After dropping Life Is Good back in 2012, Nas has finally released the follow up in the form of NASIR – a seven-track album that is fully produced by Kanye West. The new project is included within a multitude of releases by Kanye West where each week he drops a seven-track album that is produced by himself. While projects such as ye and KIDS SEE GHOSTS see a fair amount of crossover in regards to some of the instrumentals and lyrical content, NASIR steers clear of these attributes as it focuses on confronting topics such as racism and violence throughout the entire album.
On the opening track “Not For Radio” it’s an impressive statement to begin the project as it kicks off with Nas harshly announcing that “Escobar season begins”. Backed by a large chorus and orchestra, the grandeur heard within these elements mixed with topics that are centered around slavery, politics, and religion is extremely powerful, to say the least. Featuring 070 Shake and Puff Daddy, they add a nice balance to the track as 070 Shake has a timid yet emotional chorus while Puff Daddy is heard mainly providing ad-libs within the track.
The second track on NASIR increases the overall intensity established in the first track. Even if the actual song wasn’t heard, the title of “Cops Shot the Kid” is descriptive enough, and that’s exactly what we get. Sampling Slick Rick’s “Children Story”, the line “cops shot the kid” is used as the main lead throughout the entire song. Within the track, it shows Nas and Kanye West discussing police brutality with African American youth. While both rappers have many noteworthy and quotable lines, Nas’s wordplay is at the forefront with lines such as “White kids are brought in alive/Black kids get hit with like five/Get scared/You panic, you’re goin’ down/The disadvantages of the brown”.
On the third track “White Label”, it highlights the topic of greed where we see Nas in a more reflective state of mind. He mainly talks about how too much of something can be negative and at times destructive, and how those things have consequences. The following track seen in “Bonjour” only heightens these thoughts as it displays Nas discussing how his unspiritual desires need to be fulfilled. This can be seen with him describing certain foods mixed with drug references, and with his attraction to women.
The most expansive track seen on NASIR is heard in “everything”, that features Kanye West and The-Dream behind the mic. Following the common themes of greed seen in the previous tracks, “everything” is no exception as we hear Nas rapping “Some people have everything they probably ever wanted in life/And never have enough”. Aside from the lyrical content heard on the track, the instrumental itself is definitely one of the most beautiful and catchy beats on the entire album. Even though the instrumental is quite simple as it focuses on the overall melodic feel of the vocals, the contribution of Caroline Shaw’s layered vocals elevates the beat in a way that we haven’t heard in a long time from Kanye’s production.
On the following track “Adam and Eve”, we hear the ever-evolving personalized themes that Nas has presented throughout the entire album as he describes his daily routine to sharing his thoughts on the next generation. With the final track “Simple Things”, it features a stripped-down instrumental that focuses more on Nas describing overall envy that people have.
Nas’s new album NASIR has many high points as many people will find that it will be worth the long wait. Kanye West’s production from the overall variety of the instrumentals to sampling is nothing short of phenomenal. The topics that Nas confronts is much needed and is executed extremely well throughout the album. The features on the album add a nice contrast to the existing material, especially with 070 Shake and Caroline Shaw.
Throughout all seven tracks on NASIR, they follow the idea of “the seven deadly sins”. Each track is meant to confront and discuss these sins by focusing on various themes throughout the album. While this is an interesting concept, it did surface some elements that could have been improved.
While Nas had so many important topics that he successfully confronted on this project, some of the content was almost too repetitive at times. While this quality can be seen in almost every track, this is especially heard in “Bonjour”, as it pulled away too much from the rest of the themes discussed. With creating the seven-track album around the concept of “the seven deadly sins”, it wasn’t that transparent overall due to Nas diverting to other sub-topics on most of the songs. Even though Kanye West and GOOD Music are into the idea of seven track albums, NASIR felt like it needed to be a little bit longer as the final track heard left the project feeling a bit incomplete.