October 20, 2017

Nas - Illmatic (1994)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1994 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Often cited as one of the best hip-hop albums of the '90s, Illmatic is the undisputed classic upon which Nas' reputation rests. It helped spearhead the artistic renaissance of New York hip-hop in the post-Chronic era, leading a return to street aesthetics. Yet even if Illmatic marks the beginning of a shift away from Native Tongues-inspired alternative rap, it's strongly rooted in that sensibility. For one, Nas employs some of the most sophisticated jazz-rap producers around: Q-Tip, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, and Large Professor, who underpin their intricate loops with appropriately tough beats. But more importantly, Nas takes his place as one of hip-hop's greatest street poets -- his rhymes are highly literate, his raps superbly fluid regardless of the size of his vocabulary. He's able to evoke the bleak reality of ghetto life without losing hope or forgetting the good times, which become all the more precious when any day could be your last. As a narrator, he doesn't get too caught up in the darker side of life -- he's simply describing what he sees in the world around him, and trying to live it up while he can. He's thoughtful but ambitious, announcing on "N.Y. State of Mind" that "I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death," and that he's "out for dead presidents to represent me" on "The World Is Yours." Elsewhere, he flexes his storytelling muscles on the classic cuts "Life's a Bitch" and "One Love," the latter a detailed report to a close friend in prison about how allegiances within their group have shifted. Hip-hop fans accustomed to 73-minute opuses sometimes complain about Illmatic's brevity, but even if it leaves you wanting more, it's also one of the few '90s rap albums with absolutely no wasted space. Illmatic reveals a great lyricist in top form meeting great production, and it remains a perennial favorite among serious hip-hop fans.

tags: nas, illmatic, 1994, flac,

Nas - Life Is Good (Deluxe Edition) (2012)

*Contains 4 bonus tracks. 18 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2012 Def Jam Records
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
That's Nas' ex-wife Kelis' wedding dress on the cover: she's a fellow recording artist, the two have a kid together, and she wasn't consulted about the album cover or the album itself. Life Is Good is that kind of album, and for the moment, Nas is that kind of guy. He may have recorded some game-changing albums early on, and his recent collaboration with Damian Marley, Distant Relatives, was vital as well, but this puff-chested bitch session is a completely different animal, coming off as Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear, although this one prefers playing to radio over playing it as landmark disc, and prefers swaggering over staying on topic. Know that he's willing to take all the credit for his own Illmatic here, too, boasting that he's the best in the game before shooting insults at easy targets and his ex-wife/father-of-his-children, who never should have left because as "Roses" states, "I'm an ass magnet." This trashing without rebuttal is worth arguing about, and snarky and vicious aren't admirable qualities, so the best way to approach this unfiltered carpet bombing of love and marriage is thinking about how heartbreak can make a man go cold (808s & Heartbreak) or in this case, irresponsibly start fires. Well-funded fires, too, as Swizz Beatz's "On to the Next One" soundalike "Summer On Smash" gives Nas a bona fide club killer, and when it comes to headlines, that's the late Amy Winehouse on "Cherry Wine" in one of her last recordings -- on a track as intoxicating as its namesake. Don't let that vicious guy on the cover know that a woman also assists on the album's other truly rich moment, with Mary J. Blige in top form on "Reach Out," while Rick Ross winds up the album's top thug thanks to "Accident Murderers," a majestic street track with No I.D. on production and a reference to Illmatic's Jerome character, even when bringing that one up is sticky, seeing as Life Is Good isn't even in the same ballpark. Still, Nas doesn't seem to care, putting a Jim Jones-styled blast of boss talk called "Nasty" on the same album he pulls the heartstrings on with the well-written personal number "Daughters," but he sells it all, delivering everything here as if its classic status was assured and will never fall into an embarrassment trap, as long as the cover art isn't brought into the debate. If the game needed Illmatic, this is the one Nas needed to get out of his system, acting as a clearinghouse for all venom and bile, plus some gloss that doesn't fit but needed to go as well.

