NAS: Life Is Good Truncated Cliff Notes


Written by Jon Campbell, Victor Rants, and myself.

(Life Is Good; 2012)
During Def Jam's aggressive promotional blitz leading up to the release of Life Is Good, Nas gleefully described 'Black Bond' as "some unadulterated shit you'll need a Ph.D. in life to understand." Fortunately, its complexity was greatly exaggerated in retrospect. Lucidity has quietly proven to be one of Nas' greatest assets. You don't need a degree in Marxist Theory to envision his beautiful proletarian confidant firing up a tightly rolled joint, yapping in all her featherbrained glory. 'Black Bond' is the refined descendant of 'Who Killed It' and 'Tower Heist' eviscerated Salaam Remi collaborations hellbent on executing narrow Spy vs. Spy concepts both lyrically and sonically. On their latest venture into espionage, Nas doesn't force his audience to expend brain power wading through cluttered storyboards. The plot unfolds organically across Salaam's thundering 808's and silken violins, never brandishing craftsmanship at the expense of clarity. H.L.

Nas - "No Introduction"
(Life Is Good; 2012)
Album intros are tone-setters, mission statements, and endure as memories regardless of their quality. Over the years, Nas has developed a reputation for classy intros, even on some of his weaker LPs. 'No Introduction' rivals the Stillmatic intro in its hunger and bombastry. As great as J.U.S.T.C.E. League’s glittering symphony is, the star of the show is Nas himself. The title is either razor blade under the tongue-in-cheek or modest to a fault, as it certainly introduces his new perspective on life, justified by past experiences. He leaves off declaring "either you’ll be laughing at me or you're laughing with me," which proved to be a succinct foreshadowing of the album's critical reception. Victor Rants

Nas (feat. Amy Winehouse) - "Cherry Wine"
(Life Is Good; 2012)
The grown man feel of the album continues with 'Cherry Wine'. Nas tells a story of what a perfect relationship means to him and his desire for real love at this stage in his life. It's apt that Amy Winehouse is his collaborator, as during her time on earth she was never secret about her admiration for God's Son. In hip-hop it's easy to fall into the default state of mind and believe that the fast life is a dream to aspire to. Yeah, cars clothes and hoes can be fun but at some point we all want someone to settle down with to enjoy life and its spoils. Although Nas' turbulent private life has been dragged out in public I respect the fact that in moments like this he can still dream of having a fruitful relationship. The mixture of Salaam Remi's jazzy and soulful jam, Amy's silky vocals and Nasir's conversational tone creates a bittersweet symphony. – Jon Campbell

(Life Is Good; 2012)
Immediately after his mission statement Nas launches right into 'Loco-Motive,' which is clearly aimed at the “old school heads.” This can often serve as the death knell for a song, but Nas sidesteps a potentially dull retread with his renewed perspective. Immediately apparent on 'Loco-Motive' is the presence of No ID, who understands Nas' outlook and translates his message excellently on his placements throughout the album. Large Professor's motivational rants and Dion's dingy marching bassline reek of that good kind of nostalgia. Nas balances audacious boasts ("rap Jack Dempsey") with references to personal growth ("I shouldn’t even be smiling, I should be angry and depressed"). This song is crucial in understanding the appeal of Life Is Good – a major label LP considerate enough to pander to the lost tribe of "trapped in the 90's niggas." Victor Rants

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