When an artist like Nas releases music, what can then be observed is a tremendous divide between two vastly different groups. On one side of the spectrum sits an older generation who grew up in the early years of rap’s evolution. This is the crowd who harps on lyricism, truth, and the beauty of “old school” music. On the contrary exists the children of the former -- those who seek upbeat, in-your-face bangers. Now I agree that this isn’t true across the board: Somewhere in between lies the older generation who can get down to top tracks of 2018, as well as the teenaged individual who can appreciate a track from the 80s. With the release of Nasir, Nas’ newest album since 2012, the existence of the above-outlined phenomenon can be seen. Let’s take a look at why this is.
What is apparent throughout the entirety of the album is that Nas made a wholehearted attempt to be “woke.” He speaks out against police violence, politics, and boasts about his impact on communities around the world. It’s not so much of an attempt, though, but more of a successful endeavor, being that his message is undeniably profound. He escapes the cliché tone of today’s hits and remains true to what has made him one of the best artists of all time. Simply put, Nasir is an inspiring work that will influence many.
“Mature” is a great adjective for the album. The lyrics seem to contrast almost all of today’s top rap hits, which encourage all actions antonymous to wisdom. Although Nas preaches about his past and the luxury that his lifestyle brings, he illustrates what it really means to be a boss in every sense of the word (see “Simple Things”).
Along with “mature,” “refreshing” is another term associated with Nasir, at least in the eyes of more aged crowds. For example, “Cops Shot The Kid” samples not only a snippet from comedian Richard Pryor’s Craps: After Hours, but also to the tune of Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story.” These are just two of multiple implementations of pop-culture products of the late 70s/early 80s entertainment scene. This inevitably causes a sense of relatability and nostalgia for older listeners. With the exception of “Not For Radio” and “Simple Things,” each beat delivers a traditional Nas twang, highlighting what made him so great in classics like “N.Y State of Mind” and “The World Is Yours.” This can be, in part, credited to Kanye West, who had his hand in the production of all seven tracks.
Nasir serves as proof that songs don’t need to satisfy the criteria of an up-tempo speaker-knocker to be great in this day and age. With this album, Nas replicates that of a superstar athlete playing out of his prime: not what he used to be, but still an excellent act, deservedly free from the denial of greatness. There is something that those from all walks of life can take away from Nasir, with an especial communal appeal to all ages, and an impactful message from a living legend in Nas.