Rating: 9 / 10
It has been said that Nas was unable to catch a victory; from the situations involving his very public split with his ex-wife, Kelis, to his daughter’s misuse of Instagram, it’s easy to interpret the building missteps as losses. However, Nas has a way of giving hope to his fans even in those times, whether it’s the announcement of his album, or his incredible outputs alongside MMG machine, Rick Ross. As more songs began to slip from Life Is Good, fans began to hope for the best and hope that Nas was “back.” After a few leaks, the entire album is upon us to dissect, and it may be one of the few times where it’s a good thing to believe the hype, as Nasir delivers in almost every way possible.
One of the gigantic knocks against Nas in the past has been his selection of beats. Some people say that it makes it easier to focus on lyrics, while others say there needs to be a mixture of both; on this album, however, there’s a happy medium that’s sure to please most. The production is mainly handled by No. I.D. and Salaam Remi (with additional assistance from Swizz Beatz, Noah “40” Shebib, J.U.S.T.I.C.E League, and more), and ranges from expansive strings and organ-driven instrumentals to tracks that seem to have time-warped from the late ’90s. But, as with almost all No I.D-influenced projects, it just works.
With that biggest knock taken care of, Nas proceeds to deliver the same lyrical personality we’ve come to know him for; original concepts permeate Life Is Good to the core. From discussing “Accident Murderers” with Rick Ross (you had to have known that Rozay was going to be here somewhere), to addressing that aforementioned Instagram incident on “Daughters”, to the issues of the world on “World’s An Addiction”, to just having a lyrical woodshed moment on “The Don”, mostly every dimension of Nas is represented, refined, and replay-ready.
(Note: the vigor extends into the bonus tracks as well, so if you plan to cop the LP, make sure to grab the deluxe version)
Nas doesn’t overload his LP with features either, as only an average amount of artists are present, but they all help the presentation as well. The Large Professor’s voice speaks to the listeners ‘trapped in the ’90s’, so to speak (“Loco-Motive”), while Anthony Hamilton accents the song perfectly with his soulful vocals (“World’s An Addiction”) and Amy Winehouse brings a pinch of nostalgia with her feature on “Cherry Wine” that’s sure to turn heads.
To be honest, there’s more than enough content here to grab attention. Whether it’s the powerful “Goodbye Love” sample from Guy in “Bye Baby”, to the eclectic but cohesive sound that runs throughout the LP, to the content that Nas never fails to deliver on, this is one of the few projects to be released in recent years that truly shows an artist improving while at the top of their game. If we weren’t too busy tallying his losses, we would’ve noticed all of the signs that showed he was plotting, most notably his stellar recent collaborations.
The result of Nas turning his recent pain into progression and piecing it all together positively is Life Is Good, a project that’s almost destined to be a contender for album of the year. For those needing a definite answer, you could say that Nas is back, but for those who are in the know, it’s more accurate to say that Nas never truly left; he’s been here the whole time. Most were just too busy watching thrones to notice.