Over his long historic career, Nas has cemented himself into the upper echelon of rap in the minds of many hip hop fans. With this status comes an almost responsibility to release projects that continues to further establish his legacy. I feel that, with help from Kanye, his new album Nasir is a welcomed and great addition to Nas’ collection of great albums.
“Not For Radio” is the first track on the album and begins with Nas announcing “Escobar season begins” leading into epic vocal samples from Basil Poledouris’ “Hymn To Red October” that blended with orchestral sounds from Victoria Parker on violin and Phillip Peterson on the cello, which made the track a regal and monumental listening experience.
Nas adds to this by delivering hard hitting bars that are full of historical and political knowledge as well as an inspiring message. The track is unapologetically pro black which is clearly shown with the addition of Diddy who on the outro expresses his perspective on being black in America.
This track feels to show the greatness of black people and highlight how black people are marginalised in society due to fear of African American culture. This is an amazing intro that showcases Nas’ lyrical ability yet it’s the production from Kanye that really makes the track stand out.
The inclusion of 070 Shake on the chorus was a pleasant surprise, the line “I think they scared of us” is liberating and infectious. Overall I would say that this track just proves that Nas still is able to produce amazing tracks.
“Cops Shot The Kids” starts with a sample of “Cops/The Line Up” from Richard Pryor’s 1971 standup album, Craps (After Hours), this is then followed by the looping sample of Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story”. The looping sample coupled with Boom Bap styled drums, gives this track a real old school New York feel.
Whilst the production is undoubtably the greatest element to the track, both Nas and Kanye deliver energetic and vibrant verses. However Kanye is a stand out as he is able to effortlessly rap over the beat whilst offering gems like “who de we call to report crime… if 9-1-1 doing the drive by?” which highlights the impact of police shootings on African American communities.
Even with both artists producing stellar verses, the standout element of the track has to be the punchy and nostalgic production from Kanye that fills the track with an unmatched energy.
“White Label” is built around the looping of the soulful vocals from Shahram Shabpareh that fills the track with a gritty urban vibe that is mirrored by Nas’ expertly delivered verse that highlights his lavish lifestyle whilst reinforcing his significance in the rap game. Even though this song falls under the weaker side of the album due to its lack of memorability I still believe it does offer some redeeming elements such as the well crafted instrumentals by Kanye.
“Bonjour” is an elegant and smooth song that is swiftly injected with an intoxicating exhibition of refined and effortless vocals from ‘The World Famous Tony Williams’.
The song screams French sophistication which is only further shown on the soft and bouncing keys scattered through the song. Nas contributes a boastful and egotistical verse that cleverly portrays the luxuries of being rich rapper. This song whilst instrumentally impressive still remains lacklustre and boring.
Everything is sonically beautiful and stands to be one of the most unique and eloquent tracks of the album. Kanye alongside The Dream deliver angelic and haunting vocals that combined with sombre and light chords surround the track with a feeling of spiritual bliss.
Nas presents a verse that superbly evokes vintage storytelling mixed with complex word play through metaphors and similes. He also speaks on the current societal limitations and oppressions of the African American culture. Nas uses this 7-minute long song to unload what seems to be years of built knowledge and wisdom he has garnered over his career. This track stands out as an insight into the mindset of Nas showing his perspective on the world. Overall I feel the track is utterly stunning.
“Adam And Eve” is the penultimate track on the album that samples the piano riff of “Gole Yakh” by Kourosh Yaghmaei, looping it over heavy drums that permeates the whole song. Nas confidently demonstrates skilful rapping ability whist switching between a varied list of flows. The production does seam to be heavily overshadowed by Nas’ verse as it fells forgettable. Overall I enojoyed this song due to the masterful rapping from Nas that really captures the heart of the track.
Finally the album end on “Simple Things” which, like the name suggests, is the most simplistic production from Kanye and is almost minimalistic in nature. The repetitive trap drums over deep vocals and electronic synths gives the track an interesting quality.
Nas however differs by dropping intricate and layered bars that left me in awe. The way Nas is able to produce lyrics with great depth to them showcases his unwavering skill with the pen. This closing track achieved in rounding off an impressive project from Nas.
I really loved this album as I feel as though Nas and Kanye were able to show the best of their skills to create something that truly embodies classic hip hop while still feeling relevant and nuanced. The production from Kanye matched well with the themes of the album and complimented Nas well. The veteran of the rap game, Nas, proved without a doubt, that he still is able to create quality music that feels fresh and different.
Purchase Nas’ NASIR album on iTunes here, and stream it on Spotify below.
Words by AJ Banjo
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