Nas – The Lost Tapes 2
Nas is back with a new ‘The Lost Tapes’ album, 17 years after the original one was released.
Of course, he has kept fans topped up with music since then, so this could be an interesting insight into some of the tracks that, for whatever reason, didn’t make the cut on those intervening albums.
As expected, the album places the focus on the lyricism from the outset, with the stripped-back ‘No Bad Energy’ fixing focus on the wordplay:
But that doesn’t mean that Nas doesn’t bring some heat to get heads nodding, such as with the funked-out, Pharrell Williams-produced, ‘Vernon Family:’
However, don’t expect this album to be some straight-up hip-hop business, as Nas pushes the program too, such as with the heavily Jazz-inflected single, ‘Jarreau Of Rap (Skatt Attack):’
Some fans may have been wrong-footed by that one – but don’t forget Nas’ pops was a jazz player himself (look it up).
But hip-hop fans can rest easy as Statik Selektah steps up to produce another classic-in-the-making with ‘Lost Freestyle:’
Next, RZA steps up with some abstract Wu-Tang strings for the solid, international ‘hood love story of ‘Tanasia:’
Having moved on from his straight-up street reportage as he grew older, wealthier, and moved away from the projects, Nas remained intent on delivering messages of reality and inspiration back to the block. The RaVaughn-featuring ‘Royalty’ is a fine example of this type of rhyming, although It perhaps lacks the legs to stand out and make the cut before – hence its place on these “Lost Tapes:”
Eric Hudson’s production on ‘Who Are You’ really lifts the track as David Ranier’s soulful hook offsets Nas’ street-savvy, boss-level MCing:
Swizz Beatz brings another Queens MCing legend to bear with a little Big Daddy Kane sample and vintage break on ‘Adult Film.’ Although maybe Swizz overplays his hand with the piano line, lyrical backing and other additions. Still, Nas holds it down and blesses the track, which grows with the listening:
Halfway through the album and it feels like it needs a bit of a jolt for the second half, but instead things take a move for the smooth with the politicized, ‘War Against Love:’
You can’t be mad at that though, as Nas brings one of his strongest, most heartfelt rhymes of the album.
Old-school fans will no doubt be excited to see that Pete Rock is behind the boards for ‘The Art Of It’ as J. Myers brings a rare assist:
RZA returns to produce ‘Highly Favored’ which, despite a tight loop and a little soulful nod, plus some strong rhymes from Nas, somehow seems to drift. However, it is short enough for this not to be a real issue:
‘Queens Wolf’ follows with DJ Toomp doing an amazing job of providing a spacious, piano-blessed, emotive backdrop for Nas to bring some swaggerfied lyricism:
Nas hits the home straight with the Alchemist-produced ‘It Never Ends’ and, to be honest, this one disappoints slightly, as it feels like it never quite gets out of the gate:
Again, there is nothing really bad about the track, but it feels like Nas is coasting here, where you know he can bring much more…
Kanye West provided the beats for ‘You Mean The World To Me,’ and while that may immediately divide some fans, it’s hard to deny the stripped-back, soulful production as Nas delivers some more heartfelt, relationship-based wordplay:
Just in case you felt like you were floating away from a hip-hop sensibility, Pete Rock returns with a tight loop and some dusty snares as Nas brings grown man reminiscence on ‘Queensbridge Politics’ (shout out to Prodigy – R.I.P.):
The album is rounded off with the longest track of the set, at 6 minutes 41, it is like a suite of production from No I.D.
One of the great things for long-time Nas fans is to try and work out at what point in is career each of these tracks was recorded, but most will know when ‘Beautiful Life’ was laid down, due to Nas’ descriptive rhyming:
This album was always going to be a bit of a disparate collection but, for the changing moods, it is held together by Nas’ lyrical prowess – while the selection of top-notch beat-smiths is enough to cause envy among the competition (considering these are “lost” tracks!).
Overall, ‘The Lost Tapes 2’ is just what you might have expected – quality without the coherency of an officially planned album. However, fans will no doubt lap this one up – and rightfully so – which is just as well, since Nas is planning more ‘Lost Tapes’ to come…