Finally the six year wait is over, the highly anticipated return of legendary Queens rapper Nas is upon us and after rumors of reunion albums with DJ Premier, a song from DJ Khaled titled "Nas album done", it seems neither of things has any relation to this short record. With Kanye West as executive producer it seems this seven song, twenty something listening experience is not only for Ye but anything he touches with side project Kids See Ghosts having the same setup. Is it a big deal? Probably not but then again Nasir is the first Nas record Ive ever felt disappointed by.
Why is it disappointing? Nas's skill and prowess on the mic is firmly intact, sounding as good as ever but lyrically the topics that stand out do so for the wrong reasons. With Kanye producing the beats there is an unsurprising emphasis on voices and downplaying of the percussive presence that leaves Nas's firm and well spoken voice flowing without its backbone, contrasting the tame beats he raps over. Nether the instrumentals or the rapping are unappealing but they only find a fitting chemistry on the soothing grooving "Bonjour" and "Cops shot the kid" where a sampling of Slick Rick's classic crates a numbing repetition for the two to spit hard over.
The track Everything is a bittersweet seven minute tune lined with moving, soulful singing from Kanye, setting the tone over a fragile beat with Nas dropping his most lively rhymes from this record in the verses. Unfortunately his genius seems to fall wayside to some strange tangents. The opening line "When the media slings mud we use it to build huts" is either a comment on the pettiness of public discord and it closing people into camps but more likely a statement of taking controversies to continue building their platform. When the song descends into vaccination paranoia it worries me that Nas is in the same camp as Kanye, saying what you "think" just to see how it feels...
Its a strange record, a mixed bag of fruits that fails to become more than the sum of its parts. It ends up being a precursor for discussion on the topics approached and the ones avoided. When you boil it down to basic's Nas doesn't sound all that great on Kanye's production style which is a shame because both seem to be in their element here, but together the chemistry is patchy. Nas has had one of the best discographies of any rapper alive today, consistent, even with some dips but this short record isn't anything in comparison to his previous works.