Album Review: “Life Is Good” by Nas

lifeisgoodLife Is Good – Nas (Def Jam)
Nas has widely been considered one of the world’s best rappers since his debut, but with the release of his tenth album, Life Is Good, many were questioning whether he was capable of longevity. Hip-hop is a young man’s game, they say.

Who cares what they say? Life Is Good is the best hip-hop album since Pete Rock’s 2008 release, NY’s Finest. Of course, that may say more about my taste in rap than about rap music in general.

Lyrically, fans expect nothing but the best from a Nas release. This time around, Nas performs at a new lyrical plateau. His rhyming is so dense, introspective and enchanting that it’s hard to find any fault with it. Even in my least favorite tracks, Summer On Smash and The Black Bond, strong lyrics are only held back by a less-than-perfect overall production.

Nas remains a storyteller, bouncing between the evocative stories of the streets he’s most known for and personal discussions focused on family and how he turned into the man he is. Featured performers like Mary J. Blige, Rick Ross and Amy Winehouse aren’t shoved in randomly but instead balance the tracks in which they’re presented. Nikki Flores’ vocals on Roses, available on the deluxe edition, are both haunting and poignant.

To be clear, this album is not Illmatic. It is not Stillmatic. It builds a strong identity of its own, giving fans throwback beats in the tracks Loco-Motive, Nasty and Reach Out while staying relevant on The Don and others.

The most difficult hurdle Life Is Good will have to overcome is content. The younger market won’t relate to tracks like Daughters or Bye Baby, where he discusses his relationships with his teenage daughter and ex-wife respectively. But hip-hop is about personal struggles as much as it is social struggles and personal identity. Nas relates what he went through and does it in a way that makes the listener want to put the headphones on and turn the volume up.

A tighter production on a few of the tracks could have turned this into a perfect album, but that doesn’t stop this from being one of the best releases in a while. The deluxe edition boasts 18 tracks, with 0 of them being skits or other filler. Pulling off the less-than-a-handful, less-than-perfect tracks would still result in a fantastic album with more material and a higher running time than just about any other musician releasing an album this big.

Life Is Good is a must-have for lyrical hip-hop fans.

Life Is Good – Nas (Def Jam)
Score: A+

Here’s a taste:


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