1. What was it that Jay-Z said about you, Nas? One hot album every ten year average? Well, Illmatic came out in 1994, The Lost Tapes in 2002, and now this in 2012, so it looks like we’re right on schedule, huh? See you in ten then, Nas. See you in 2022.
2. A recap: Nas has been disappointing people for the greater part of a decade now. Arguably since 2004, he’s had to rely on marketing gimmicks rather than raw talent to push his albums: double album Street Disciple worked for the crowds who are more impressed by quantity than quality; 2006’s Hip Hop is Dead was a bold statement that could have been a great opportunity to move outside the confines of regular hip-hop, but instead, it was Nas doing the same old shtick. And I won’t go at length in mentioning the N-word fiasco of his 2008 album, officially named Untitled, but with the letter ‘N’ whipped across his back on its cover; everyone knew what it stood for. (The only exception is 2010’s anomaly, Distant Relatives.)
3. The cover is as ridiculous as Drake’s same pose surrounded by gold goblets on Take Care because we know that’s Kelis’ (green?) wedding dress draped across Nas’ leg, and we know that this was all reconstructed to make us feel sorry for Nas. Doesn’t work. And despite the cover and despite his shoutout to Kelis on “No Introduction,” very little of this album (until the final third) is concerned with her.
4. Some negative points: “Summer on Smash,” is the generic feel-good track of the album, complete with everyone’s most recent R&B favorite; the drums sound particularly lifeless on the Mary J. Blige feature; “Cherry Wine” is six minutes and half of which are sung by a dead Amy Winehouse (obviously released as a single for dat name recognition); “Don” (inexplicably released as a single) has a beat that overpowers Nas. Grab the deluxe edition and replace any of these with the promotional single “Nasty.”
5. I’m not quite sure what Nas said to Rick Ross to light a fire under that man’s ass, but Rick Ross actually pulls it together for some impressive lines in his feature on “Accident Murderers” as one of the two guests who actually raps on the album in a way that we wouldn’t have expected possible from hearing his lackluster-ness on God Forgives, I Don’t.
6. J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League’s penchant for making huge, grandiose beats is never better than on opener “No Introduction,” where the strings may as well act as a hook because Nas is too busy to drop one; “Hood forever, I just act like I’m civilized / Really what’s in my mind is organizing a billion Black motherfuckers / To take over JP and Morgan, Goldman and Sachs / And teach the world facts and give Saudi they oil back”; “Reveal my life, you will forgive me / You will love me, hate me, judge me, relate to me.”
7. Similarly, Salaam Remi directs swelling strings to a climax paralleling Nas’ words in the storytelling third verse of a recent divorcee who dreams of murdering his ex-wife in the final verse of “World’s An Addiction,” which has quickly climbed the ranks into being one of my favorite verses of all time. Nas doesn’t slouch around on the rest of the song either: observe the alliteration throughout the second verse of harsh sounds paired with sinister “s”-sounds: “Had so many bad chicks in his bed / Strange sex, same sex / Has addictions that are sadistic / Chain of events, habits / He puts cocaine on his prick and acts sick.”
7. I’m always a little shocked at the 3:30 mark of “A Queens Story,” when No I.D. suddenly swipes the beat from under Nas after a single measure of trumpets, with Nas rapping over nothing else but gorgeously arpegiated piano, as well as managing to introduce “Accident Murderers.”
8. It’s always embarrassing when your daughter posts pictures of a jewelry box full of condoms; it takes a better man than me to make a good song out of it.
9. The beat of “Stay” is the most gorgeous thing Nas has ever rapped over.
10. “This for my trapped-in-the-90’s niggas” turns out to be the most important line from the album; his best since Illmatic.