“I know you think my life is good cause my diamond piece/ But my life been good since I started finding peace,” Nas rhymes on his nostalgic 90s hip-hop, No ID produced cut, “Loco-Motive.”
The second verse off “Loco-Motive” highlights the underlying theme of the Queens rapper’s latest album, “Life is Good”: transparency. In a time where hip-hop lyricism is dominated by luxury rhymes, it’s refreshing for one of the genre’s most influential artists to explore himself and his life before us.
Although Nas laces his 10th studio album with lessons learned and memories plucked from his entire life — spanning from his adolescent years to now — he places the microscope closer to the past four years, sharing the harsh beauty and reality of it.
In the four years since he delivered his 2008 “Untitled” album, Nas has overcome allegations and adversaries, including a public and nasty divorce with singer Kelis in 2009.
Instead of shying away or avoiding certain circumstances, Nas turns his roller-coaster time period into stories of internal and external battles, some of which he won and some he lost. Producers such as No ID, Salaam Remi and Justice L.E.A.G.U.E. contribute soundscapes that bring Nas’ stories to life, infusing influences from the past and present states of hip-hop.
Check out our track-by-track breakdown of Nas’ 10th studio album, “Life is Good.”
1. “No Introduction”
In the album’s opening song, produced by the Justice L.E.A.G.U.E., Nas re-introduces himself and preps his loyal fans and non-believers for the honesty that is to come. “Revealed my life/ You will forgive me, you will love me, hate me, judge me, relate to me/ Only a few will, this how it sounds when you too real/ They think its just music still,” Nas raps.
2. “Loco-Motive” feat. Large Professor
Nas and No I.D. team up yet again to deliver a cut reminiscent of early 90s hip-hop (see Common’s “Ghetto Dreams,” produced by No ID and featuring Nas). Lyrically, Nas continues his storytelling from a New York state of mind.
3. “A Queens Story”
“Back in the days they was sleeping on us/ Brooklyn keep on takin it/ Manhattan keep on makin’ it/ Tryna leave Queens out,” Nas rhymes on his ode to Queens. Salaam Remi successfully mixes up a track reminiscent of the instrumentation heard in the album’s intro; fitting for Nas’s ride through the concrete jungle he calls home.
4. “Accident Murderers” featuring Rick Ross
Similar to “Loco-Motive,” “Accident Murderers” has a throwback feel, but this No ID-produced cut spotlights Nas’ grittier side. Ross comes in mid-way and shares his own rags-to-riches story.
“They say the coolest playas and foulest heartbreakers in the world/ God get’s us back, he makes us have precious little girls,” he spits and sums up one of his most honest “Life is Good” songs. Nas opens up on the highs and lows of his relationship with his daughter, Destiny Jones, pulling on the tropes of all fathers.
6. “Reach Out” feat. Mary J. Blige
Nas teams up with the Queen of Hip-Hop & Soul for this funky 90’s groove. Darkchild, Salaam Remi, and DJ Hot Day play the back end, but usher in memories with the piano loop from Isaac Hayes’ “Ike’s Mood.”
7. “World’s An Addiction” feat. Anthony Hamilton
Nas dips his hand in the metaphorical cess pool for another home run. Recruiting Anthony Hamilton for the ride, the duo reminds listeners to be wary of the world’s obsessions.
8. “Summer On Smash” feat. Miguel & Swizz Beatz
Nas and Miguel channel their inner ladies’ men over Swizz Beatz’ feel-good addictive soundscape. It’s obvious Nasir has himself a chart-stopper seconds into the song.
9. “You Wouldn’t Understand” feat. Victoria Monet
Nas brings the tempo down a notch but still keeps the energy high in this ode to life’s struggles. The neo-soul stylings from Victoria Monet compliment the track’s mellow aurora.
10. “Back When”
Flashing back to his early days, the No ID-produced effort is eerily reminiscent of “A Queens Story,” but with a pre-“Illmatic” twist.
11. “The Don”
With the assist from the late Heavy D, Salaam Remi and Da Internz, and a sample from Super Cat (“Dance in New York”), Nas’ second single is nothing short than a high-energy salute to the city that bred the rapper.
As Nas’ tangos between good vs. evil on “Stay,” the “Seven Steps to Nowhere” samples offers up a smooth interlude.
13. “Cherry Wine” feat. Amy Winehouse
In the most anticipated collaboration on the album, Nas and Amy Winehouse tell a story that depicts the desire for true love. Apropos to the song’s title, Winehouse’s bouquet flows smoothly. Her soulful vocals compliment Salaam Remi’s heavy instrumentation.
14. “Bye Baby”
Nas’ candidness is the focal point in the album’s closing cut. In the majority of the song, Nas talks directly to his ex-wife, Kelis, about the good and the ugly of their relationship gone sour.