When TSL Associate Editor James (Carr) asked me to listen to a new Nas mixtape put together by DJ Petey Cologne and J-Smoke, I had mixed feelings. Amped because I’m already a fan of dude’s work, and if there’s new Nas stuff, I’m all for it. At the same time, I had that deflating feeling. All the hidden remixes and unreleased guest appearances, I mean, I got it on stash already. How much “new” music could actually exist? The songs are constructed as a straight mix, no track listing or anything. Just an hour plus of straight Nas stuff. So what I decided to do was highlight the most interesting moments on the album.
Things start off well with Nas’ verse from the Hi-Tek’s “Music Is For Life.” Great track and he flows over it like spring water, and yet, every time I listen to this joint, I find myself more drawn to the Marsha Ambrosius-delivered hook. She should be a star by now. Her debut album was solid, but wholly unspectacular. I don’t know who her team is and if they know how to maximize her abilities, but she possesses an A-List voice and yet, her music is solidly B-List.
In the first quarter of the release, there are several well-known cuts, each classic in their original versions, but lacking that certain tension here. There’s the joint with Kool G Rap (“Fast Life”), the iconic “One Love,” and Nas’ verse off of “Verbal Intercourse” which, even now, makes your face crunch.
Problem is, these plodding, almost mundane tracks layered over the lyrics are cumbersome. I’m sitting here and I’m just waiting for the next song or at least for the tempo to change. That’s not good.
The highlight for me is a song, that I just call “Good Morning,” that’s been out bubbling in unreleased corridors for years. I’ve never known the actual name of the joint. I haven’t heard it in a minute and certainly never heard it over the Isley Brothers “For The Love Of You.” But dude, this works prestigiously. You know how you listen to a song and 10 seconds in you are already hooked? That’s what happened here.
The album version of “No Man’s Original” is on here, as well. Any true Nas fan already owns this record, so there was no eyebrow-raising here; I didn’t come up, so to speak. Still, this is one of dude’s most underrated joints, a lyrical slugfest off of the “Lost Tapes” album that was recorded during what cartoon dudes like to say was Nas’ “fell off” era. Do the knowledge:
“Long as I’m still breathin’, I’m still winnin, I’ll teach ’em/
The hood converted from trey bags to 20’s a girl/
Everybody had money, every summer was real ill/
Four-finger rings, dope dealers, Kane
“No Half Steppin’” with flat tops when Rakim reigned/
Radios on card tables, Benetton, the Gods building/
Ask for today’s mathematics, we Allah’s children/
And this was goin on in every New York ghetto
kids listened, Five Percenters said it’s pork in Jell-O.”
The rest of the album is good, full of dope material, but again, there isn’t a lot new here. Classics like “I Gave You Power” are too well-known to elicit any kind of next-level response. Real heads already recognize.
At the end of the mix, there’s audio of an interview in which Nas answers the question of who he sees as his successor. The question itself is commonplace, but the answer he gives reveals a lot. Nas’ interviews are notoriously underwhelming, even worse than his live shows, but here he went in talking about how being compared to Rakim and Kool G. Rap annoyed him. He didn’t want to name “the next Nas” and only responded by saying that people shouldn’t be burdened with those kinds of expectations. There’s some real candid stuff and it closes the album nicely. Although, when the best moment of an album is an interview excerpt, you gotta wonder what’s up.