The Score: "Nas' [Life Is Good] Represents 17 Years Of Growth & Maturity W/O Obnoxiously Screaming 'Look At Me! I'm Grown & Mature!'"

Tuesday, Jul 17, 2012 12:10PM

Written by J. Bachelor

THE SCORE
THE SCORE 8/10
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NY Daily News 4/5
The Versed 4.5/5
NME 4/5
As Is Hip Hop 4/5

Life Is Good the latest release from one of rap's most celebrated rhyme spitters, officially makes its way into stores today.

Nasir Jones, now 38 years old, holds nothing back for this release, as he looks inward todiscuss such subjects as fame, fatherhood, crime, and of course, his failed marriage to R&B singer Kelis.

There's nothing like a little trauma to bring out the best in a writer. Luckily for top scribe Nas, he's had a truckload of late. Since his last album four years ago, the man some see as New York's greatest rapper (in a dead heat with Jay-Z) got divorced from his wife of two years (the avant-R&B singer Kelis). To sweeten the deal, she was seven months pregnant with his child. He also got sued by the IRS (to the tune of over $2.5 million in unpaid back taxes) and watched his daughter (from an earlier relationship) grow into a boy-crazy, Twitter-loving teen capable of turning this 38-year-old's hair 50 shades of grey.(NY Daily News)

The Queens MC connected with a few tried and tested beatsmiths to bring life to his 10th solo disc.

Production wise, and nostalgia aside, Life Is Good could very well be Nas's best project to date. The whole album's production was handled by A-list names, mostly Salaam Remmi (most famous for producing many of Nas's own hits), and No I.D. I.D.'s ability to produce a wide range of tracks, while retaining a soulful aesthetic, goes perfectly with the overall approach taken on the album. Swizz Beats provides the sure to be international club hit "Summer on Smash", which comes a bit more "radio-friendly" than usual for Nas. However, each and every producer lives up the their name here, and with the list of who worked on this one, that's a lofty complement.(The Versed)

Nas snatched up some of urban music's most notable artists, including Swizz Beatz, Rick Ross, and soul queen Mary J. Blige.

Collaborations with artist like Mary J. Blige, Rick Ross and Swizz Beatz and Nas' solos arrange themselves into a coherent necklace made of discreet gems. Old mixes with new, noir enters the flow and the lyrics are tinged with both vulnerability and brutality.(Huffington Post)

Last month, Esco explained the meaning behind imagery featured on the album's cover art.

"Life, love, joy, anger, celebration. There's so many things you can see on that album cover. You see my life. My life is on that album cover," he explained in an interview. "It just happened. It happened on its own. It was not a lot of effort at all. ... [Have I heard from Kelis yet?] We just put it out, so it's still way too fresh. ... [Will I hear from her about it?] Eventually at some point." (Rap-Up)

Critics agree that the album ranks among Nas' best releases, and while Life Is Good has a few misses, the brutal honesty revealed within its sprawling tracks and throughout its top notch production easily makes it one of the most important albums of the year.

This is turning out to be one of the most vibrant and exciting years for hip-hop music in at least a decade, a place where hot young tykes such as Kendrick Lamar, ASAP Rocky and Earl Sweatshirt are competing for the same piece of the pie as veterans like Jay-Z, West, Nas and Killer Mike. In the past, many vets were placed on waivers by major labels who valued youth and hype over style and experience, never to be heard from again. In the 2012 world of mixtapes and universal access, the crowd defines who's tired and who's still got it. Nas not only still has it, but has vast quantities of it. Luckily for us, he's still inspired by the need to share -- even the moments when life isn't all that great.(LA Times)
To say Life Is Good is spotless is inaccurate, but it's damn near. The rambunctious and repetitive Swizz Beatz-assisted "Summer on Smash" can be a hard listen in the context of the well-thought-out LP, but it isn't intolerable by any means. As a whole, Nas' latest represents 17 years of growth and maturity, without obnoxiously screaming, "Look at me! I'm grown and mature!" While drastically different from his 1994 debut, there is something especially majestic about Nasir's 2012 release, and hopefully it grows a little more special with each passing year.(Rapfix)

Check out a video review of Life is Good below:

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