Nas season continues as we look at his second release of 1999 titled 'Nastradamus'. Nas' first 3 albums were all minimum great with 2 masterpieces in there, however many say this is the New York rappers worst album to date. It's definitely no 'Illmatic' or 'It Was Written' or even 'I Am...' - but was it still good?
I don’t think the production is as bad as everyone says, but there are some bad instrumentals, such as on the title track 'Nastradamus' which has this bass which is so messy and a cheap drum pattern he talks on the usual of the hood life and what goes on as well as his lifestyle since fame and flexing his assets with some vivid imagery and slick lyricism, "Hood rats and bullet wound up females // Got babies by hustlers and n****s in jail // Slinging for chips and fiends with burnt finger tips". The melody in the beat is as ugly as the hook is, the verses aren’t actually bad although he doesn’t sound as inspired but the beat and hook ruin this song - the only bad Nas song chronologically of his career at this point, even 'Dr. Knockboot' while having a horrible beat was saved by Nas’ charisma on his verses (I don’t like that song but it’s a 5/10 song so it isn’t bad) – this couldn’t be saved though because Nas didn’t have that same charisma. There’s also some nice beats, like on 'Come Get Me' which has a glossy beat and is a rare occasion of an engaging instrumental. There's some funny and hard bars in here – but the biggest attraction is his shots at Jay-Z, "N****s know what my nine pearl handle's about // Fuck you say girlie mouth? Get it krunk like the Dirty South", as the track see's Nas telling his enemies to come and get him because he knows him and his crew could take them on. Nas feels like he actually wants to rap on this, the loop in the beat is good as well and overall it’s the first real great song on here - the hook’s still pretty mediocre though. The issue is there’s so many beats that don’t sound bad, but just don’t sound good either – they’re forgettable or add nothing to the track, such as on 'God Love Us' which has these hard trumpets in the bass and a twinkling beat as he talks on what goes on in the hood and how evil it is almost, but he knows god will always love them. Once again the whole song is good not great – it's still enjoyable to a degree even if the hook is meh again. It just doesn’t match to Nas’ best work and I can’t put my finger on why, although verse 3 would fit in on any Nas album it’s a great, vivid verse. It does seem the beats are getting worse album by album and it really does dent this album overall. 'Big Girl' has this fast drum pattern and guitar strings and I do actually like this beat as he talks on how this girl has grown up into a woman, and how he wants to have sex and be in a relationship with her – but she already has a man who don’t treat her right. Nas' lyrics are vivid but not too interesting, "Right when you cum, I'm biting your tongue // Make your legs cramp up, you can't stand up", as this song has a horrible hook despite a few catchy elements, a solid flow but he isn’t talking on anything I care about over a pretty nice beat – some redeeming elements but not a good song.
Lyrically Nas is still very strong, he showcases slick lyricism and great braggadocio throughout, as on 'Life We Chose', "Statues, marble floors, rare paintings on my wall // My lifestyle's like the Forbes Magazine // Closets, full of rockets and sub-machines", as the track see's Nas reflect on his success before talking about the deception, violence and all around conditions of the street lifestyle. The beats unattractive, it’s glossy but doesn’t work well together and the hooks just OK. What he’s saying and the way he’s going about it isn’t interesting – though not bad, and it’s an extremely mid track to start things off. He doesn’t really provide storytelling like his previous albums, but the vivid imagery is still there, such as on 'Some of Us Have Angels', "Lookin' at my blessings, the bullets - that missed me coulda hit me // Them court cases coulda put me in the penitentiary // I never hate, that's just wasted energy // The past is gone, the present's a gift, so what's the mystery? // The future - and time only reveals, what fear is // False expectations, appearin' real // We only human, love thy neighbor, so I was told // And I will 'til permanently, my eyes are closed", as verse 1 tells the story of a mans girl who murders him (the ultimate betrayal), and verse 2 talks on a man who follows his dads footsteps and becomes a gangsta. The track represents the never ending cycle they are stuck in living in the hood before verse 3 has Nas reflecting on his past life of what could’ve been and how grateful he is that he moved past that into the position he’s in now. The beats better, these creeping strings over the bass guitar is nice, overall it’s still meh though and again the hook isn’t interesting - but the beat is better than the last few but still not good. The verses are more interesting than the last two songs – still not good but overall it’s decent. There are moments though where I just don’t find his lyricism very interesting or appealing though, as on 'You Owe Me', "Know where you gon' be by the end of the night (End of the night, babe) // Make it bounce, shake it, move it around // Wiggle it a little bit, throw it to the south // Fantasizing me inside and you riding // Throw it like a stallion, you wearing my medallion", which has these swirling synths and drum pattern and is actually pretty catchy, so instrumentally it finishes on a nice end. The track talks on having sex with this girl in exchange for her being allowed to wear his jewelry, as Ginuwine provides amazing vocals on the hook which are so funky and fun and it's a great addition to the song. This song has a catchy hook, unique beat which sounds nice and a great ending to a mixed album – pop rap done right from Nas on this one. The verses aren’t good for Nas’ standards lyrically or thematically - but they sound nice so that’s all I need. He’s still a very good lyricist this album but not at the top of his game lie before, though his flow is still solid but even then his delivery doesn't sound as inspired.