tags: nas, life is good, deluxe edition, 2012, flac,

Nas - Stillmatic (2001)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2001 Columbia/Ill Will Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Back on the hardcore block and with plenty to prove after two years without a record under his own name, Nas designed Stillmatic as a response: to the rap cognoscenti who thought he'd become a relic, and most of all to Jay-Z, the East Coast kingpin who wounded his pride and largely replaced him as the best rapper in hip-hop. The saga started back in the summer of 2001 with the mixtape "Stillmatic," Nas' answer track to an on-stage dis by Jay-Z. A few months after Jay-Z countered with the devastating "Takeover," Nas dropped the comeback single "Ether" and the full album Stillmatic; tellingly, Jay-Z had already released his response to "Ether" (titled "Super Ugly") before Stillmatic even came out. 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. "Ether" relies on a deep-throat vocal repeating the phrase, "F*ck Jay-Z," while "You're da Man" hits the heights of arrogance with a looped vocal sample repeating the title over and over. "Destroy & Rebuild" is a solid defense of his Queensbridge home, and "Got Ur Self A..." is an outstanding track, the best here, complete with chant-along chorus. Despite the many highlights, a few of these tracks (most were produced by either Large Professor or Nas himself) just end up weighing him down: "Smokin'," one of the worst, is an odd G-funk track that would've sounded dated years before its release. Stillmatic certainly isn't as commercial as past Nas output, but it places him squarely behind the times. Facts are facts: he's not the best rapper in the business anymore.

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Queen - A Day At The Races (1976)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Rock
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© 1976-1986 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
In every sense, A Day at the Races is an unapologetic sequel to A Night at the Opera, the 1975 breakthrough that established Queen as rock & roll royalty. The band never attempts to hide that the record is a sequel -- the two albums boast the same variation on the same cover art, the titles are both taken from old Marx Brothers films and serve as counterpoints to each other. But even though the two albums look the same, they don't quite sound the same, A Day at the Races is a bit tighter than its predecessor, yet tighter doesn't necessarily mean better for a band as extravagant as Queen. One of the great things about A Night at the Opera is that the lingering elements of early Queen -- the pastoral folk of "39," the metallic menace of "Death on Two Legs" -- dovetailed with an indulgence of camp and a truly, well, operatic scale. Here, the eccentricities are trimmed back somewhat -- they still bubble up on "The Millionaire Waltz," an example of the music hall pop that dominated Night, the pro-Native American saga "White Man" is undercut somewhat by the cowboys 'n' indians rhythms -- in favor of a driving, purposeful hard rock that still could have some slyly hidden perversities (or in the case of the opening "Tie Your Mother Down," some not-so-hidden perversity) but this is exquisitely detailed hard rock, dense with minutiae but never lush or fussy. In a sense, it could even function as the bridge between Sheer Heart Attack and Night at the Opera -- it's every bit as hard as the former and nearly as florid as the latter -- but its sleek, streamlined finish is the biggest indication that Queen has entered a new phase, where they're globe-conquering titans instead of underdogs on the make.

tags: queen, a day at the races, 1976, flac,

Queen - A Night At The Opera (1975)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Rock, Progressive Rock
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© 1975-1986 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
In every sense, A Day at the Races is an unapologetic sequel to A Night at the Opera, the 1975 breakthrough that established Queen as rock & roll royalty. The band never attempts to hide that the record is a sequel -- the two albums boast the same variation on the same cover art, the titles are both taken from old Marx Brothers films and serve as counterpoints to each other. But even though the two albums look the same, they don't quite sound the same, A Day at the Races is a bit tighter than its predecessor, yet tighter doesn't necessarily mean better for a band as extravagant as Queen. One of the great things about A Night at the Opera is that the lingering elements of early Queen -- the pastoral folk of "39," the metallic menace of "Death on Two Legs" -- dovetailed with an indulgence of camp and a truly, well, operatic scale. Here, the eccentricities are trimmed back somewhat -- they still bubble up on "The Millionaire Waltz," an example of the music hall pop that dominated Night, the pro-Native American saga "White Man" is undercut somewhat by the cowboys 'n' indians rhythms -- in favor of a driving, purposeful hard rock that still could have some slyly hidden perversities (or in the case of the opening "Tie Your Mother Down," some not-so-hidden perversity) but this is exquisitely detailed hard rock, dense with minutiae but never lush or fussy. In a sense, it could even function as the bridge between Sheer Heart Attack and Night at the Opera -- it's every bit as hard as the former and nearly as florid as the latter -- but its sleek, streamlined finish is the biggest indication that Queen has entered a new phase, where they're globe-conquering titans instead of underdogs on the make.

