Nas // Life Is Good // July 13 // Def Jam
There should be some sort of wax museum for hip hop legends as Nas definitely needs a place in history. Funny though, it’s not like he is one of the most forward looking and boundary pushing artists in hip hop, he’s nowhere close to being that but it’s his consistency that makes it feel like he’s some sort of an elder statement despite only a handful of good albums in his collection. Life Is Good is his tenth studio LP and it’s split between being declaration of success and another day on the street.
Life Is Good ends the 4 year wait for the new Nas record, the longest break from recording solo albums that he ever had. In the meantime we got that utterly pointless Distant Relatives LP featuring Damian Marley who still insists of making music riding off the back of his dad’s fame. Life Is Good follows a rocky patch in Nas career. His last record Untitled is his weakest to date and to be fair, it’s not like anything after God’s Son was that good anyway. Life Is Good ignores all of that and just delivers your typical string and sample laden east coast hip hop with Nas still rapping about crime, brothers and street life. It feels old school not because it aims for that 90s sound but because how Nas completely ignores any change. It almost feels weird when in Daughters he mentions Twitter because on Life Is Good he acts like nothing changed since Stillmatic. Basically, like artistic development and boundary pushing sounds? Life Is Good has none of such.
All of this feels weird for someone who’s been following Nas for over a decade. After all the claims that hip hop is dead you’d think that the man has something in his sleeve but on Life Is Good he comes up short. A lot of the record deals with visions of the future, children and looking back on where Nas came from. It’s ironic that the beats on here are anything but nostalgic or progressive. Nas might be 38 right now but he is still acting like he’s in his 20s, having to make a name for himself on the streets. One would compliment Nas on the themes that he deals with here as compared to his once nemesis Jay-Z, Nas’ outlook on life is much more grounded. It’s simple pleasures that matter to this man as opposed to riches and bitches of the rich guys. But it’s not like Nas is a poor man still having to make his name count on the streets. His refusal to do bling-raps may be welcomed by some but really it feels like he’s talking about the past that he is no longer a part of. Life Is Good isn’t a victory lap by someone who’s at the top looking back on the tough times and finding happiness in now. Life Is Good is the sound of someone trying to believe that he’s still part of the street life which doesn’t sound anything like Life Is Good.
On Loco-Motive he claims that “this is for my tapped in the 90s niggas”. Nas is one too and Life If Good ends up being a decent record for the fans but nothing that would establish him as a reigning east coast kingpin. On his mind he’s still there, grinding in the streets, name dropping Illmatic and featuring artists who died years ago. Life Is Good isn’t as bad as some of his recent efforts but while striving on reality, it comes away sounding utterly delusional.