Five Takeaways From Nas' 'The Lost Tapes 2' Listening Party

Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Nas performs during Nas' "The Lost Tapes 2" Private Listening Session at Mass Appeal on July 16, 2019 in New York City.  

The only time Nas really popped out during The Lost Tapes 2’s listening session at Mass Appeal’s SoHo headquarters Tuesday night (July 16) was to welcome the mid-sized crowd to the party. There wasn’t any grand artistic declarations or hype-building from him. He seemed humbled -- the undertone of his speech was that showing up was the least he could do after keeping fans waiting 17 years for the sequel. 

“As you can imagine, I’ve piled up a lot of songs since then,” Nas said. “So I got enough for a Lost Tapes 2 now. And a Lost Tapes 3 and a Lost Tapes 4.”

While the original Lost Tapes collected material from his most prolific period, the sequel covers the era where his creative output had slowed. The first collection was culled from a three-album, three-year period; Nas has released just that number of albums in the past decade. However, that’s enough time to get more collaborations with Swizz Beats, Kanye West, Pete Rock, and the Alchemist.

Plus, fans will wait because it’s Nas. He closed his introduction saying that whether The Lost Tapes 2’s cuts were beloved or made the attendees want to throw up, “at least ya’ll gave a fuck.” Here are the biggest takeaways.

“Jarreau of Rap” is definitely the outlier.

The first release from The Lost Tapes 2 featured Nas rapping melodically over a prominent sample of Al Jarreau’s take on “Blue Rondo à la Turk. “Jarreau of Rap” drew a mixed reception partly because it was an awkward jump from the more grizzled rapping style that drives the beloved original Lost Tapes. Skat rapping Nas is kept to a minimum, though. The Lost Tapes 2 doesn’t find the veteran swerving too aggressively into modern pop sounds or novelty classics remakes. Although the compilation features takes from unreleased cuts from four album cycles, Nas’ upcoming release probably has most in common sonically with Life Is Good, his album about the disolution of his marriage to Kelis. (In April 2018, Kelis alleged that Nas was physically and mentally abusive during their five-year marriage.) That is to say, expect more R&B blends and straightforward projects soldier raps.

The best Nasir song isn’t on Nasir.

The Nas album Kanye West promised Barack Obama he was going to do years ago was met with the most lukewarm reception out of last June’s torrent of G.O.O.D. Music releases. Nasir found Nas unfocused through most of its seven-track runtime. The Lost Tapes 2’s late arrival “You Mean the World to Me" argues it’s entirely possible the best of the ‘Ye/Nas sessions was left on the cutting-room floor. The beat is more minimal compared to Nasir’s busy production, and Nas seemingly dedicates a few lines to a romantic interest. Amidst the noise of the listening party, “You Mean the World to Me” offered the clarity missing from that last album.

Nas will never stop repping Queensbridge.

Although those project buildings have been absent from his album covers for years, the Queensbridge references are a staple on Nas albums decades since he’s moved out. QB gets massive love from Escobar throughout The Lost Tapes 2's hooks and verses. “Highly Favored” advises listeners to take Queensbridge natives seriously: “Music and legacy is incredibly high pedigree.”

RZA and Nas are a good fit.

Nas was one of the very few non-Wu-Tang affiliated rappers to appear on one of the crew’s albums throughout the ‘90s. As such, it’s very rare that Escobar gets to hop on a RZA beat (Only Built 4 Cuban Linx “Verbal Intercourse” and The W’s “Let My N----s Live”). Nas told Angie Martinez in an on-stage interview that he was collaborating with RZA on an album he’d been working on before Nasir. There hasn’t been much said about when the album will drop or how many of the Abbott’s beats made it on the project. Nonetheless, The Lost Tapes 2 gifts two solid RZA collabs. Arguably the better of them is "Tanasia,” which keeps up with the Queensbridge theme (“If you not from Queensbridge you must be from Asia”).

The Alchemist and Nas can’t miss.

The Lost Tapes 2 does feature a couple of surprises, including Swizz Beatz singing on “Adult Film.” There’s still plenty of familiar ideas, though. One example is how the Alchemist is still eager to give QB legends his best material. He produced two of Nas’ best songs from the God’s Son era and has one of The Lost Tapes 2’s best tracks in “It Never Ends.” The instrumental’s piano stabs inspire another run of Nas’ intense internal rhyme patterns.

The Lost Tapes and God’s Son were also the last time the Alchemist landed a beat on a Nas album. If the next time happens to be on The Lost Tapes 3, Nas promised that fans at least won’t have to wait another 17 years for the next one.