tags: queen, a night at the opera, 1975, flac,

Queen - News of The World (1977)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Rock
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© 1977-1986 EMI Records
Review by AllMusic.com
If Day at the Races was a sleek, streamlined album, its 1977 successor, News of the World, was its polar opposite, an explosion of styles that didn't seem to hold to any particular center. It's front-loaded with two of Queen's biggest anthems -- the stomping, stadium-filling chant "We Will Rock You" and its triumphant companion, "We Are the Champions" -- which are quickly followed by the ferocious "Sheer Heart Attack," a frenzied rocker that hits harder than anything on the album that shares its name (a remarkable achievement in itself). Three songs, three quick shifts in mood, but that's hardly the end of it. As the News rolls on, you're treated to the arch, campy crooning of "My Melancholy Blues," a shticky blues shuffle in "Sleeping on the Sidewalk," and breezy Latin rhythms on "Who Needs You." Then there's the neo-disco of "Fight from the Inside," which is eclipsed by the mechanical funk of "Get Down, Make Love," a dirty grind that's stripped of sensuality. That cold streak on "Get Down, Make Love" runs through the album as a whole. Despite the explosion of sounds and rhythms, this album doesn't add up to party thanks to that slightly distancing chilly vibe that hangs over the album. Nevertheless, many of these songs work well on their own as entities, so there is plenty to savor here, especially from Brian May. Whether he's doing the strangely subdued eccentric English pop "All Dead, All Dead" or especially the majestic yet nimble rocker "It's Late," he turns in work that gives this album some lightness, which it needs. And that's the reason News of the World was a monster hit despite its coldness -- when it works, it's massive, earth-shaking rock & roll, the sound of a band beginning to revel in its superstardom.

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Queen - Queen (1973)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Rock
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© 1973-1986 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Like any patchy but promising debut from a classic rock group, it's often easy to underrate Queen's eponymous 1973 debut, since it has no more than one well-known anthem and plays more like a collection of ideas than a cohesive album. But what ideas! Almost every one of Queen's signatures are already present, from Freddie Mercury's operatic harmonies to Brian May's rich, orchestral guitar overdubs and the suite-like structures of "Great King Rat." That rich, florid feel could be characterized as glam, but even in these early days that appellation didn't quite fit Queen, since they were at once too heavy and arty to be glam and -- ironically enough, considering their legendary excess -- they were hardly trashy enough to be glam. But that only speaks to the originality of Queen: they may have traded in mystical sword 'n' sorcerers themes like so many '70s prog bands, and they may have hit as hard as Led Zeppelin (and Jimmy Page's guitar army certainly was a forefather to May's overdubs), but they didn't sound like anybody else, they were too odd in their theatricality to be mistaken for another band. That much was apparent on this debut, but one thing was crucially missing: songs that could coalesce their sound and present it in a memorable fashion. There is an exception to that rule -- the wild, rampaging opener "Keep Yourself Alive," one of their very best songs -- but too often the album plays like a succession of ideas instead of succinct songs, and the group's predilection for suites only highlights this, despite the occasional blast of fury like "Modern Times Rock & Roll." This can be quite appealing as sheer, visceral sound and, in that regard, Queen is kind of irresistible. It showcases the band in all their ornate splendor yet it's strangely lean and hard, revealing just how good the band was in their early days as a hard rock band. That might not quite make it an overlooked gem -- it remains patchy on a song for song basis -- but it sure makes for an interesting debut that provides a rough road map to their later work.

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Queen - Sheer Heart Attack (1974)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Rock
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© 1974-1986 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Queen II was a breakthrough in terms of power and ambition, but Queen's third album Sheer Heart Attack was where the band started to gel. It followed quickly on the heels of the second record -- just by a matter of months; it was the second album they released in 1974 -- but it feels like it had a longer incubation period, so great is the progress here. Which isn't quite to say that Sheer Heart Attack is flawless -- it still has a tendency to meander, sometimes within a song itself, as when the killer opening "Brighton Rock" suddenly veers into long stretches of Brian May solo guitar -- but all these detours do not distract from the overall album, they're in many ways the key to the record itself: it's the sound of Queen stretching their wings as they learn how to soar to the clouds. There's a genuine excitement in hearing all the elements to Queen's sound fall into place here, as the music grows grander and catchier without sacrificing their brutal, hard attack. One of the great strengths of the album is how all four members find their voices as songwriters, penning hooks that are big, bold, and insistent and crafting them in songs that work as cohesive entities instead of flourishes of ideas. This is evident not just in "Killer Queen" -- the first, best flourishing of Freddie Mercury's vaudevillian camp -- but also on the pummeling "Stone Cold Crazy," a frenzied piece of jagged metal that's all the more exciting because it has a real melodic hook. Those hooks are threaded throughout the record, on both the ballads and the other rockers, but it isn't just that this is poppier, it's that they're able to execute their drama with flair and style. There are still references to mystical worlds ("Lily of the Valley," "In the Lap of Gods") but the fantasy does not overwhelm as it did on the first two records; the theatricality is now wielded on everyday affairs, which ironically makes them sound larger than life. And this sense of scale, combined with the heavy guitars, pop hooks, and theatrical style, marks the true unveiling of Queen, making Sheer Heart Attack as the moment where they truly came into their own.

