Two years after claiming he’d finished his album, Nas’ Nasir finally came out back in June of 2018. Today, we’re doing an album review of Nasir.
Race discrimination, police brutality, conspiracy theories, these are all classic Nas subjects. Yet, upon its release, Nasir received mixed album reviews.
You could say that the worst part about Nas’ latest album is Nas himself. It’s hard to determine whether Nasir was even Nas’ idea. It seems like it was more Kanye’s doing and that may have been the reason why it feels like Nas had lost himself.
He opens the album with what sounds like no verve in him. “Escobar season begins”, he says dully, turning his first track “Not for Radio” into his Twitter account. He’s tossing out lines that suggest Kanye might’ve been a bad influence on him.
“Cops Shot the Kid” is the strongest track on the album, built around Slick Rick’s iconic rap parable “Children’s Story”. The single line “The cops shot the kid“ gets looped end over end through the verses and doubled down on during the hook. The song opens with a snippet of speech from Richard Pryor at the 1972 Stax Records benefit concert. He’s talking about police curfews against black teens. The song oscillates when Kanye goes into his solo verse and starts talking about the “other side” of cops killing black kids. “Every story got two sides”, he says, evidently making it clear which side he empathizes with.
Nas’ always been able to rap extraordinarily both with and against the beat. On Nasir, though, he often lumbers, leaving his writing exposed. This makes for songs that are, honestly, a drag. First up, “Bonjour” is a lengthy argument that Nas dates a lot. Second, he uses “White Label” to divulge in the fact that he has become successful at managing money. “We building businesses, you can be mad if you want“.
“Everything”, the centerpiece of Nasir, is essentially an insight to what Nas would do if he’d rule the world. Nas is pro anti-vaccination and he makes that clear in his second verse. “Like, “I thought you would protect me from this scary place?” / “Why’d you let them inject me?” / “Who’s gonna know how these side effects is gonna affect me?””
He continues talking about inclusion and the ghosts of rich white people. “If I had everything, everything / I could change anything”, Kanye warbles, giving nothing to the song in lyrical sense.
The last two songs
In “Adam and Eve” and “Simple Things”, Nas expresses loss, longevity and humiliation. “Never sold a record for a beat / it’s my verses they purchase / Without production, I’m worthless”. Nas often shows concern for his children missing out on his gains, and his own peace of mind being terrorized by his bad judgment.
Nas’ lyricism, though strong at times, feels largely impersonal. There are interesting flashes on the album where you’re transported back to the reams of unforgettably colorful verses that dot his career. Here there are only glimpses. Nas has some strong moments that come through in his writing style, its contradictions make it a difficult and problematic listen. Moments into Nasir you can hear how different Nas’ thoughts are from Kanye’s, and yet the two united over an album. Was that a smart move for Nas, considering how much backlash the album has received?
Drop a line in the comments and tell me your thoughts about my album review of Nasir.