Eso Tre is one-half of the Hip Hop powerhouse, Substance Abuse. Listen to them on Earbits!

Forgive me for the late review of the most recent album from Nas, but being the 47 percenter I am I rarely have the funds (or impetus) to buy hip hop CDs.  But since I’m always intrigued when I hear the Illmatic mc has a new release, I decided it was time to see what all the hubbub surrounding the deeply personal “Life is Good” was all about.  And luckily for this long time fan of the rapper, I was not disappointed.

Much of the appeal of listening to Nas in current times aside from his poignant lyricism (which has not faltered since his debut) is hearing his take on the latest pop culture musings. Addressing everything from xanax to instagram to Mel Gibson’s vitriolic ethnic slurs, Nas always seems to have an intelligent insights and opinions on many of the noteworthy (as well as mediocre) phenomena that have gripped modern society.  It ‘s fascinating hearing the rapper who killed joints like “Halftime” and “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” talk about the things that seem to enthrall us in this far duller epoch, when the excitement of drinking forties and smoking blunts has been supplanted by the need to be on the V.I.P. list of same lame club that deep down we really don’t want to be at.  One gets the sense from listening to this album that Nas is right there with us, trying to conceal his smirks and laughing at the travesty that the music industry has become, but still somehow recognizing the need to navigate his way through it.

The NO I.D. produced “Loco-Motive” featuring Large Professor has Nas giving a shout out to those of us still “stuck in the 90’s”, setting the tone for an album that, while far from throw back, definitely seems to cater to an audience that still retains an old school ethos.  Joints like “Accident Murderers” allow Nas to cover more familiar turf, addressing the nature of street fame and cautioning young wannabees not to take credit for inadvertent homicides.  And while Nas has shown himself to be more adept than most when it comes to delineating the perils of street life, it’s songs like “Daughters” where we are given a glimpse into his range as a lyricist, as he describes the difficulty of simultaneously being a “cool” parent and a responsible one.

There is a lightheartedness that seems to permeate this album, even when Nas tackles more plaintive topics, like his friends that didn’t live long enough to see his latest album released or his own close calls with the violence that has claimed many of his comrades.  The album’s denouement, “Bye Baby”, which addresses his highly publicized split with Kelis, even seems to ring with a certain optimism, with Nas acknowledging the good times he had with his former wife and expressing a renewed interest in walking down the aisle, albeit with a different and as of yet undetermined lady friend.  Hearing the lyricist that so many rappers idolize describe his own trials and tribulations with such dignity and detachment gives one the sense that, even when times are roughest, “Life is Good”.  And I’d rather hear that from Nas than Tony Robbins.

-Eso Tre


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