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Queen - Queen II (1974)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Rock
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© 1974-1986 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
In one regard, Queen II does indeed provide more of the same thing as on the band's debut. Certainly, of all the other albums in Queen's catalog it bears the closest resemblance to its immediate predecessor, particularly in its lean, hard attack and in how it has only one song that is well-known to listeners outside of their hardcore cult: in this case, it's "Seven Seas of Rhye," which is itself more elliptical than "Keep Yourself Alive," the big song from the debut. But these similarities are superficial and Queen II is a very different beast than its predecessor, an album that is richer, darker, and weirder, an album that finds Queen growing as a band by leaps and bounds. There is still a surplus of ideas, but their energies are better focused this time around, channeled into a over-inflated, pompous rock that could be called prog if it wasn't so heavy. Even with all the queens and ogres that populate Queen II, this never feels as fantastical as Genesis or Uriah Heep, and that's because Queen hits hard as a rock band here, where even the blasts of vocal harmonies feel like power chords, no matter how florid they are. Besides, these grandiose harmonies, along with the handful of wistful ballads here, are overshadowed by the onslaught of guitars and pummeling rhythms that give Queen II majesty and menace. Queen is coiled, tense, and vicious here, delivering on their inherent sense of drama, and that gives Queen II real power as music, as well as a true cohesion. The one thing that is missing is any semblance of a pop sensibility, even when they flirt with a mock Phil Spector production on "Funny How Love Is." This hits like heavy metal but has an art-rock sensibility through and through, which also means that it has no true hook in for those who don't want to succumb to Queen's world. But that kind of insular drama is quite alluring in its own right, which is why Queen II is one of the favorites of their hardcore fans. At the very least, it illustrates that Queen is starting to pull all their ambitions and influences into a signature sound, and it's quite powerful in that regard.

tags: queen, queen 2, queen ii, 1974, flac,

October 17, 2017

Jazz Two - Mínimo (2002) ☠

*Se incluye una foto del disco en el archivo (A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file)

Country: Spain
Language: Spanish (Castellano)
Genre: Hip-Hop
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☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 2002 EuroStudio 17
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch The Throne (2011)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2011 Roc-A-Fella Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
An audacious spectacle of vacuous pomposity as well as one of tremendous lyrical depth, Watch the Throne is a densely packed amalgamation of what Jay-Z has termed “ignorant shit” and “thought-provoking shit,” with creative productions that are both top of the line and supremely baffling. Its best moments are among the most vital rap music released in 2011. Its worst moments sound like resuscitated discards from Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The lowest point is “Lift Off,” a bombastic mess; West’s stillborn, sung vocal clashes against a triumphant hook from Beyoncé, while the behind-the-scenes cast, including West, Jeff Bhasker, Mike Dean, Q-Tip, Pharrell, Don Jazzy, and the duo LMFAO, overcook a regal and rugged, yet ultimately muddled, production -- one that also features the voices of Seal and Mr. Hudson. All of the highlight tracks come with caveats. On “New Day,” West and Jay-Z address their unborn sons in equally somber and pointed ways, yet there’s a distracting vocal flutter throughout -- to be specific, Nina Simone's version of “Feeling Good” chucked through Auto-Tune. (So much for "D.O.A.") The anthemic “That’s My Bitch” rides on rampaging drums, using two of the most common breaks to fresh effect, and effectively incorporates the wildly dissimilar voices of La Roux's Elly Jackson and Bon Iver/Justin Vernon (the latter of which is made to sound like that of the Gap Band's Charlie Wilson), but the b-word from the mouth of a 41 year-old is as awkward as a throwback on someone of the same age. Kanye’s autobiographical, rise-to-fame verses in the solemn “Made in America” are among his most riveting to date, yet the effect is nearly squashed when he stoops to reference a cartoon that mocked him in 2009. The album contains piles of quotables and some of the fieriest pro-black content in decades. The latter, particularly concentrated during the album’s back half -- where the word “black” is used almost as often as it is in Euripides Smalls’ “I’m Black, Y’all” -- should not be lost amid the album’s ruthless flaunting of material wealth and carte blanche industry resources.

