Friday Night Showdown – Album Reviews – Nas

Which Nas album you think was the best out of the 4 ?

1.Nastradamus

Studio album by Nas

Released – November 23, 1999
Recorded – 1997–99
Genre – Hip hop
Length – 62:33
Label – Ill Will, Columbia
CK-63930
Producer – Dame Grease, Havoc, L.E.S., Rich Nice, DJ Premier, Timbaland

Nas chronology

I Am…
(1999)Nastradamus
(1999)Stillmatic
(2001)

Singles from Nastradamus

“Nastradamus”
Released: October 26, 1999

“You Owe Me”
Released: 2000

Professional ratings
Review scores

SourceRating

Allmusic[1]
Chicago Tribunemixed[2]
Robert Christgau[3]
Entertainment WeeklyA–[4]
Los Angeles Times[5]
PopMattersmixed[6]
Rolling Stone[7]
USA Today[8]
The Washington Postfavorable[9]
Yahoo! Musicmixed[10]

Nastradamus is the fourth studio album by American rapper Nas, released November 23, 1999 on Columbia Records in the United States. It was originally scheduled to be released as a follow-up album composed of material from recording sessions for his third album, I Am… (1999) on October 26, 1999.[11] Due to bootlegging of the material, Nas recorded separate songs for Nastradamus to meet its November release date.[11]

The album debuted at number 7 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 232,000 copies in its first week. Upon its release, Nastradamus received generally mixed reviews from most music critics, and it has been regarded as Nas’s weakest effort.[12] Despite its mixed reception, it achieved considerable commercial success and spawned two charting singles.[11] On December 22, 1999, the album was certified platinum in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[13]

History

In 1997, Nas started recording his third album under the title I Am…The Autobiography with intentions to be a double-disc album. Due to bootleg, he cut out some songs and released it as a single disc in 1999. Months later, Columbia Records decided to release the left out material as a follow up album, however Nas decided to record all new material under the title Nastradamus. Although some songs made their way to this album, only “Project Windows” and “Come Get Me” are certainly confirmed. On “Come Get Me” he evidently raps “Who ill as me? I wild on haters in album three”, referring to his third album I Am… on which the song was supposed to be. The title of the album is inspired from the name of the famous French apothecary Nostradamus.

Track listing

No.TitleProducer(s)Length

1.”The Prediction”  Rich Nice1:20
2.”Life We Chose”  L.E.S.4:08
3.”Nastradamus”  L.E.S.4:11
4.”Some of Us Have Angels”  Dame Grease4:14
5.”Project Windows” (featuring Ronald Isley)Nashiem Myrick, Carlos “6 July” Broady4:55
6.”Come Get Me”  DJ Premier5:31
7.”Shoot ‘Em Up”  Havoc2:53
8.”Last Words” (featuring Nashawn)L.E.S.5:31
9.”Family” (featuring Mobb Deep)Dame Grease5:16
10.”God Love Us”  Dame Grease4:36
11.”Quiet Niggas” (featuring Bravehearts)Dame Grease4:57
12.”Big Girl”  L.E.S.4:19
13.”New World”  L.E.S.4:00
14.”You Owe Me” (featuring Ginuwine)Timbaland4:48
15.”The Outcome”  Rich Nice1:54
Total length:
62:33
Samples [14]

Life We Chose
“Peace Fugue” by Bernie Worrell
Nastradamus
“(It’s Not the Express) It’s the JB’s Monaurail” by The J.B.’s
Come Get Me
“It’s Mine” by Mobb Deep
“We’re Just Trying to Make It” by The Persuaders
Last Words
“Good Luck Charm” by Ohio Players
Big Girl
“You’re a Big Girl Now” by The Stylistics
New World
“Africa” by Toto
Quiet Niggas
“Final Fantasy VIII” by Square
“Shoot ’em Up (If I Die 2nite)” by 2Pac
Charts

Album
Chart (1999)Peak
position[1]
U.S. Billboard 200#7
U.S. Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums#2
Singles
YearSongChart positions[1]

2.I Am…

Studio album by Nas

Released – April 6, 1999
Genre – Hip hop
Length – 64:37
Label – Columbia
CK-68773
Producer – L.E.S., DJ Premier, Trackmasters, Timbaland, Alvin West, Dame Grease, Nashiem Myrick, Carlos “Six July” Broady, D-Moet, Pretty Boy, Jamal Edgerten

Nas chronology

It Was Written
(1996)

I Am…
(1999)

Nastradamus
(1999)

Singles from I Am…
“Nas Is Like”
Released: March 2, 1999
“Hate Me Now”
Released: April 6, 1999

I Am… is the third studio album by American rapper Nas, released April 6, 1999 on Columbia Records. It debuted #1 on the charts, selling over 470,000 copies in its first week. I Am… would later be certified 2x platinum in the United States. Upon its release, I Am… received generally mixed to positive reviews from music critics.

Background

This album was originally to have been a double album titled I Am…The Autobiography, however most of the original sessions were bootlegged forcing Nas to discard many songs and adjust the release to one disc. I Am…became one of the first major label releases to be widely leaked using MP3 technology.[1] Some of the leaked songs were later released on the compilation LP The Lost Tapes in 2002. The concept of this album as can be seen by tracks such as “Fetus” from The Lost Tapes was to be an autobiography of sorts for Nas. Although several bootleg versions have appeared on the internet over the years, an official version of the intended double album has never leaked and it remains unclear whether or not it was ever completed.