Just like the album the features are mixed, some that don’t add much to the track, as on 'Quiet N****s' which features Bravehearts who all do OK but don't do enough to stand out as the song talks about how quiet people can do the most damage – the verses focus on what they’ll do to their enemies over this fast paced beat, with these hard piano keys and bass guitar sound OK but nothing special. Nas' lyrics are decent but compared to his standards below par as this mean hook sounds good and it’s a rare good hook on the album while again the production doesn’t add to the song and fails to make it standout. Everything about the track is decent at best, and that realistically leaves the song feeling decent – but again, it’s not bad and it’s pretty enjoyable it don’t stand out though. However, the majority are good, and perform well, such as Ronald Isley on 'Project Windows' who has a tang to his vocals, but they sound great on the hook as this song is about Nas looking out his window and describing what goes on in the hood – the drugs, violence, kids lives being wasted. Nas provides great descriptive language and extremely vivid lyrics with this chilling bars over this piano based beat with vocal samples which are nice - it’s actually a really solid and glossy beat. The hook and beat nice for the first time, the verses are solid too but it could go to the next level if Nas gave his performance a bit more inspiration and energy, nevertheless it's a good song just not great. Some are actually a key highlight on here, I enjoy them very much and they keep me coming back to these tracks, like Mobb Deep on 'Family' as Havoc spits a mean hook and Prodigy provides some vivid and hard bars and glides the beat with such a casual delivery over another beat with these dramatic horns and racing bells that just doesn’t do anything – it don’t sound bad it just don’t add to the track. The song gives us another vivid view of the hood and what goes on around them as Nas uses his words like a poet and comes hard with them, "I'm like a dictionary, y'all rappers exam me // You violate, they read your obituary in front your family". Mobb Deep and Nas never miss, it's mean track with slick lyricism from Prodigy and Nas with a great Havoc hook – a key highlight on here.
The usual content of the hood he’s from and hustling from the streets is on here, as on 'Shoot 'Em Up' which is all about shooting people up (as the title suggests), with verse 2 telling a story of Nas meeting a girl up for sex but it being a set up where someone is trying to kill him. He drops graphic lines and really vivid storytelling as per, "My nine on his lips, his fifth on my chin, I start whispering // "Put your gun down, we can skip town" // Rocked him to sleep, pushed back his meat", over these guitar strings which clash with these twinkling bells well - it’s a good beat. This song is weird, but I weirdly like that zany hook and that Christmas song I can’t names flow he’s interpolating is actually pretty entertaining - a great song. He also flexes his ability and assets a lot, as well as taking shots at his enemies. A more recent part of Nas’ music has been taking a random concept and running with it, which is something we saw more on here, like on 'New World' as he talks about the developments in technology and how you have to adapt with the times to stay integrated in society over a sample of 'Africa' by Toto - I love the original song and the sample fits perfectly – it's the best beat of the album and the only standout one. Nas drops some nice lines, thoughtful bars and hard hitting ones too, "African's pick diamonds out a dark caves // Then we wear it on our necks just so we can light up the stage", as this has the best beat and hook on here – it's always going to be my favourite song and it can stand amongst Nas’ best work in my opinion. It's just so smooth and enjoyable. There's still a decent amount of content, it's just not as appealing or cohesive as his first 2 albums and nothing here stands out like on 'Illmatic' or 'It Was Written' thematically. 'Last Words' see's Nas personify a prison cell here and its lack of remorse for who it houses with great, detailed lyrics over this beat which is minimalist - it just doesn’t do anything for me it’s so unimportant. Nashawn talks on shooting people with some vivid lines and poetic imagery, "I'm gonna kill somethin', rap cats be real frontin' // Fuck shootin' legs, cock back put his brains on the pave // N**** how 'bout that, close range with the gauge get payed // First rapper to shoot off stage // Turn the front page the next day, my life is like a book // A twenty four hour song without no hook", but overall is just OK and the hook on this song don't do much for me. Nas’ verse was actually solid and enjoyable to follow along and overall while again not great I think it’s a decent song.
I think Nas’ mic presence and rapping ability is appealing on this album, and it’s about the only consistently appealing thing throughout this album. I wouldn’t say it’s bad, but it’s just mediocre at times and mixed overall with production that isn’t too appealing, as even the better beats on here don’t match 'Illmatic' level – but the beats aren’t horrible overall. The hooks are very hit and miss too, some just sound pretty bad as he tries to harmonise. Overall, to put it simply the music just isn’t as good as hoped for and it comes no way near his past efforts but it's definitely overhated - it isn’t a bad album it’s just not a good album.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Project Windows, Come Get Me, Shoot 'Em Up, Family, God Love Us, New World, You Owe Me
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Nastradamus
OVERALL RATING: Light 6.5/10