tags: jay z and kanye west, watch the throne, 2011, jay-z, flac,

Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3 (2009)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2009 Roc Nation
AllMusic Review by John Bush
When Jay-Z first made a series out of his best album, 2001's The Blueprint, it became a game of high expectations. The Blueprint of the first volume was Jay-Z as vital as he'd ever been, storming back to the hardcore after a few years of commercial success. The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse was a complete turn, a set of half-cocked crossovers, bloated to bursting with guest features that obscured his talents. The Blueprint 3 is somewhere between the two, closer to the vitality and energy of the original but not without the crossover bids and guest features of the latter (albeit much better this time). Kanye West is in the producer's chair for seven tracks, and it's clear he was reaching for the same energy level as the original Blueprint (which he produced). "What We Talkin' About" begins the album with a wave of surging, oppressive synth, while Jay-Z enumerates (with an intriguing lack of detail) what he's said and what's been said about him, ending with a nod not to the past but the future (and Barack Obama). West also produced the second, "Thank You," and while it starts with typical Jay-Hova brio, the last verse piles on the unrelenting criticism of unnamed rappers doomed to weak sales. There's plenty more lyrical violence to come, but most of the targets are much safer than they were eight years earlier. (Jay doesn't sound very convincing when he claims in "D.O.A. [Death of Auto-Tune]" that it's not "politically correct" to rail against one of the most reviled trends in pop music during the 2000s.) From there, he branches out with a calculating type of finesse, drawing in certain demographics via a roster of guests, from Young Jeezy (hardcore) to Drake (teens) to Kid Cudi (the backpacker crowd). The king of the crossovers here is "Empire State of Mind," a New York flag-waver with plenty of landmark name-dropping that turns into a great anthem with help on the chorus from Alicia Keys. The Blueprint 3 isn't a one-man tour de force like the first. Jay is upstaged once or twice by his guests, and while the productions are stellar throughout -- Timbaland appears three times, and No I.D. gets multiple credits also -- it's clear there's less on Jay's mind this time. Not tuned out like on Kingdom Come, but more content with his dominance as a rap godfather in 2009.

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Jay-Z - The Black Album (2003)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2003 Roc-A-Fella Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
If The Black Album is Jay-Z's last, as he publicly stated it will be, it illustrates an artist going out in top form. For years Shawn Carter has been the best rapper and the most popular, a man who can strut the player lifestyle with one track and become the eloquent hip-hop everyman with the next, an artist for whom modesty is often a sin, and yet, one who still sounds sincere when he's discussing his humble origins or his recurring doubts. After the immediate classic The Blueprint found him at the peak of his powers, and The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse came as the most deflating sequel since Star Wars: Episode I, his follow-up (and possible siren song) impresses on the same level as the best of his career. As he has in the past, Jay-Z balances the boasting with extensive meditations on his life and his career. The back history begins with the first song, "December 4" (his birthday), on which Carter traces his life from birth day to present day, riding a mock fanfare and the heart-tugging strings of producer Just Blaze, along with frequent remembrances from his mother in This Is Your Life fashion. The other top track, "What More Can I Say," opens with Russell Crowe's defiant "Are you not entertained!?" speech from Gladiator, then finds Jay-Z capping his career with another proof that he's one of the best of all time, and a look into what made him that way: "God forgive me for my brash delivery, but I remember vividly what these streets did to me." He also goes out with a few words for underground fans who think he's sold too many records for his own good. On "Moment of Clarity," he lays it out with an excellent rhyme: "If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be lyrically Talib Kweli/Truthfully I want to rhyme like Common Sense/But I did five mil, I ain't been rhyming like Common since." The first single, "Change Clothes," is much more interesting than the lightweight club hit it sounds like, a keyboard-heavy pop sequel to the Neptunes' "Frontin'" (the anthem that rocked the summer of 2003, and his last collaboration with professional beat-maker and amateurish falsetto Pharrell Williams). And he can rock with the best as well, working with Rick Rubin on a cowbell-heavy stormer named "99 Problems" that samples Billy Squier and outrocks Kid Rock. The only issue that's puzzling about The Black Album is why one of the best rappers needs to say goodbye -- unless, of course, he's simply afraid of being taken for granted and wants listeners to imagine a rap world without him.