Music

The two singles from I Am… were “Hate Me Now” and “Nas Is Like”. “Hate Me Now” features Puff Daddy and is produced by D-Moet, Pretty Boy and The Trackmasters. It was a Billboard Hot 100 hit, and had a controversial music video directed by Hype Williams. The song had a version of the O Fortuna from Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” “Nas Is Like” is one of two tracks produced by DJ Premier who scratches vocal samples from Nas’ “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” into the chorus. The “Nas Is Like” music video was directed by Nick Quested and is still very popular in underground circles and continued a long list of popular Nas/DJ Premier collaborations.

The album also contained the song “We Will Survive”, a tribute to Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. The song criticized his peers, most notably Jay-Z, who “claimed to be New York’s king” following B.I.G.’s death, the record has been cited as potentially encouraging the Nas vs. Jay-Z feud.

Cover art

Famed photographer Danny Hastings has shot iconic cover images for Big Pun’s Capital Punishment and Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, but his album art shoot for I Am… almost ended in disaster. In order to make the iconic mask featured on the cover, Hastings and his crew put a clay mold on his face and poked air holes so he could breathe, but he almost suffocated after clay got lodged in his nose.

“The funny part was that the first attempt, Nas was getting asphyxiated. We almost killed Nas,” Hastings told MTV.com. “We cleaned him up, and he was like, ‘Let’s do it again!’ […] Nas was a true sport.”

He also explained the meaning behind the cover, and how it built off of previous album art for Illmatic and It Was Written. “The first one, you have him being a boy, very young. The second was a little bit older. And the third one, he was a king,” he continued. “He already conquered the world. He was on top of the world. He was doing a lot of big things. We came with the concept of making a King Tut sarcophagus piece.”[2]

Reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic[3]
Chicago Sun-Times[4]
Robert ChristgauB−[5]
Entertainment Weekly(B)[6]
Los Angeles Times[7]
NME(8/10)[8]
Rolling Stone[9]
The Source[10]
The Village Voice(mixed)[11]
Yahoo! Music(mixed)[12]

Yahoo! Music’s Billy Johnson, Jr. criticized the album’s production as “somber” and described its songs as “thought-provoking, though average quality”.[12] Jeff Stark of Salon noted “distinct identities” for each song and wrote that it does not sound “coherent”, but “as if it belongs to a scattershot demographic of subway riders”.[13] Franklin Soults of The Village Voice viewed that its music attempts to meet “halfway” with consumer demographics, noting that Nas’ “most salient talent is finding and exploiting the middle ground”.[11] In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, critic Robert Christgau gave I Am… a B- rating and named it “dud of the month”,[5] indicating “a bad record whose details rarely merit further thought”.[14] Christgau criticized Nas’ “ethos” and stated, “The question is how convincing he is, and only two themes ring true: the bad ones, revenge and money. His idea of narrative detail is to drop brand names like Bret Easton Ellis; his idea of morality is everybody dies”.[5]Craig Seymour of The Washington Post attributed its thematic inconsistency to the replacement of tracks that leaked to the Internet prior to the album’s release, concluding that “Anyone with a good Web connection might wonder what a profound personal opus ‘I Am’ could have been”.[15]Miles Marshall Lewis of LA Weekly viewed that Nas “tightrope[s] the line between order and chaos, gangsterism and enlightenment” on the album, which he found to be “not a horrendous album. But Nas has now established a pattern of declining album quality, and that makes I Am… Nas’ worst album”.[16]

Chicago Sun-Times writer Rebecca Little gave the album two-a-and-half out of four stars and stated, “if you get past the torrent of [profanity] and a few terms referring to women as dogs and garden tools, […] ‘I Am’ is a notable effort”, adding that “The finer moments lie in the rapper’s trademark ability to spin a compelling tale about ghetto life”.[4] Kris Ex of Rolling Stone gave it three-and-a-half out of five stars and stated, “Nas is still a diamond in the rough — perhaps the rawest lyrical talent of his day but lacking the guidance and vision to create a complete album […] But what I Am… lacks in content, it makes up for in lyrical acumen; the album doesn’t deliver the introspection its title implies, but it compensates for it in storytelling and craftsmanship. I Am… offers tantalizing hints of promise tethered by a need for pop acceptance”.[9]Christopher John Farley of Time complimented Nas’ lyrics and themes and the album’s musical approach, noting “grander, more aggressive, more cinematic” songs.[17]Entertainment Weekly’s Tom Sinclair compared the album to “a bona fide hip-hopera”, noting string and keyboard-laden songs and “universal themes”.[6]Los Angeles Times writer Soren Baker commended Nas for “adroitly balancing hard-core subject matter with production that should easily find its way onto urban radio”.[7] Steve Jones of USA Today gave it four out of four stars and complimented Nas’ “dense and deft rhymes” and “nimble, cinematic descriptions”, writing that the album “nestles nicely between the underground grittiness of 1994’s Illmatic and the high gloss of 1996’s It Was Written”.[18]

In a retrospective review, Allmusic editor M.F. DiBella gave the album three out of five stars and noted “blandness” in its production, writing that “Musically, I Am is somewhat unimaginative by Nas’ stratospheric standards. […] some of these tracks lack the sonic depth to do justice to the prophecies of the pharaoh, Nas”.[3] However, DeBella added that Nas “still shines as the old soul storyteller and crime rhyme chronicler” on some tracks and cited “Nas Is Like” and “N.Y. State of Mind, Pt. 2” as highlights, adding that they “are nothing short of Illmatic perfection”.[3] Steve Juon of RapReviews gave I Am… an eight-and-a-half out of 10 rating and viewed it as an improvement over It Was Written, praising Nas’ “power of description” and “much improved” lyrics.[19] Writing in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), music journalist Chris Ryan gave the album two-and-a-half out of five stars and wrote that it has “[its] share of solid material, but ultimately fail[s] in the face of Nas’ inability to navigate the divide between the street reporting that made him a legend and the commercial hits that made him a star”.[20]

