Saturday, March 10, 2018

Nas "God's Son" (Vibe Review, February 2003)

"Stillmatic, released last year amid a flurry of controversy, was a triumph, redeeming Nas' waning street credibility. But this latest, more mature album, God's Son, goes further than the lyrical infighting and antiwar propaganda of Stillmatic, boldly exploring themes of nostalgia, redemption, retribution, and responsibility. With grim determination, Nas sets out to give the currently vacuous genre of hip hop a swift kick in the ass like it was his own manifest destiny. He's definitely the right man for the job. Nas has always had a knack for coming up with the ill song concepts, and this album is proof. Its crowning jewel is "Get Down," a suspenseful rap story that traverses the violent streets of Queensbridge, the drug-addled South, and a tragic Crip funeral along Crenshaw Boulevard in L.A., delivered with the kind of artistry and skill that first made him famous in '94. Nas settles old scores on "Last Real N!gga Alive," on which he reveals juicy details about his unforgettable ride in Puffy's Range Rover before B.I.G.'s Ready To Die was released; being caught in the beef between Wu-Tang and Bad Boy; and perhaps most painfully, his feelings of betrayal when his daughter's mother slept with Jay-Z.... For "My Book of Rhymes," Nas flips through the pages of his old notebooks, beginning to recite what sound like potentially amazing songs, only to dismiss them as immature scribblings. He's disarmingly self-deprecating here, and gives us a rare look into his artistic process. His willingness to appear weak further cements his strength." 

"The risks he takes with the production are a big part of the allure of God's Son. In a time when a Neptunes beat is as essential as a savvy marketing plan, Nas goes in the other direction, giving producer Salaam Remi plenty of room. Remi waxes sentimental over hip-hop's Golden Era on songs like the breakbeat-infused "Made You Look" and the singsongy "I Can." Nas entrusts Alicia Keys to produce a war cry of epic proportions and soaring vistas on "Warrior Song," as she sings behind his seething lyrics, an African drum beat morphs into a marching-band drill..."

"Some time in the late '90s, Nasty Nas, as we once knew him, died - death by mediocrity and misdirection. Loyal fans who had received Illmatic as gospel were understandably disappointed by the blatant commercialism of his successive albums. Humiliated by his diminishing presence on urban radio, BET, and MTV; burning with a sense of righteous indignation; and fueled by the loss of his mother to breast cancer last year, Nasir Jones, the great lyricist, was roused to battle - resurrected, not surprisingly, by death." Updated with clips from "God's Son Live."