Life is good, huh? For a guy whose greatest output rests comfortably in the 90′s, whose recent contribution to pop culture was a messy divorce, a promiscuous daughter tweeting pics of condoms, and two poorly received solo LP’s, I find a hard time believing life is all THAT good. But then again, I ain’t Nas, and I never made Illmatic. But then again I never made Hip Hop is Dead, Untitled, or Nastradamus, and we all know about those messes.
But maybe Life IS just good. For Nas, there is a whole breadth of material at his disposal, and it has made for one of his best albums in just about 10 years. Not to say that Nas’ recent musical output is terrible (it sort of is though) but Life is Good is just really damn good.
There are certain tropes in a Nas album, some of them including the lack of thick basslines, streamlined beats, a smooth-talking seamless flow. All of these are heightened, made more tense, and perfectly personified in Life is Good.
Accident Murderers is aggressive and features some archetypal Nas-cliches pulled right out of the 90′s. Unfortunately, Rick Ross is featured and just ruins the second half. God forgives him, I don’t.
Nas always seems to add in one or two (or three or four) of those sex fantasy type songs. Here we have, well, one, kind of. Stay is soothing yet odd, but it does fit the flow and is forgivable.
Daughters is a fantastic song and is a Nas solo effort that really speaks directly to recent news breaks and insight into his pseudo anti mid-life crisis.Cherry Wine is a beautiful song that is arguably one of the best things featuring Amy Winehouse to come out since her passing. If this is her swan song, I applaud.
The Don is aggressive and features a deep bassline, a bit nontraditional Nas, yet relevates it to one of the most tense and well made songs on the album.
Yet there are a few unremarkable songs. The most notable is Summer on Smash which seems like an almost detestable grab for radio-play. It’s a messy song that is frustratingly terrible, and I would rather it be removed from my copy for the sole reason that it fits better on a Wacka Flacka Flame album (the second half) than Nas. Jesus.
This is about as best as we can expect from Nas in 2012. There are scattered gems throughout his entire output, and Life is Good surely continues that trend a bit more plentiful. But there are undeniably a few songs that don’t fully work, despite no singular aspect remaining at fault.
What Nas does best is offer an extremely tight and flawless flow, and despite cited whack lyrics and muddy beats, he does his job well. This album retains the best of what Nas can offer, while fulfilling some long sought wishes in refinement. The flow is there, as always. But with that comes the quality production, the apt and personal and sincere lyrics, and the thematic tie-in and just a really good album from a man whose musical output was clearly on its last legs for fans. And though one can’t expect an entire album of top-tier Nas (who did anyway?) there are more winners than losers and for that, it’s a sure win from Nas.