Track listing

#TitleProducer(s)SamplesLength
1″Album Intro”DJ Premier
“The Amityville Horror Main Title” by Lalo Schifrin
“Live at the Barbeque” by Main Source
“Halftime” by Nas
“It Ain’t Hard to Tell” by Nas
“The World Is Yours” by Nas
“One Love” by Nas
“The Message” by Nas
“Street Dreams” by Nas
“If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)” by Nas
“Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park)” by Nas
2:51
2″N.Y. State of Mind Pt. II”DJ Premier
“N.Y. State of Mind” by Nas
“Mahogany” by Eric B. & Rakim
3:36
3″Hate Me Now” (feat. Puff Daddy)Pretty Boy, D. Moet, Poke & Tone
“O Fortuna” from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana
4:44
4″Small World”Nashiem Myrick, Carlos Broady
“Love to Last Forever” by Zulema
4:45
5″Favor for a Favor” (feat. Scarface)L.E.S.4:07
6″We Will Survive”Poke & Tone, Jamal Edgerten
“This Is It” by Kenny Loggins
5:00
7″Ghetto Prisoners”Dame Grease4:00
8″You Won’t See Me Tonight” (feat. Aaliyah)Timbaland
“Hang On” by Jerry Goldsmith
4:22
9″I Want to Talk to You”L.E.S., Alvin West4:36
10″Dr. Knockboot”Poke & Tone
“Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock
“Say What” by Idris Muhammad
“We Got It” by Cam’ron
2:25
11″Life Is What You Make It” (feat. DMX)L.E.S.
“Vitroni’s Theme – King Is Dead” by Roy Ayers
4:04
12″Big Things”Alvin West
“Theme from Mahogany” by Diana Ross
3:39
13″Nas Is Like”DJ Premier
“What Child Is This?” by John V. Rydgren and Bob R. Way
“Why” by Don Robertson
“It Ain’t Hard to Tell” by Nas
“Street Dreams” by Nas
“Nobody Beats the Biz” by Biz Markie
3:57
14″K-I-SS-I-N-G”L.E.S., Alvin West
“When a Woman’s Fed Up” by R. Kelly
4:15
15″Money Is My Bitch”Alvin West, Poke & Tone4:02
16″Undying Love”L.E.S.
“Milk and Honey” by Jackson C. Frank
4:23
Personnel

Credits for I Am… adapted from Muze.[21]

Eddie Sancho – engineer
Kevin Crouse – engineer
Steve Souder – engineer
Nas – performer
Puff Daddy – performer
Aaliyah – performer
Scarface – performer
DMX – performer
DJ Premier – producer
Pretty Boy – producer
Nashiem Myrick – producer
L.E.S. – producer

3.God’s Son

Studio album by Nas

Released – December 13, 2002
Genre – Hip hop
Length – 56:58
Label – Ill Will, Columbia
CK-86930
Producer – The Alchemist, Ron Browz, Eminem, Nas, Salaam Remi, Chucky Thompson, Agile

Nas chronology

The Lost Tapes
(2002)

God’s Son
(2002)

Street’s Disciple
(2004)

Singles from God’s Son
“Made You Look”
Released: February 11, 2003
“I Can”
Released: March 4, 2003
“Get Down”
Released: July 8, 2003

God’s Son is the sixth studio album by American rapper Nas, released December 13, 2002 on Columbia-imprint Ill Will Records. Production for the album took place during 2001 to 2002 and was handled by several hip hop producers, including Salaam Remi, Chucky Thompson, Ron Browz, and The Alchemist. Partly inspired by Nas’s feud with Jay-Z and the death of his mother in early 2002, God’s Son covers lyrical themes such as religion, violence, and his own emotional experiences. It has been recognized by music writers as a personal work by Nas.

The album debuted at number 18 on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 156,000 copies in its first week. It ultimately peaked at number 12 on the chart and produced three singles that achieved Billboard chart success. Upon its release, God’s Son received acclaim from most music critics, who praised Nas’s lyricism and viewed it as a progression from his previous work. On January 14, 2003, the album was certified platinum in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), following sales in excess of one million copies.

Background

Nas’s debut album, Illmatic (1994), received much acclaim, but his next few releases were considered to have a more commercial feel, which received criticism.[1][2] Fellow New York rapper Jay-Z dissed Nas on “Takeover” from his 2001 album, The Blueprint. Nas responded with “Ether,” a response to Jay-Z’s “Takeover,” elevating a heated feud (see Nas vs. Jay-Z). “Ether” was released on 2001’s Stillmatic, an acclaimed album that signaled Nas’ return to “hip hop prominence.”[2] Jay-Z later challenged Nas to a pay-per-view rap battle, but Nas rejected, and said: “Pay-per-view is for wrestlers and boxers. I make records. If Jay-Z wants to battle, he should drop his album the same day I do and let the people decide” referring to God’s Son and Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 2 release.[3]

After the release of Stillmatic, Nas spent time tending to his ill mother, Ann Jones, until she died of breast cancer in April 2002. Nas has described Jay-Z’s disses during this time period as “sneak attack[s]” because Nas did not want to record music while his mother was sick.[4] Nas’ mother died in his arms,[2] and later served as inspiration for various songs on God’s Son. At the time, Nas was nearing the end of his feud with Jay-Z, which also inspired the album’s emotional and personal material.[5] During 2002, fans and critics speculated that Nas was still willing to make commercial music as he started associating himself with artists from Murder Inc., a label distributing mainstream hip-hop. Irv Gotti, the head of Murder Inc. claimed that Nas might sign with him, and he said: “I will definitely be affiliated [with Nas] and I’ll definitely be a part of [his projects], me and my brother Ja Rule.”[6] Nas soon appeared on “The Pledge (Remix),” a song by Ja Rule in which Nas hints at signing with the pop rap label.[7]

