Nas comes back with unreleased song collection on Tapes

NAS
The Lost Tapes
Columbia

“Hate it or love it, like it, bump it or dump it,” is one of the first lines Nas kicks on “Purple,” the only new track off his new album, The Lost Tapes. This line probably best describes Nas’ music over the years.

The man who created Illmatic in 1994 hasn’t ever been able to capture the same feeling or level of music genius that he showed on his debut. Hence Nas has borne the brunt of many scorching reviews and digs from critics over the years. Many had hoped Nas would bring back the Nasty Nas of Illmatic and lose his alter ego, Nas Escobar (whom he created on his second attempt, It Was Written). Esco was a gangster rapper who wasn’t about the New York streets; he was about living large with cars, women and money. Although It Was Written was not a bad album, the message conveyed through his rhymes left fans unsatisfied.

Many people fail to remember Nas was really the first artist to be affected by the nowadays-ever-familiar Internet piracy problem. Nas had made an album called I Am, and the buzz suggested it was going to be a double album. The success of The Notorious BIG’s from beyond the grave double album Life After Death was most likely an influence to this project. Little did Nas or Columbia records know there was a new phenomenon on the rise: burnt CDs. In the fall of 1998 and early 1999, CD burners were not as common as they are now, but the right people had them and knew what to do with them. Such people used the Internet as a tool to download Nas’ new album way before its release date.

I myself am guilty of owning one of these albums, but my copy didn’t have a double album’s worth of songs. What it had was dope. I looked at this burnt copy as a preview of things to come and intended on buying Nas’ album when it came out. Once Columbia realized what had happened, they panicked and ordered Nas return to the studio and make new songs to put on the album instead of the ones bootlegged. The result was a relatively unimpressive I Am and an even more unimpressive and disastrous Nastradamus, both made in a seven month period from rushed unemotional songs and songs that were originally cut from the album because they didn’t make the grade.

Since then, Nas has made a comeback with his latest attempt, Stillmatic. Nas dropped his Escobar persona and realized, as he admitted to fans that he would never make another Illmatic and that he still has the music in his veins. Pushing to prove himself amidst the slurs from former fans, critics and fellow rappers like Jay Z, Nas created an album putting him back as one of the top rappers in the game.

But whatever happened to those songs on my bootleg I Am tape?

In come The Lost Tapes. Now mind you, not all the songs on this album were originally on the bootlegged copies. There are select numbers from the album (such as “Poppa Was A Playa,” “Blaze A 50,” “Fetus” and “Drunk By Myself”), but then there are others that were left off of Stillmatic and Nastradamus. Most of these songs were never actually lost; they were available in other forms found by browsing downloading sites like Napster or Audio Galaxy. Regardless if you’ve had them or not, the album is dope.

For a collection of songs, it actually flows well and is a strong listen from start to finish – starting with a soft piano style beat on “Doo Rags” where Nas drops knowledge, reminisces about life on his own scale and then on the grand scheme. Then it smoothly flips into how it was coming up in the game on “My Way” and then about street economics on the Nastradamus cut, “U Gotta Love it.” Later, two songs available on alternate Stillmatic versions, “Everybody’s Crazy” and the funky old school sample soul beat of “No Idea’s Original,” keep the listener nodding.

In one of my personal favorites on the album, “Black Zombie,” Nas drops some dope lyrics in urging his listeners and young black youth not to believe the stereotypes placed on them – to instead become leaders. The album ends with two tracks about Nas’ upbringing. The first, “Poppa was a Playa” speaks of growing up with a musician father who was always around for him when he needed him but was a playa who always cheated on his wife, Nasir’s mother. The song is one of understanding of his father, thanking him for staying in a situation many others in his part of town had not. In the last song, “Fetus,” Nas thanks his mother for having him and not the debated abortion.

Overall, if you have liked Nas at any point in his career, this album is a good buy. With its dope songs from the various points of the Nas timeline, it is a sure pleaser for listening in your room or playing at a party.