Music

Nas Is Ineffective and Ungrounded on 'NASIR'

Photo: Video still

On NASIR, Nas is completely overshadowed by the musical performances of Kanye West and his collaborators.

NASIR
Nas

Mass Appeal / Def Jam

15 June 2018

Kids See Ghosts, the self-titled collaboration between Kanye West and Kid Cudi, was the peak of West's five-installment Ye Season, both chronologically and in excellence. It took full advantage of the seven-track format, bringing cohesion and life to each and every track. After receiving near universal acclaim, the follow-up album required something near perfection to live up to its predecessor. Well, Ye gave it a good shot, recruiting Nas, a rapper who already reached perfection 24 years ago with Illmatic.

The resulting album entitled Nasir continues a current trend of using given names as opposed to stage names to represent vulnerability and convey personal stories. Kanye already went this route with the shortened ye two weeks earlier; Royce da 5'9" released the deeply personal Book of Ryan last month; and Beyonce and Jay-Z released their surprise album Love Is Everything under the joint name the Carters. These names endear us to the artists and remind us that they're just people who have personal stories, and often, those speak to us the best. At least, that's what you would hope for with a so-named album.

Nasir, however, begins on quite a different note on "Not For Radio", where Nas's paranoia about some ambiguous enemy wanting to "Hyman Roth" or "John Fitzgerald" him completely ignores the violence his ex-wife Kelis has accused him of. In a genre that tends to talk very candidly and quickly about different allegations and beefs within the community, his silence on the matter throughout the album is troubling.

Besides this, Nas continues to delve into weird facts and conspiracy theories both confusing and mostly false such as "SWAT was created to stop the Panthers" (the term SWAT is two years older than the Panthers), "Edgar Hoover was black" (no), and "Fox News was started by a black dude" (also no). It's a bizarre verse that uses conspiracy theories to make the point that racism stems from fear, fear which according to Diddy in the outro should exist: "That's why they feel uncomfortable around us / 'Cause of our greatness / You're lucky God made us compassionate." It's hard to keep track of the mixed signaling from this album, and we've only gotten through the opening track.

Throughout the rest of the record, Nas's Godfather-esque mafia persona continues, as he raps about the sophisticated life, wealth, and excess. And despite many linking a Kanye West tweet about the seven deadly sins to Nasir, there seems to be no remorse for the gluttony, greed, and pride that fill its bars. Instead, Nas is more focused on the money than his kids as he offers faux-proverbs on "Bonjour": "All this money we gettin' could be gone in a minute / If we don't invest it, we long-term affected / Watch who you getting' pregnant, that's long-term stressin'." This references Nas's long battle with Kelis over child support payments and doesn't offer much consideration for the human life he brought into this world.

It's unfortunate how ineffective and ungrounded Nas is here since the production Kanye poured into each track is stellar. His loop of Slick Rick's "Children's Story" is easily the best moment of the album. And despite the lyrical missteps on "everything", the choral arrangements and vocals by the-Dream are goosebump-inducing. Additionally, unexpected star of ye 070 Shake returns to deliver again on "Not For Radio" over a booming percussion track. The musical performances by West and his collaborators alone are able to save Nasir from total disaster and do warrant a listen. But as for Nas, he's left completely overshadowed.

5
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.