By October, God’s Son was expected to be released on December 17, with production from Salaam Remi, Large Professor and The Alchemist, as well as songs recorded with Ja Rule in Miami.[8] Around the same time, a music video for the single “Made You Look” was being shot. In December, Nas appeared in the video for a 2Pac single, “Thugz Mansion (N.Y.),” a song of which an alternative version was later released on God’s Son, featuring two verses from Nas and only one from 2Pac. On December 4, Nas decided to push up the release date for God’s Son by a few days in order to prevent bootlegging. Commenting on this, he said, “God’s Son is my most personal album and I poured my heart and spirit into it[.] It’s important to me that the fans hear my album the way I intended. When you buy a bootleg or pirate a download off the Net, you don’t get the real thing. The sound sucks, the sequencing is wrong, you’re probably missing some tracks, and you don’t even get the artwork and CD bonuses.”[9]

Composition

Production

God’s Son featured production from various producers, including Salaam Remi, Eminem and Alchemist. Remi produced five tracks while all other producers work on two or less tracks. Music critic Serena Kim of Vibe magazine supports Nas’ use of a variety of commercially risky producers saying, “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.”[1] “Get Down” is a funky rework of “The Boss” and “Funky Drummer” by James Brown, while “Last Real Nigga Alive” contains a simplistic beat dominated by eerie keys that seem to be made by a Casio keyboard.[10] Remi samples many genres of music from classical (Beethoven’s “Für Elise” in “I Can”) to deep funk (Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache” in “Made You Look”) while other producers do not rely on samples at all. “Dance,” a Chucky Thompson production, contains a simple beat consisting of a bass guitar riff and faint drums, neither of which are sampled. Another track that is notable for its lack of sampling is “Thugz Mansion (N.Y.).” Produced by Claudio Cueni and Michael Herring, it contains a beat consisting solely of an acoustic guitar riff. Brett Berliner of Stylus Magazine described the sound of “Made You Look” as old-school influenced and “trunk-rattling”, while he wrote that “Dance”, a plea by Nas for one more day with his recently passed mother, features production that “sounds straight out of 1995 and a Hootie and the Blowfish album.”[11] Berliner summed up the album’s diverse productions, stating:

In some places, like “I Can” and the Eminem track “The Cross”, the production is chilling and haunting, but in others, like the generic “radio” track “Hey Nas”, it is flat and uninspiring. However, to his credit, Nas tries do something different with many of the remaining tracks. “Get Down”, the introduction, is unique because it seems to contain many influences, from funk, soul and pop to jazz and reggae. “Thugz Mansion (NY)”, featuring a posthumous verse from Tupac Shakur, is much stronger than its West Coast version on Tupac Shakur’s new album, Better Dayz, strengthened by an acoustic guitar … Finally, “Heaven” appears to have a drum ‘n bass influence that accentuates Nas’ odd vision of what heaven is to him.[11]
Although there is no actual musical band or ensemble for God’s Son, various musicians play instruments on it; Mercedes Abal plays the flute, Jeff Bass plays the keyboards, Nas’ father Olu Dara plays the horns and Michael Herring plays the guitar.[12]

Lyrical themes

Although guest appearances are made by Kelis, Alicia Keys, and others, God’s Son is considered to be a personal album, in which he covers lyrical themes of his own emotional experiences[5] The personal lyrics are a result of Nas’ mother dying less than a year before the album’s release. He dedicates “Dance” to his mother, and references her in “Warrior Song” and “Last Real Nigga Alive.” “Dance” is considered to be one of Nas’ most introspective tracks,[13] and has been described as a “a requiem for Nas’ mother” that “is touching rather than mawkish.”[14] Nas’ lyrics also deal with religion as the album’s title conveys. He ponders the concept of heaven on “Heaven”, and makes various biblical references to describe himself on “The Cross”. Even with similar themes, each track is distinct from the rest providing God’s Son with a “narrative sense”.[5] One noteworthy concept track is “Book of Rhymes” where Nas raps songs that he had written in his rhyme book years ago. At times, he stops rapping, and starts commenting on how bad some of his lyrics are amongst other things. According to one writer, “The self-examination that inevitably accompanies the death of a loved one has also provoked a renewed sense of socio-political consciousness in Nas.”[15]

Singles

“Made You Look”, the first single on God’s Son was released on February 12, 2003. It features production by Salaam Remi that samples “Apache” as performed by Incredible Bongo Band. Jason Birchmeier of Allmusic claims that the first single on God’s Son “announces Nas’ periodic return with fury and bombast” and is a “Marley Marl-fashioned track.”[5] Jon Robinson of IGN.com claims that “Made You Look” shows Nas’ “lyrical genius.”[10] Additionally, Ethan Brown of New York Magazine, says it to be “extraordinarily powerful.”[16] It was the second most successful single on God’s Son reaching #32 on the Billboard Hot 100.[17] It reached #16 and #47 in “Singles of the Year” lists from Blender magazine and Pitchfork Media, respectively.[18][19]Q magazine also ranked it as the 903rd best song ever in 2003,[18] and Blender followed suit, ranking it as the 185th best song from the 1980s to the 2000s in 2005.[18]

