On Wax Special: The Nas Album Verdict
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When Kanye took to Twitter to announce the release of five albums (Surgical Summer), the excitement was at an all-time high here at Control Forever. The Queensbridge legend seemed primed for a big summer with Nasir that was released nearly six years since his last. Then, when injecting Kanye’s production, it is an album that immediately shook up our office as writers both young and old have a connection with Nas.
A little over a week later since the album release, and here is the verdict:
Morgan Billbruck/ Music Writer:
Kanye West has been on a release bender these last few weeks, relinquishing a new album of his own, along with others that he produced and featured on for the entire month of June. Starting with Pusha T’s album, Daytona, to his own album, Ye, to his collaborative album with Kid Cudi and circling all the way to Nas’ latest album, Nasir.
While I wasn’t sure what to expect from this album, the result is definitely not what I anticipated. Nas’ album left me empty and dare I say it a little bored. Going from track to track I had this feeling of being on one big loop of Kanye beats and a monotone flow from Nas. While enjoying glimmers of the album on tracks, like “Bonjour” and “everything,” there was not much left that I was craving from the project. It also continued to become unclear whether this was a Nas album with Kanye features, or the other way around. The flows from both artists never seemed to match up and left me unsure of the direction that the album was trying to take.
It didn’t help the Nasir cause when Jay-z and Beyoncé surprise dropped their collaboration album, Everything Is Love, just a day later, taking away most of the hype from anything released previously to it— but that is beside the point. I am a Nas fan and a Kanye fan, and the two of them meshed together should have been a golden creation. However, I was left unsatisfied and wanting more from the seven tracks that I’m not sure I’ll ever get.
Cheyne Gilmore/ Editor In Chief:
It’s a weird album. Nas has already hit levels that most emcees will never touch, so expectations for this album left me equally as underwhelmed as I was excited. At first listen, the beats are amazing, but there’s a disconnect between Nas’ rhymes and Kanye’s sonic narrative. It’s never more obvious than on the two tracks that Kanye features because it sounds natural and it’s the best three minutes on the album. The Nas bars, on the other hand, sound like sandpaper. Nas hasn’t been able to put out anything compelling since Stillmatic (2001), and it seems that Nas is going to remain a legacy act living off the fumes of older albums; even Kanye’s beats couldn’t save him.
First off, Illmatic is in my top ten albums of all time, so any new Nas I’m already excited. I don’t think it’s a classic album, but “Adam and Eve,” “Bonjour,” and “Simple Things” have me right back in ’97. It’s like someone remaking your mom’s special recipe where it’s not exactly the same, but it gives you all the feels from back home.
Dyllan E/ Music Writer:
My usual bias towards Nas was put at a halt when it came to this album. On one hand, you could have almost called that this album wasn’t going to be a level up for Nas. However, on the other hand, you had your fingers crossed. Nas is and will forever go down as one of the best pieces of hip-hop with memorable albums, like It Was Written, Stillmatic, and of course, Illmatic. (Why do I mention these? Well, because this was Nas on whole other levels, bettering himself when few thought it was possible.)
The trouble with Nasir is not in its lyrical quality, but its lack of ambition to story tell like the albums before it. To be fair, I’m sure Nas didn’t want it to be this way. Whatever the case may be, once that album dropped, it didn’t stop anyone from listening to it. Is it a good album? It’s okay. Does it have the fire wanted from a six-year wait? No, absolutely not. This was enough to set us up for something bigger, and had it been a teaser, it would have been perfect.
Hiram/ Music Writer:
After a six-year wait and two years after “Nas Album Done,” the Queensbridge MC finally dropped his eleventh studio album, Nasir. Announced by Kanye during a Twitterstorm, it was to be the fourth of five albums to be completely produced by Kanye West. Since then, Pusha-T’s Daytona remains the best with Nas’ album sitting barely above Kids See Ghosts, and miles ahead of Ye. While production seemed to be the saving grace of Ye and Kids See Ghosts, this project almost suffers from beats that don’t seem as polished and exciting as beats on the previous albums. In no ways was a boom-bap produced project what I was expecting from a Kanye and Nas collaboration, and an earlier Kanye sound could have been the best benefit to this project. This could have equated to something in the vein of Common’s Be, and if that were the case, this album might get a 10/10. Unfortunately, a lot of these beats fall short of their greatest potential. “White Label” lacks any oomph due to it being a drumless chop. The choice to use a rim shot on “Adam and Eve” instead of a snare feels like an odd choice. “Simple Things” is way too short and ends rather abruptly, derailing the momentum the album has.
However, the production isn’t an entire wash. All these beats have something there, but some just feel more wasted. Although, when the production is there, it really hits a home run. “Not For Radio” is an amazing opening track that is triumphant with the corky Kanye flair we’ve heard in his recent projects. The drum break that 070 Shake sings over is so out of place, but it works beautifully as a breath of polarity. “Cops Shot The Kid” is one of Kanye’s dopest beats across all these albums. The Slick Rick sample over the bouncy 808 bass makes for a unique mix of old and new.
Lastly, “Everything” is a standout track, whether it’s good or bad depends on the listener. “Everything” sounds like newer Kanye, the most out of all of these seven tracks, sounding like something that could have made its way to his solo album. The track is angelic, which is courtesy of The-Dream and Kanye’s vocals. While the production has some incredible moments, it’s almost hard not to zone out of the seven-minute song. It can easily be one of the most memorable or forgetful moments on the album, depending on the listener’s interest. Where this product truly shines is with the star of the show, Nas, because he delivers on all of the levels of an MC. There’s so much conscious and lyrical material here, it’s truly wonderful to see Nas doing what he does best. Every beat he makes his own, even the most Kanye produced tracks, like “Everything” and “White Label,” Nas finds a way to take the spotlight. His verses on “White Label” would make any MC want to quit, as it’s so impressive and it gives the track an excitement that the beat doesn’t have. A lot of these beats would be hard for an average rapper to carry.
Nas is no ordinary rapper (thankfully) as he absolutely demolishes, which at the end of the day that’s all that one can be asked for. Overall, this album has a couple of listening stages. After the first listen, it’s known that the album is good, solely on Nas’ performance alone. However, after more listens, the tracks get deciphered more and more, and the kinks are shown. The album is on the cusp of good and average, but more so on the good side. It’s no Daytona, but Nasir holds its place.
Until next time, it’s On Wax.
-Dyllan E. & Hiram