Words by Scott Ramirez
“I’m after the actress who played Faith Evans”
Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to this album since I first heard the single “Nasty.” Succinctly put, this is a really solid album. Nasir Jones sounds invigorated, there’s a bop in his step and his beat selection shares an uplifting sentiment to match his lyrics. After experiencing a tumultuous divorce with the songstress Kelis and dealing with serious tax problems, the son of Olu Dara shows that Life Is Good even when the chips are down and the odds are against you.
“They askin’ how he disappear and reappear back on top?
Sayin’ Nas must have naked pictures of God or something”
Nas is an extremely competent and skilled lyricist. 20 years into the game and 10 albums deep, his sword is still as sharp as ever. A poignant story teller, a fierce rhymesayer and a gifted urban griot, he weaves through different life experiences and narratives that only Nas can do. The tone of his voice travels from meditative self-awareness to waxing nostalgia to revitalized game hunter. Writing on various vignettes of his life including the relationship with his daughter, old friends from back in the day, looking for love and chest-thumping lyricism, Nas has collected a strong set of written songs with themes that anyone can vibe and feel. He doesn’t miss a beat or drop any weak bars throughout Life Is Good. With the creativity rushing back since his 2010 collaboration with Damian Marley, Nas is in the groove of things. This album is celebrated because there’s a certain triumphant aura to it, the main theme behind Life Is Good is getting over pitfalls. Nas is a man that has survived recent personal wars and this is his statement on surviving and pushing on.
“I want someone who likes the champagne I like.
My a-alike. Someone to talk me off the bridge any day or night”
One of my favourite songs off this album would be the stellar collaboration between Nas and the late Amy Winehouse in the Salaam Remi produced “Cherry Wine”. My Lord, Ms. Winehouse had an incredible voice. The dope production, Amy’s vocals and Nas’ delivery come together perfectly. It’s a song that any bachelor has on his mind when looking for a woman (say no to ratchets, gentlemen). “The Don” is another contender of a joint (also produced by Salaam) where Nas does a ‘stick and move’ on the beat. And that elegant instrumental change up on the third verse is just lovely.
The audio soundscape of Life Is Good offers a wide range of boom bap, r&b and soulful melodies. Most can agree that his beat choice for this album gets a thumbs up and I can share in that salute. Most of the production is handled by longtime collaborator, Salaam Remi and No I.D., along with some help from the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Swizz Beatz and Buckwild. I just want to add that the Buckwild joint “You Wouldn’t Understand” with Victoria Monet is too nice. Buck held it down, Nas brought the dopeness and Victoria got me swoonin’. Asides from the Amy Winehouse and Victoria Monet features, other guest stars on Life Is Dope are Large Professor (who also released a solid project in Professor At Large), Rick Ross, Mary J. Blige, Anthony Hamilton, Miguel and Swizz Beatz. The only issue I have on this album would be the song “Summer On Smash,” which featured the latter two. It’s your typical club fanfare track, with production and a chorus I’m just not vibing to.
I also want to recommend that everyone get the deluxe version as Nasty does not appear on the original version of the album (weird, I know) and it also brings in a nice cadre of tracks to boast. Little issues aside, a medal of honor goes to Life Is Good.
“Dedication, hard work, routine builds character.
In a world full of snakes, rats and scavengers,
Never make choices out of desperation, I think through it.”
Sometimes it takes pain and sorrow to jump start a man back to life. And it’s in those moments where we truly feel alive, and by overcoming challenges is, in itself, a triumph. Through Nas’ meditation, braggadocio, narratives and emboldened delivery, Life Is Good is the positive progression of this much heralded poet. In such a banal mainstream music scene, it’s great to hear Nas refreshed and seeing what he does best. All in all, I highly recommend this album. This is a master at work and I look forward to hearing more from the cat that started it all from being live at the bbq.
Salute, good sir.
Words by Scott Ramirez