The second and most successful single, “I Can”, was released as early as March 4, 2003, internationally. It boasts production from Salaam Remi, who samples from “Für Elise” by Ludwig van Beethoven and “Impeach the President” by The Honey Drippers for the song’s beat. Its lyrics are positive, encouraging the youth to stay drug free, and pursue their dreams. The lyrics also detail various events in African history, but Christian Hoard of Rolling Stone magazine labels “I Can” as “a silly stay-in-school ad attached to a Beethoven sample.”[20] This comment may be attributed to the “singsongy” call and response chorus featuring the voices of young children.[1] Other reviewers appreciated “I Can” more: Jon Robinson of IGN.com claims that on his second single, “Nas delivers some of his most inspiring lyrics to date.”[10] “I Can” received significant commercial success, reaching #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #7 on the Rhythmic Top 40 charts.[17]

The final single “Get Down” was released in July 2003. Produced by Salaam Remi and Nas, it samples James Brown’s “The Boss”, the percussion from James Brown’s “Funky Drummer”, “Rock Creek Park” by The Blackbyrds, and a speech from an unknown source. Its lyrics detail three loosely-described criminal stories each from different locations. The first story takes place in New York City where an alleged criminal steals the gun of a court officer, and starts shooting in the courtroom. The second story deals with cocaine dealers from Tennessee who provide Nas with a laced blunt. The final story takes place in Los Angeles where Nas goes to a violent funeral in Crenshaw with his cousin, and later ends up murdering three people. The stories are linked together by a sampled speech from an unknown origin that implies that black people will never “get up” if they “get down” in criminal activity. Christian Hoard of Rolling Stone considers “Get Down” to be the best song on God’s Son,[20] as does columnist Serena Kim of Vibe.[1] The single was not a significant commercial success, and it failed to reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart altogether.[17]

Reception

Commercial performance

God’s Son debuted at number 18 on the Billboard 200 chart with first-week sales of 156,000 copies,[21] ultimately peaking at number 12.[22] It sold 630,000 copies in its three weeks within the top 20 of the chart.[23] It reached number one on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and was certified platinum in sales on January 14, 2003 by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[24] Additionally, its three singles performed well on the charts. “I Can” was a Rhythmic Top 40 and Top 40 Mainstream hit that reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.[17] “Made You Look” reached number 32 on the Hot 100 singles chart, while “Get Down” peaked at number 76 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.[17] The success of its three singles allowed God’s Son to obtain platinum status, as had his previous studio albums.[24]

Critical response

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic[5]
Blender[25]
Entertainment WeeklyB[26]
Los Angeles Times[27]
NME8/10[28]
Pitchfork Media8.6/10[15]
Q[29]
Rolling Stone[20]
Spin6/10[30]
Stylus MagazineB+[11]

God’s Son was well received by contemporary music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 81, based on 18 reviews, which indicates “universal acclaim”.[29]Allmusic and IGN place it below Illmatic and Stillmatic.[5][10] Despite calling the production “lukewarm”, Pitchfork Media’s Sam Chennault lauded Nas’ verbal ability, describing him as “technically stunning” as an emcee, as well as “rhythmically versatile and intellectually astute.”[15] Chennault also compared God’s Son to Nas’ debut album, writing that the former has more emotional depth than Illmatic, and stating “In many ways, God’s Son is lyrically superior to Illmatic. Nas has created an album that is at once mournful and resilient, street-savvy and academic.”[15] Serena Kim of Vibe gave the album a 4 out of 5 disc-rating and stated “He’s disarmingly self-deprecating here, and gives us a rare look into his artistic process”.[1] Ethan Brown of New York praised Nas’ lyricism and found its musically significant, stating:

Here, Nas is so fierce, so plainspoken, so lean with words, that he demolishes not just the oeuvre of our ruling rappers and recalls the music’s lyrical champs like Rakim, he even brings to mind hip-hop progenitors like Muhammad Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle” era … Like pathbreaking projects past, God’s Son is not simply a great album, it’s a reminder of what we’ve been missing … Nas brings hip-hop back to the basics with a rough break-beat and a well-told story. This is the essence of punk; let’s see if Nas’s stripped-down rap starts a revolution.[16]
In a mixed review, Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Village Voice criticized Nas for abandoning his role as “rap’s foremost observer” for “the ballad of the learned thug” and stated, “Nas has rendered himself mediocre. At his worst, he becomes a Tupac clone content to contemplate hackneyed hip-hop maxims, like whether there is a heaven for gangsters (see ‘Thugz Mansion N.Y.’). A more apt question is whether there is a heaven for a cliché, because several cuts on God’s Son are begging for funerals.”[31]Spin commented that “Nas’ heart is in the right place, but his mind is somewhere else entirely”, adding that God’s Son follows what “we were really waiting for”, The Lost Tapes.[30]Stylus Magazine editor Brett Berliner stated, “Honestly, if Nas had chosen to drop about four tracks and cut it down to Illmatic’s ten, it would be in the class of Stillmatic, and we’d be talking about it as Nas’ fourth classic.”[11] However, Berliner viewed that Nas’ performance makes up for the album’s flaws, commenting that “Nas stays poignant, clever and intelligent, and, in doing so, adds an extra incentive to purchase his album: simply put, he’s the best lyricist in rap today, maybe all time. Specifically, his consistency is such that he has the ability to save poorly produced songs with his rhymes alone.”[11]

In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau gave the album a three-star honorable mention (),[32] indicating “an enjoyable effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well treasure.”[33] Christgau cited “Book of Rhymes” and “Get Down” as highlights and quipped, “confessions of a mama’s boy, tales of a hustler, lies of a mortal man”.[34] Despite criticizing it for its “boring-ass filler”, Christian Hoard of Rolling Stone lauded Nas’ “talent” throughout the album, and stated “he may yet have another masterpiece in him. Either way, he’s hip-hop’s Comeback Playa of the Year.”[20]Spin named “Made You Look” the ninth best single of 2003.[35]The Village Voice ranked God’s Son number 52 on its Pazz & Jop critics’ poll.[36] The website aggregator Metacritic ranked it as the 25th best-reviewed album of 2002.[37] Henry Adaso of About.com cited God’s Son in retrospect as the one album where Nas shows “growth and maturity”.[38]