tags: jay-z, jay z, the black album, 2003, flac,

Nas - I Am... (1999)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
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© 1999 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by M.F. DiBella
I Am... is the third album and fourth stage in the evolution of Queensbridge's living legend Nasir Jones, from Nasty Nas to Nas to Nas Escobar to Nastradamus, the soothsaying mega-thug poet. This third installment is an introspective work from one of hip-hop's made men. Always billed as a hip-hop messiah, Nas rose through the ranks of hip-hop on the strength of powerful poetry. Contrary to the album's title, the scope of the work extends beyond the autobiography as Nas takes on politics, the state of hip-hop, Y2K, race, and religion with his own unique perspective. While Illmatic was Nas at his rawest and It Was Written was Nas' attempt to reconcile his underground leanings with his newfound fame, acclaim, and wealth, the Nas of I Am... is honest about his elevated status yet still feels the tension of no longer being ravenous on the mic. Musically, I Am is somewhat unimaginative by Nas' stratospheric standards. Tried and true producers, the Trackmasters stamp the album with their signature catchy grooves and samples, but some of these tracks lack the sonic depth to do justice to the prophecies of the pharaoh, Nas. Superproducer Premier comes to save the day on two outstanding tracks: "NY State of Mind, Pt. II" and "Nas Is Like." These two cuts are nothing short of Illmatic perfection. "Nas Is Like"'s symphonic composition is the perfect complement for an MC of Nas' supreme vocal quality and precise lyrics. Despite some of the blandness on the production end, Nas still shines as the old soul storyteller and crime rhyme chronicler on cuts like "We Will Survive," a dirge for fallen rappers. Nas also experiments stylistically on "Big Things," sporting a Midwest cadence, and on "You Won't See Me Tonight," a Timbaland-produced duet with R&B songstress Aaliyah.

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Nas - God's Son (2002)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2002 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
God's Son is an emotional album, imbued with recent experiences in Nas' personal life, particularly his bout with Jay-Z and the unfortunate death of his mother, Ann Jones. These experiences had challenged the self-reappointed King of New York, attacking both his street status and his heart, and he in turn looked within, embracing both his craft and his spirit. Brazenly declaring himself God's Son, in tribute partly to his mother's legacy as well as his own increasingly Jesus-like one, Nas emerged from his experiences wiser, stronger, and holier than ever, less engaged by the material world than the inner one, less interested in flossing than teaching, and less obsessed with his riches than his soul. And his soul he bares nakedly; profusely personal, Nas' lyrical divulgence is sometimes even startling: "Last Real Nigga Alive" name-drops Biggie, Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, and other '90s-era rappers; "Hey Nas" reflects on recent failed relationships with women; "Dance" is an ode to his mother; and "Heaven" questions spirituality. As usual, there's a street-rallying leadoff single here, "Made You Look," that announces Nas' periodic return with fury and bombast. Salaam Remi produces the Marley Marl-fashioned track and lays down similarly inventive beats on four others. He's joined by many of the other producers who had worked on Stillmatic a year earlier: Chucky Thompson, Ron Browz, and the Alchemist, all of whom deliver harsh tracks without pop gimmickry. In addition, God's Son includes three noteworthy collaborations: Nas and 2Pac trade gentle verses on "Thugz Mansion," Alicia Keys contributes the production and hook to "Warrior Song," and Eminem produces "The Cross." Throughout it all, God's Son plays like an album. The playing time is reasonable, clocking in at under an hour; the song selection is diverse, no two tracks resembling one another; and the themes are interwoven, giving the album a narrative sense. God's Son isn't quite the masterpiece it could be -- mostly because Nas is so self-involved, sometimes seemingly intoxicated by his kingliness -- but it's surely one of the more remarkable albums of the Queensbridge rapper's highlight-filled career.

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Nas - Nastradamus (1999)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
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© 1999 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Keith Farley
From boy to man to king to prophet, Nas re-emerged six months after his third album with Nastradamus, a pre-millennial statement touching on the future, spirituality, and family -- issues that Nas has broached before, though never with this much devotion. It could have been an intriguing concept album, but Nastradamus is continually compromised by tracks that don't contribute to the theme. For every emotional track like "Some of Us Have Angels" or "God Love Us," there are the same old street-life anthems you'd expect to hear, like "Shoot 'Em Up," "Come Get Me," or "You Owe Me." They sound OK (thanks to production from L.E.S., DJ Premier, and Timbaland), but the result is yet another drawn-out hip-hop album that wanders aimlessly and never really says anything. Nas' rapping is superb as usual, but for the most part it's a wasted effort.

