6. Life Is Good by Nas
Every so often, there’s a special marriage of timing, skill, and universal appeal in the music world that changes everything. Such was the case with the 1994 classic “illmatic”, the debut album of then-20 year rapper Nassir Jones.
Illmatic will probably never be touched. The time frame, people involved and subject matter are about as one of a kind as it gets. From the perfect instrumentals with the perfect samples from the perfect producers at the perfect time, to the perfect rhymes in the prefect scheme in perfect cadence. Far enough from hip hop’s inception to define its direction but close enough to give us perspective, illmatic will forever be triumphed as truly the ultimate hip hop album. Thus, its best left celebrated without peer. We should look back with joy and not ahead with doubt. If its a one of a kind album, why do we ask for multiple?
Life may be good, but illmatic, it is not.
All things considered, Life is Good is probably Nas’ best since illmatic. This is an album of which the biggest complaint I can offer has nothing to do with the project itself but with the timing of the singles. The early releases allowed me to overplay multiple records, so when it was finally distributed, many tracks got familiar quick because I’d played them HEAVY for months. I envy those who tear that plastic wrap off and proceed to hear a man with something to prove. I defy any fan of hip hop, avid or casual, to avoid a face scrunching approval the first time you play ‘The Don'(with earth shattering bass from Chicago’s own Da Internz) or Nasty or ‘LocoMotive’. Like the lockdown defense of Darrelle Revis, Life Is Good is relentless. It is vintage hip hop meets contemporary club-bangers. Just as likely to be found under Rap Genius’ most viewed or bangin out of a local hoopty.
The hunger is apparent. After a divorce, family troubles, and tax issues, most would expect a shutdown of sorts from the affected. Curiously enough, quite the opposite is true on Life. The hardships seem to have reinvigorated Nas, who admits on ‘LocoMotive’ “I’ve been rich longer than I’ve been broke, I confess”. The recognition of his current stature, both on a societal and progressive level, have come together in a way that creates something unique once more. Sure, there are time when one is tempted to check the release date, given the 90s feel at times, but never to a point where it feels dated. There is great effort on the album in borrowing elements without overusing them.
While I will not vouch for all 17 songs on the deluxe package(there are some clear skips, for which I blame Swizzy), I can for the body of work itself. Pound for pound, there will not be many superior albums you will hear from 2012