Impact

Main article: Jay-Z vs. Nas feud
After the release of the song “Ether” and its album Stillmatic, Nas gained acclaim as the best rapper in New York, also known as the “king of New York”. God’s Son was a chance for Nas to either reassure his prolific status or prove to be an inconsistent artist.[13] In a review of God’s Son, Joseph Jones of PopMatters stated:

God’s Son is monumental in terms of the current power struggle in hip-hop. Whether you like it or not, “Ether” did this. With God’s Son, Nas has the opportunity to cement his status as the King of N.Y., at least for another 3-4 year term, or he could prove that he is not the savior that hip-hop fans should be pinning their hopes on.[13]
On God’s Son, Nas referenced his feud with Jay-Z on various tracks. Most notably, Nas references Jay-Z’s attacks on Nas “Last Real Nigga Alive” as “sneak attack[s]” while he was caring for his mother.[4] This track also revealed roots of his feud with Jay-Z including his feud with Jay’s friend and now-deceased rapper, The Notorious B.I.G.. In fact, Nas ends the first verse of “Last Real Nigga Alive” by saying, “There’s more shit than wanting to be this King of New York shit.” Similarly, on “Mastermind,” Nas says: “This King Of New York shit only last 15 minutes.”[39] Additionally, on “The Cross”, Nas explained how he was the old king of New York rap, and soon reinvented himself to reign again as New York’s king.[40] Amy Linden of Yahoo! Music found it to be an album “worthy of [Nas’] landmark 1994 debut” Illmatic and elaborated on God’s Son’s significance at the time, stating “If this is the last round with Jay, as the surprisingly civil tone and anti-battle messages imply, then God’s Son is going out on top.”[41]

Track listing

#TitleProducer(s)Samples[42]Length
1″Get Down”Nas, Salaam Remi
“Get Up and Get Down” by The Dramatics
“Funky Drummer” by James Brown
“The Boss” by James Brown
“Rock Creek Park” by The Blackbyrds
4:04
2″The Cross”Eminem3:47
3″Made You Look”Salaam Remi
“Apache” by Incredible Bongo Band
3:23
4″Last Real Nigga Alive”Ron Browz5:04
5″Zone Out” (feat. Bravehearts)Salaam Remi3:48
6″Hey Nas” (feat. Claudette Ortiz & Kelis)Salaam Remi
“Risin’ to the Top Bill” by Allan Felder
4:05
7″I Can”Salaam Remi
“Für Elise” by Ludwig van Beethoven
“Impeach the President” by The Honeydrippers
4:13
8″Book of Rhymes”The Alchemist
“For the Dollar Bill” by Tommy Tate
3:54
9″Thugz Mansion (N.Y.)” (feat. 2Pac & J. Phoenix)Claudio Cueni, Michael Herring4:07
10″Mastermind”The Alchemist4:07
11″Warrior Song” (feat. Alicia Keys)Alicia Keys
“Na Poi” by Fela Kuti
4:42
12″Revolutionary Warfare” (feat. Lake)The Alchemist
“We Made It” by Black Ivory
3:29
13″Dance”Chucky Thompson for The Hitmen
“Aïcha” by Cheb Khaled (Replayed)
“I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack
3:34
14″Heaven” (feat. Jully Black)Agile, Saukrates (co)
“I Love You” by Eddie Holman
4:41
15*”Thugz Mirror” (Freestyle)The Alchemist1:50
16*”Pussy Killz”Chucky Thompson for The Hitmen
“My Hero Is a Gun” by Diana Ross
4:38
17*”The G.O.D.”Swizz Beatz2:39
Personnel

Musicians

Nas – vocals, exec., producer (tracks: co-produced 1)
Bravehearts – vocals (tracks: 5)
Claudette Ortiz – vocals (tracks: 6)
Kelis – vocals (tracks: 6)
J. Phoenix – vocals (tracks: 9)
2Pac – vocals (tracks: 9)
Alicia Keys – vocals, producer (tracks: 11)
Lake – vocals (tracks: 12)
Jully Black – vocals (tracks: 14)
Production

Alchemist – producer (tracks: 8, 10, 12, 15)
Eminem – producer (tracks: 2)
Ron Browz – producer (tracks: 4)
Claudio Cueni – producer (tracks: co-produced 9)
Michael Herring – producer (tracks: co-produced 9)
Chucky Thompson – producer (tracks: 11)
Agile – producer (tracks: co-produced 14)
Saukrates – producer (tracks: co-produced 14)
Chris Gehringer – engineer (mastering)
Steve Stoute – exec.
David Belgrave a.k.a. “mr.anderson” – marketing
Chris a.k.a. “Brother Feldmann” – artwork (art direction, design)
James Hunter –artwork (graphic artist)
Jarrett “J-Blood” Demartino – artwork (illustrator)

4. Stillmatic

Studio album by Nas

Released – December 18, 2001
Recorded – 1999-2001
Genre – Hip hop
Length – 56:34
Label – Ill Will, Columbia
CK-85736
Producer – Baby Paul, Chucky Thompson, DJ Premier, Hangmen 3, L.E.S., Large Professor, Lofey, Megahertz Music Group, Mike Risko, Nas, Ron Browz, Salaam Remi, Trackmasters, Precision

Nas chronology

Nastradamus
(1999)Stillmatic

(2001)The Lost Tapes

(2002)
Singles from Stillmatic

“Rule”
Released: October 6, 2001
“Got Ur Self A…”
Released: December 4, 2001
“One Mic”
Released: April 16, 2002

Stillmatic is the fifth studio album by American rapper Nas, released December 18, 2001 on Columbia Records in the United States. In contrast to his previous work’s gangsta rap themes, it contains socially conscious and philosophical themes similar to those of his debut album, Illmatic (1994). Nas’ lyrics address topics such as ghetto life, U.S. domestic and foreign policies, and his feud with rapper Jay-Z.