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Nas - Untitled (2008)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2008 Def Jam/The Jones Experience
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Never averse to getting the pants of others in a twist, Nas said in 2006 that what developed into this self-titled album was, at the time, titled the six-letter version of the "N" word. The following year, the NAACP buried the five-letter version (along with each variant, as the obituary states) at a Detroit ceremony, replete with a horse-drawn carriage, a casket, and the presence of "hip-hop legend Curtis Blow" [sic], according to the NAACP press release. Whether it is believed that the word was truly placed six feet deep or merely swept beneath the proverbial rug, the word, regardless of its last syllable or the context in which it is placed, still carries a lot of power. Millions of Def Jam marketing dollars could not have ensured as bright a spotlight on their artist. All he had to do was mention the one word as an album title. And from that moment until the album's release, through each leaked track, mixtape, and article tracking the status of the album, more attention was paid to the MC's moves than in the recent past. An album with a proposed title of, say, East Coasta Nastra, would not have been anticipated with nearly as much scrutiny or speculation.
Nas uses the "N" word as a mere jumping-off point for his self-titled album, its initial title and final content even more closely related than the title and content of Hip Hop Is Dead. It's his most purposeful album; nearly every verse goes beyond talking trash and recalling exploits to address the change of title, the "N" word, race relations, stereotypes, the long arms and legs of Fox, love for his people and country, and the United States from slave ships through the possibility of a black president. It carries a stern lyrical focus all the way through, including the radio-aimed/Polow-produced anthem "Hero" ("If Nas can't say it, think about these talented kids with new ideas being told what they can and can't spit"), the gleaming "Make the World Go Round" (where a proud Nas, clearly reaching out to a younger crowd, refers to the featured Chris Brown as "the young Mike Jackson"), and the appropriately greasy "Fried Chicken" (a cunning track in which Nas and Busta Rhymes seem to embrace and parody dietary and sexual stereotypes at once). There is as much content here to absorb, to think about, discuss, and debate, as there is within Ice Cube's Death Certificate or anything by Public Enemy or BDP. While it is not a feast from a production standpoint -- the album is not bound to silence those who contend that Nas is not the best selector of beats -- it doesn't have the hastily slapped-together flow of Street's Disciple or Hip Hop Is Dead. A couple tracks might sonically resemble inferior versions of years-old tracks that helped make Nas a hip-hop deity and, nearly ten years after Nas was first accused of selling out, he might still sound a little awkward over radio-friendly productions. But the MC has never made an album as engrossing or as necessary as this one.

tags: nas, untitled, 2008, flac,

Nas - Hip-Hop Is Dead (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2006 Def Jam Records
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown
Hip Hop Is Dead is not Illmatic. Illmatic stands as one of the most impressive debuts in rap music, and consequently has set up inevitable, and often unfavorable, comparisons with each of Nas' subsequent releases. And so it is practically a given that the two albums in fact do not compare, that the beats, the rhymes, the insight, the flow Mr. Jones had on Illmatic have not been duplicated here, and in all honestly, probably never will. Nas himself seems aware of this -- though he would never admit it -- as throughout the record he references the MCs, the producers, the DJs who made the music what it was and what it is today, many of whom were releasing material in the early '90s, when Nas first made a mark. He himself is one of them.
The statement that "hip hop is dead" is clearly meant to be controversial, and was, as rappers and rap fans alike exploded into debate after Nas declared it to be the title of his next album. But it's also a statement that the MC doesn't completely adhere to. He flip-flops between declaring that it has already gone, to warning of its imminent departure, to promising "to carry on tradition," to resurrecting it. But these inconsistencies don't come from contradictions in Nas' beliefs; rather, they stem from the fact that his biggest problem with hip-hop has nothing to do with current talent, but what hip-hop itself has become -- how it's magnified from an art form, from a way the ghetto expressed itself, into a commercialized, corporate entity that Nas himself is part of, something about which he feels more than a little guilty. This is most openly addressed on "Black Republican," which appropriately features an equally guilty (in terms of both improving and commercializing rap music) Jay-Z, who spits out better lines than anything he did on Kingdom Come. The track, which ingeniously samples "Marcia Religiosa" from The Godfather II (a film that, in many ways, parallels Nas' ideas about hip-hop as it deals with the dark side of making money and the problems that befall an overly zealous pursuit of the always crafty American Dream), finds both MCs lamenting the state of the genre while also acknowledging their own participation -- and enjoyment -- of what it's given them. "Black Republican" is an understanding and admittance of hypocrisy, and this sentiment continues in "Not Going Back" and "Carry on Tradition," the latter in which Nas rhymes, "We used to be a ghetto secret/Can't make my mind up if I want that/Or the whole world to peep it." Nas enjoys the fame, but he also realizes that it has hurt the very thing he loves most, his "first wifey."
Yet Mr. Jones is not completely blaming himself for hip-hop's demise. In fact, he gives more of that responsibility to those who don't respect it, who don't know its originators, and he takes stabs at them more than at himself (he did release Illmatic, after all). He's also willing to ease up on his criticism and rhyme in more general terms, although it is these tracks (specifically "Still Dreaming" and "Hold Down the Block," but much of the second half of the album as well) on which he loses some of the intensity and intelligence that he displayed earlier in the record. Still, he's able to regain his strength by the end, bringing together the East and West Coast on the Dre-produced "Hustlers," which features a great verse from the Game about trying to decide between buying Illmatic or The Chronic and being the "only Compton ni**a with a New York state of mind." Nas finishes up Hip Hop Is Dead with the spoken word piece "Hope," which, despite its seeming simplicity, shows off his indelible flow, how he raps as easily as he talks. Consciously or not, listeners are reminded that there's a reason he was the one who made Illmatic, and why it, and therefore Nas himself, will continue to be held in high esteem.

