Nas, Life Is Good***½RAP
Nearly 20 years after he arrived as a lyrical prodigy, Nasir Jones has grown into one of hip-hop's sage elders sharing hard-earned wisdom.
His 10th album finds the 38-year-old rapper in a reflective though upbeat mood, having navigated the turbulence in recent years of financial troubles and a contentious 2009 divorce from singer Kelis.
Life Is Good is tinged with nostalgia for rap's '90s glory days, which he relives on such tracks as Loco-Motive and Back When, with the help of driving beats from producers No I.D. and Salaam Remi. And he has lost none of his penchant for prickly social commentaries (World's An Addiction featuring Anthony Hamilton) and harrowing street narratives (Accident Murderers featuring Rick Ross).
But the strongest tracks prove to be the ones where he opens up on matters that hit close to home. The closing Bye Baby details the failure of his marriage, which ended just two months ahead of the birth of his son, Knight.
Nas is pictured on the album cover with her green wedding dress (the only thing she left behind). He cops to mistakes on both sides but concludes that it was still worth the effort.
On Daughters, he confesses that his womanizing made him a poor role model for his 17-year-old, whom he'd like to protect from guys like him. Life is full of lessons, and Nas is up for new challenges.
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