Stillmatic served as a commercial and critical success that helped re-establish Nas’ career, following a period of critical disappointment with the releases of I Am… and Nastradamus (1999).[1][2] It debuted at number 8 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart with sales of 342,600, eventually peaking at number 5 and selling over 2,026,000 copies in the United States.[3] Upon its release, Stillmatic received generally positive reviews from most music critics.

Background

Having gained critical acclaim with his classic debut album Illmatic in 1994, the image of Nas had been quickly deteriorating in the hip-hop community with his change of theme, from the philosophical topics of Illmatic to the gangsta rap and commercialized sound that became the focus of his latter albums.[4] While his second album, It Was Written, received fairly positive reviews and introduced him to a greater audience, the follow-ups I Am… and Nastradamus were considered mediocre in comparison by critics.[1][4] Some criticized his inability to continue his critical success, with Jay-Z rapping in “Takeover” that he had “a one hot album every ten year average”. The release of Stillmatic was an attempt by Nas to reestablish his credibility in the hip-hop community, with the title signifying his intentions to continue where Illmatic left off.

Feud with Jay-Z

Main article: Jay-Z vs. Nas feud
Jay-Z had previously dissed Nas in his single “Takeover”, taken from his September 2001 release, The Blueprint.[4] On Stillmatic, Nas retaliated with the anticipated song, “Ether”, a response to “Takeover” which insinuated that Jay-Z had stolen lyrics from The Notorious B.I.G. several times, that he had sold out, and that he was a misogynist, among other things. Several hip-hop aficionados believe Nas won the feud based on this track, which many felt was much more vicious and ruthless than “Takeover”, although this is still a subject of debate within hip-hop circles. Jay-Z would respond with the radio freestyle “Supa Ugly”.[5]

Singles

The first single from Stillmatic was “Rule” featuring R&B singer Amerie. It was not heavily promoted but still managed to reach number 67 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.[6] It did not receive a video and was issued on compact disc, so many are unaware that it was a single. “Got Ur Self A…” was believed to have been the first single from Stillmatic. “Got Ur Self A…” contains a sample from the theme song on the HBO drama The Sopranos. The third single was “One Mic”, which received acclaim for its content and video.

Reception

Commercial performance

The album was released on December 11, 2001 and was certified Platinum by Recording Industry Association of America on January 16, 2002.[7] By July 2008, the album sold over 2,026,000 copies in the United States.[3]

Critical response

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic[8]
The A.V. Clubmixed[9]
Blender[10]
Los Angeles Times[11]
NME7/10[12]
PopMattersfavorable[13]
Rolling Stone[1]
The Source[14]
Stylus MagazineA−[15]
The Village Voicefavorable[5]
Stillmatic received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 69, based on 12 reviews.[16] Despite finding its production “half-realised”, Alex Needham of NME wrote that “lyrically, Nas is pretty much back on form”.[12]Blender’s Alex Pappademas described the album as “a surprising return to form” and stated “Even if it’s a fluke, Stillmatic still feels like a ren-Nas-sance”.[10] Steve Jones of USA Today gave it three-and-a-half out of four stars and stated, “dis songs aside, Nas’ strength has always been his incisive lyrical analyses of current events.”[17] In his review for The Village Voice, Selwyn Seyfu Hinds wrote “Stillmatic isn’t merely a reunion or rehash of Illmatic themes. The Nas on this record has grown, with the emotional expansion such maturation suggests. For one, he has never before drawn upon his anger, with a burning focus and controlled intensity that underscores nearly every song. Some of it can surely be ascribed to the Jay-Z battle, but more seems due to the deeper, internal struggle Nas has waged against the fallout from his early, precocious success”.[5]

In contrast, Rolling Stone magazine gave it two-and-a-half out of five stars, and stated “Striving to maintain street cred while reaching for pop success has left Nas vacillating clumsily on past projects, and this record is riddled with similar inconsistencies. One moment he casts himself as a gritty cat who feels most at home on a project bench, calling out neighborhood snakes, and ducking gunshots. The next, he’s delivering dumbed-down verses over the Trackmasters’ rinky-dink rendition of Tears for Fears”.[18] John Bush from Allmusic wrote “Dropping many of the mainstream hooks and featured performers in order to focus his rapping, Nas proves he’s still a world-class rhymer, but he does sound out of touch in the process of defending his honor. Despite the many highlights, a few of the tracks just end up weighing him down”.[8] Brett Berliner from Stylus Magazine remarked “Stillmatic features the best rhymes from Nas since his debut, and possibly the best rhymes of the year, rivaled maybe only by Ghostface Killah”. He however was unfavorable of the album’s guests, and some of its production, and went on to comment “Stillmatic was billed as a recreation of Illmatic, where the only rhyming guest was the underrated AZ. However, 5 other guest rappers appear on the album, including Nas’ crew, the Bravehearts, and the mundane Millennium Thug. The guest rappers only detract from the album, and the guest singers that appear don’t add a whole lot either”.[15]

