Album Review | Nas & Kanye Don’t Deliver Enough on NASIR

Nas’ album was the most anticipated album of the summer for me. To know that my favorite emcee and self-proclaimed uncle was set to release an album six years after Life Is Good was so exciting to hear. I was even more excited about it because it was part of a series of album releases from Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music camp. The first time we had a series of G.O.O.D. Music releases, there were a bunch of amazing throwaway songs from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy that led up to the album release that I still enjoy today. 

I lost some of my excitement for this current wave of music releases after Kanye’s questionable comments on Trump. I then forgot about the album release (maybe even intentionally, to be quite honest) a short time after Kelis’ interview with Jason Lee, where she opened up about the emotional and physical abuse she received from Nas during their marriage (watch the discussion about her relationship with Nas from 13:00 on). That interview made me question whether I should still support my favorite, even though he may be problematic. And, truthfully, I started to feel this way before her interview. Listening to “Black Girl Lost” and “War,” songs that I used to enjoy when I was younger, now as an adult make me cringe at times.

  Album cover of NASIR.

Album cover of NASIR.

June 15th came and almost went before the album finally dropped on music streaming services. I wasn’t eager to listen to it right away. But, because of the magnitude of these two hip-hop forces coming together to create an album, I felt that I had to listen to NASIR for the culture. This was even after reading a tweet that mentioned something along the lines of Kanye’s beats being watered down, which I didn’t want to believe.

NASIR is a grown and inspiring album focused mostly on the resilience and excellence of black folks, especially black boys and men. Cuts like “everything” and “Not For Radio” display that perfectly. The cover expresses it too. But, NASIR is missing something. A part of me feels that the project is missing some soul and complexity, especially on the production side. That’s not to say that the production is terrible: the Slick Rick sampled “Cops Shot the Kid” and the internationally inspired “Bonjour” are my favorites on the album. Another part of me feels like the 27-minute project is incomplete. Maybe there should be another song or two to add to it and some additional vocals on a few of the tracks. And, maybe it’s just me, but sometimes it feels like a joint project and not a Nas solo project; we don’t hear anything from Nas on “everything” until two minutes into the song because Kanye and The-Dream dominate the beginning of it.

Truth be told, hip-hop didn’t need a new album from Nas. He has an extensive discography that we can refer back to and his influence on hip-hop culture stays relevant through Mass Appeal. This is an album to show that Nas, along with the artists and influences from hip-hop’s golden era, is still here. This isn’t the album I imagined when I thought of a Kanye West-produced Nas album, but it has a few gems.

Now, the question is, can I continue to listen to his work, particularly this one with Ye, much after this point? I’m still torn.

Check out NASIR below.