepernick has taken it upon himself to bring awareness to the masses. Kanye kicks a solid verse, but in the end it’s the samples of Slick Rick and Richard Pryor that provide the necessary backup: [LISTEN]
This deep in Nas’ pedigree has been firmly established, but it wasn’t always that way. He had to slowly make his way up the mountain, and he’s stayed true to his vision through self-discipline and practice. His ascent was possible through a series of well calculated moves, a game of chess that has demanded his full attention. He’s made it, but had to fight every step of the way: [LISTEN]
As a master storyteller Nas has taken listeners all over the world and now he’s decided to stop in the south of France to enjoy the fruits of his labor. While there he decides to soak in the glory, but still can’t help but think about how far he’s come. Never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined this level of success, and he’s making sure that he maintains perspective throughout it all: [LISTEN]
Nas offers up a simple formula for success. Whenever adversity enters the equation a person has to take it and transform it into something meaningful. The transference of energy is invigorating and provides a boost when things get stagnant. For Nas the criticism fueled his fire and propelled him to new heights, a situation that demanded that he dig deep and be his own source of inspiration: [LISTEN]
‘Adam and Eve‘
Nas gets biblical and flips through the pages of his genesis. He’s telling stories of his upbringing and reminding himself that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He’s a product of his environment, but it was his ability to rise above while never forgetting that has made all the difference. Knowledge is power and he’s accrued a wealth of it by keeping his eyes and ears open: [LISTEN]
Nas’ ability to capture the small moments is what’s separated him from his contemporaries. He can pull inspiration from anywhere because he always has his radar up. It’s a skill that informs his writing and he’s looking to keep those legs fresh. By appreciating the small moments he’s able to slow down and absorb the environment around him, a zen state of mind that has defined his career: [LISTEN]