Despite a mixed response from most mainstream music publications, Stillmatic achieved a fair amount of acclaim from within the hip hop community, who viewed it as a comeback album. The Source magazine gave it ‘5 mics’, a rating they reserve only for classic hip-hop albums.[14] HipHopDx also gave it a maximum five rating, and wrote “Easily one of the best albums of the year, Stillmatic runs the gamut of street poetry to storytelling and bravado. This CD is filled with instant classics”.[19] Although panning several of the album’s songs, Steve Juon from RapReviews gave it a 9 out of 10 rating and concluded “While no album may ever top his debut’s brilliance, this one comes close enough to make even his most passionate haters happy to hear the raw essence of hip-hop revealed in all its true glory”.[20] Giving Stillmatic a three and-a-half out of five rating, Elizabeth Mendez Berry of Vibe was less favorable, calling it “infuriatingly inconsistent”, but she went on to extol it as “an exercise in lyrical courage and musical might”.[21]

In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), Rolling Stone journalist Chris Ryan gave the album three stars and called it “a return to form”.[1] Ryan wrote that it “finds Nas sticking with what works, creative storyraps and trenchant social commentary. He still errs when he makes attempts at club tracks, but the album is largely a success.”[1] In 2005, Chris Rock compiled a list of his Top 25 Hip-Hop Albums of all time, to which he ranked Stillmatic at number 20, commenting “It’s like Mama Said Knock You Out eleven years earlier, where a guy just reclaimed his spot with some great records”.[22]

Legacy

In October 2012 Kendrick Lamar named Stillmatic as one of his 25 favorite albums, citing the track ‘The Flyest’ feat. AZ as a highlight as well as praising Nas for his lyrics and storytelling.[23]

Track listing

No.TitleProducer(s)Length
1.”Stillmatic (The Intro)”  Hangmen 32:11
2.”Ether”  Ron Browz4:37
3.”Got Ur Self A…”  Megahertz3:48
4.”Smokin'”  Nas, Precision3:47
5.”You’re Da Man”  Large Professor3:26
6.”Rewind”  Large Professor2:13
7.”One Mic”  Nas, Chucky Thompson4:28
8.”2nd Childhood”  DJ Premier3:51
9.”Destroy & Rebuild”  Baby Paul, Mike Risko5:24
10.”The Flyest” (feat. AZ)L.E.S.4:38
11.”Braveheart Party” (feat. Mary J. Blige & Bravehearts)Swizz Beatz3:43
12.”Rule” (feat. Amerie)Trackmasters4:32
13.”My Country” (feat. Millennium Thug)Lofey5:12
14.”What Goes Around” (feat. Keon Bryce)Salaam Remi4:59
Bonus Track
No.TitleProducerLength
15.”Every Ghetto” (feat. Blitz)L.E.S.3:28

Notes
The track “Braveheart Party” was removed from later pressings of Stillmatic at Mary J. Blige’s request.[24]
The Japanese release of Stillmatic features three additional tracks: “No Idea’s Original”, “Everybody’s Crazy” and “Black Zombies”. Each can also be found on The Lost Tapes, a 2002 Nas compilation album.
A limited edition version of Stillmatic contains a bonus disc with snippets from five songs on The Lost Tapes.
Samples
“Stillmatic (The Intro)” contains a sample from “Let Me Be Your Angel” by Stacy Lattisaw
“Ether” contains dialogue from “Fuck Friendz” by 2Pac, and gunshot samples from “Knuckleheadz” by Raekwon and “Who Shot Ya?” by The Notorious B.I.G.
“Got Ur Self A…” contains a sample from “Woke Up This Morning” by Alabama 3
“You’re Da Man” contains a sample from “Sugar Man” by Sixto Diaz Rodriguez (sometimes misattributed to DJ David Holmes), “Am Fenster” by the German band City, “Theme from Exodus” by Pat Boone & Ernest Gold
“Rewind” contains a sample from “It’s Yours” by T La Rock, “Monkey Island” by The J. Geils Band, “I’m Not Rough” by The J. Geils Band
“One Mic” contains a sample from “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby” by Barry White
“2nd Childhood” contains a sample from “Born to Love” by Peabo Bryson & Roberta Flack, “Da Bridge 2001” by Nas & Ill Will Records Presents QB’s Finest, “N.Y. State of Mind Pt. II” by Nas
“Destroy & Rebuild” contains an interpolation from “The Bridge is Over” by Boogie Down Productions
“The Flyest” contains a sample from “Night Moves” by Frank McDonald and Chris Rae, “Child of Tomorrow” by Badder Than Evil
“Rule” contains an interpolation from “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears
“Every Ghetto” contains a sample from “Main Title” (The Eiger Sanction) by John Williams
Personnel

Credits for Stillmatic adapted from Allmusic.[25]

Pablo Arraya – assistant engineer
AZ – performer
Baby Paul – producer, instrumentation
Mary J. Blige – performer
Osie Bowe – engineer
Ron Browz – producer
Keon Bryce – vocals (bckgr)
Kevin Crouse – engineer, mixing
Alex Dixon – assistant engineer
DJ Premier – producer, mixing
Chris Feldman – art direction, design
Steve Fisher – assistant engineer
Tameka Foster – stylist
Chris Gehringer – mastering
Malcolm Gold – A&R assistance
Bryan Golder – engineer
Jason Goldstein – mixing
Paul Gregory – assistant engineer
Dustin Jones – executive producer
Will Kennedy – imaging
Large Professor – producer
Nas – performer, producer
Alex Ndione – assistant engineer
Lenny “Linen” Nicholson – A&R
Jake Ninan – assistant engineer
James Porte – engineer
Ismel Ramos – assistant engineer
Salaam Remi – organ, bass, guitar, percussion, drums, producer, Fender rhodes
Mike “Wrekka” Risko – producer, musician
Eddie Sancho – mixing
Chucky Thompson – producer
Sacha Waldman – photography

Red Everything Movement

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