Being as legendary as Nas is, his recent projects never seem to drum up as much excitement as those of his contemporaries. 4:44 had a kind of elegance and regality to it which, paired with great production, brought out praise from critics and fans. Nasir seems to be having a much quieter time since its release, which betrays the fact that the album is also polished, well produced, and, paradoxically, a little underwhelming.
The lessening of the album’s impact is most likely related to the way Nas is constantly dropping off and redeeming himself over the course of the record. We see this from the very beginning, as “Not For Radio” has an incredibly boring first verse and annoying chorus that is entirely redeemed by the conscious edge of the second verse. Much less impressive are on “White Label” as well as “Bonjour,” two tracks which serve as pits of mediocrity lying in what could have a been truly great album. Kanye West’s production is a savior on the aforementioned tracks, as the braggadocio of the lyrics just doesn’t add anything to the record or deliver on the potential in its creation. He’s a cool guy, which is cool, but can’t he be cool in an INTERESTING way?
What Nas is able to express interestingly is the conscious thoughts which redeem “Not For Radio.” “Cops Shot the Kid,” the highlight of the album, thrives on this. While the sample does take some getting used to, Nas’ lyricism, as well as the slick Kanye verse, build fruitfully into a great track tackling both racism and police brutality. This continues on “everything,” the fifth track and one which juggles an uplifting spirit and a somber analysis. Duality like this is where Nas wins the listener over and reminds you of why he’s one of the capital “G” Greats.
My only real gripe with Nasir is the aforementioned inconsistency. Nas is a Great, but he doesn’t show it all the time. When we go from “Cops Shot the Kid” to “White Label” the only reaction that comes forth is a pressing of the reverse button. “Adam and Eve” has its shining piano sample and gritty bars, but this doesn’t make it easier to get through the lyrical slug of “Bonjour.” But, this is still hardly an awful album. It’s a tight twenty-six minute venture like most of what has come out of these Wyoming sessions. It’s got the Kanye West produced gloss that only makes the highlights on the album shine even brighter. It’s just that this could have been better. Much better. It’s not the best of the Wyoming albums, but I’ve begun to understand that the worst of these Wyoming albums is still listenable. That’s the least we can ask for, right?