It’s been four years since Nas’s previous album, Untitled. The 38-year old emcee has had a fabled career, and is considered by some to be one of the best emcees to have ever graced the microphone. With all the accolades he has garnered over his fabled career, he has recently dealt with struggles in his personal life, and debatably some lackluster albums that didn't quite live up to the hype? Naturally, anticipation has been in the air ever since the announcement of Nas’s impending tenth album. Would he deliver as expected? With Life is Good, Nas continues to harness the emotion evoked from the tumultuous events in his life to produce a thoroughly focused and complete project, released eighteen years after his debut classic, Illmatic.
Production throughout, by No I.D. and Salaam Remi, sounds raw, polished, and undeniably New York. Rightfully so, this album is not trendy. The production is distinct from anything else out right now, and Nas matches this incredible background with the prowess and maturity of a father who has seen much in his 38 years. I was quickly drawn in by “A Queens Story.” The production sounds like a Star Wars movie soundtrack with a full pit orchestra and Nas masterfully asserts the story of his block over top of it. I can already see bangers such as “The Don” and “Nasty” serving as New York’s anthems for the whole summer, if not the whole year. The Amy Winehouse sample in “Cherry Wine” immediately inspires feelings of wistfulness and nostalgia, and Mr. Jones capitalizes on these feelings with a passionate plea for the woman of his dreams, going against many of the stereotypes that hip-hop commonly places against women.
To me, the biggest shock of this whole album didn’t even come from Nas himself. I was astounded to see that Rick Ross came with such a lyrically adept verse in “Accident Murderers,” a track calling out those who glorify accidental shootings. I honestly didn’t even know he was capable of this level of emceeing, but he stepped up to the plate and delivered in a major way. Just goes to show you how much clout Nas has. The Mary J. Blige cover of New Edition’s “Once in a Lifetime Groove,” which serves as the chorus for “Reach Out,” immediately inspires a nostalgic feel . When that chorus is combined with that tantalizingly familiar Isaac Hayes sample, heads are forced to nod. “Summer on Smash” might be the low point of this album. It is a dope track overall, but it runs the risk of being another track derailed by too much from Swizz Beatz in the vocals department.
The title of Nas’s album contrasts sharply with some of his subject matter at first glance. He aggressively addresses his divorce with Kelis in “Bye Baby.” With “Daughters,” He discusses the difficulties of raising a daughter, especially as a celebrity and a former player. Despite the many issues and struggles that Nas brings to light in his tenth studio album, the title is fitting. Nas accepts his life, problems and all, and is still thankful for it at the end of the day. The product is decisively cohesive, and covers a wide range of subjects that keep the listener interested throughout. Many of these tracks will likely increase in value over time due to the far-reaching nature of their messages. This project serves as a reminder of Nas’s way with words, his ability to paint a picture with his sentences unlike anyone else.