In which Deen plays God.
Its been approximately six weeks since I heard and later bought Nas’, Life Is Good. In that time, I’ve probably given the album around 110 listens – top to bottom (makes me wonder how I managed to listen to anything else). It’s safe to say that like most observers, I dig it. So much so that I even got halfway through an effusive “review” of the album, but I decided to quit writing straight-up reviews a while ago. Can’t fully explain that decision, but you aren’t here for that shit.
Life Is Good isn’t a perfect album. After all, there’s only one perfect rap album and Nas made it 18 years ago. However, it’s a pretty great album. Most qualifies as “good” at the very least. Out of the 19 tracks Nas gave us, I’d argue there isn’t a single “bad” song in the bunch. This means that with some editing and re-sequencing, we can make turn Life Is Good into Life Is Better (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
So in lieu of a proper review — it’s 6 weeks later, you don’t want to read another one of those anyway — here’s what methinks Life Is Good oughta sound like.
- No Introduction – Guess what? I’m not as enamored with the production on this as most people seem to be. It’s not bad, but I’d rather hear those lyrics paired with something else. Given the detail and poignancy of the lyrics, the song HAS (well, maybe not) to stay, but again, I’d love it more with different sonics.
- Locomotive, A Queens Story & Accident Murderers – I ain’t got shit to add or subtract to this murderer’s row of songs. Dope as fuck. Perfectly placed. Say what you want about most rap albums, but even the shittiest rappers are capable of stringing 3 to 5 really nice songs together. Unless Wale shows up.
- Daughters – Again, an excellent song. Let’s thank Nas and No ID for keeping anything John Mayer related away from this shit. But the placement feels a little odd to me. It’s too close to the gully songs that precede it, even if Nas is on his “I’m scolding/schooling the youth” shit on the song right before it (“Accident Murderers” chides the shitty new school of shooters, while “Daughters” kinda does the same to his kid). I’d rather have “World’s An Addiction” between these two tracks to make the transition between the gun-talk and parenting-talk less jarring and because “World’s An Addiction” is a weird fit right before “Summer on Smash.”
- Better yet, in the interest of restraint (which I’m clearly NOT a fan of – this shit got long. Pause), I’d bin “World’s An Addiction.” I think it’s a good song, if a little overwrought), but I don’t really know why it’s on the album. We already know that Nas can rap real good and fast.
- Similar sentiments apply to “Reach Out.” I’d argue that this is the weakest song on the album. I enjoy it, but it took some education from Dart Adams via twitter (follow that guy – he’s wise) for me to “get” the song. It’s essentially a cover of an old DJ Hotday R&B blend that was popular back when Nasir didn’t have facial hair. I get that, but we’re still too close to Mary J. Blige’s disastrous Burger King/Crispy Chicken Strips/3 Cheeeeeeeeeeeeses debacle for me to be okay with hearing her wail over a Nas song.
- Which brings us to “Summer On Smash.” Predictably, this song got a ton of shit from most reviewers and people that can’t stand Swizz Beatz (which would be everyone it seems). The vitriol even spilled into some of Nas’ lyrical content. I read some snarky shit about Nas’ references to shooting out an e-mail to get bitches to the party. What’s so weird about that? Folks still use the Internet to promote parties right? Shiiiiiiiiiiet, I even responded to an Evite last Friday. Anyway, I kinda LOVE this song. Memorized the whole thing – even Miguel’s Spanglish gibberish of a verse. The Ciroc product placement is a bit weird, but I’m okay with that – I tried Ciroc peach a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised. Pause? I like to think of this song as a welcome update on/companion to Jay-Z’s “On To The Next One.” That song is better methinks, but not by much. And I don’t recall folks lobbing slander grenades at “On To The Next One” when BP3 dropped. But that’s neither here nor there. Why bring up Jigga in a post about Nas? Oh wait, the inverse is how that mess from last we… wait, I promised to chill on that, so I’m chillin’.
- “You Wouldn’t Understand” – A contender for my favorite song on the album. Fits right next to “Summer On Smash” and would make a great choice for a single. Breezy FM-lite R&B hook and an old-school cinematic beat from Buckwild. Nas, pardon the pun, promptly goes buckwild on the beat. In sum, here are the contents of Nas’ 3 verses on this song: “you ain’t a real hustla – I know real hustlas,” “I’m so fly and my life is good – get like me,” and, “YOLO.” Methinks his flow is at its best on this shit.
The rest of the album is basically perfect to me. “Back When” is another contender for favorite track status and the same applies to “Stay.” “The Don” remains excellent. “Bye Baby” and “Cherry Wine” are expertly executed and touching rap ballads – especially the former.
The bonus tracks provide further complications because they’re all so good and I’d rather not cut any of them.
So what are we left with after all that? I know I offered tons of caveats (these songs are really good), but we’ll err on the ruthless side and see what we’re left with:
A Queen’s Story
Summer On Smash
You Wouldn’t Understand
In my opinion, Life Is Good would be that much closer to perfect with this line-up in that order. 15 tracks and the excised tracks can serve as bonus shit or reside on future Nas projects.
Man. This shit is hard work. But it was fun too. “Fanager” life. Can someone offer me an A&R job already? How many more blogs do I have to fanute to make this happen – because I refuse to sleep my way into a job. Unless Rihanna is doing the hiring. Craziness or STDs be damned…
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