tags: nas, hip hop is dead, hip-hop, 2006, flac,

Nas - Street's Disciple (2004)

*Contains 2 C.D.'s
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2004 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
Ten years deep in the rap game, Nas unveiled Street's Disciple, an indulgent album that sprawls across two discs, freewheeling through a dizzying array of ace productions and thoughtful raps. The album is very much a continuation of its predecessor, God's Son: both helmed primarily by producers Salaam Remi and Chucky Thompson, both uncompromising personal statements that make few concessions to the pop market, and both undoubtedly fascinating, if overindulgent. The difference is, Street's Disciple goes a step further, indulging all the more in the creative whims of Nas. And, with the exception of some first-disc throwaways, the result is nothing short of astounding, especially if you've followed Nas over the course of his first decade. Catchy hooks are few and far between here, granted, with most of the songs crafted as if they were freestyle raps. This works, though, because Nas benefits from outstanding productions, a peerless rap style, and an interesting back-story. The 25 productions here are all courtesy of longtime Nas collaborators Salaam Remi, Chucky Thompson, and L.E.S., with only a couple exceptions (Nas produces a couple himself). These guys know Nas better than anyone, and they deliver the goods: hardcore beats for the streets, usually laced with an inventive sample for a hook effect. These riffs offer Nas ample room to let loose, and he does precisely that on one track after another, often touching upon a specific theme yet doing so in a loose, free-associative manner that highlights his talent for wordplay and storytelling. Within his raps, Nas often mines his own past, present, and future: for instance, he touches upon his heritage ("Bridging the Gap"), his impending marriage ("Getting Married"), his eventual death ("Live Now"), his influences ("U.B.R."), his most memorable female conquests ("Remember the Times"). All of this amounts to a lavish album sure to dazzle true hip-hop heads, who will find much to admire and study here, from the especially deep and twisted raps to the sample-rich productions. On the other hand, all of this also amounts to an album that might prove somewhat impenetrable to those who aren't already attuned to the legacy of Nas. Either way, Street's Disciple is another key album in that ongoing legacy, further evidence that Nas is back on track after falling off during the late '90s with I Am and Nastradamus. It's not a perfect album -- it's far too indulgent for that -- and would have been stronger as a single disc, but its ambitious sprawl makes for a powerful statement that Nas disciples will surely savor.

tags: nas, streets disciple, street's, 2004, flac,

Nas - It Was Written (1996)

*A photo of the disc included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1996 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Leo Stanley
For his second album, It Was Written, Nas hired a bunch of hip-hop's biggest producers -- including Dr. Dre, DJ Premier, Stretch, and Trackmasters -- to help him create the musical bed for his daring, groundbreaking rhymes. Although that rhyme style isn't as startling on It Was Written as it was on his debut, Illmatic, Nas has deepened his talents, creating a complex series of rhymes that not only flow, but manage to tell coherent stories as well. Furthermore, Nas often concentrates on creating vignettes about life in the ghetto that never are apolitical or ambivalent. This time around, the production is more detailed and elaborate, which gives the music a wider appeal. Sometimes this is a detriment -- Nas sounds better when he tries to keep it street-level -- but usually, his lyrical force cuts through the commercial sheen. Combined with the spare but deep grooves, his rhymes have a resonance unmatched by most of his mid-'90s contemporaries. Because, no matter how deep his lyrics are, his grooves are just as deep and those bottomless funk and spare beats are what make It Was Written so compulsively listenable.

tags: nas, it was written, 1996, flac,