Posts Tagged ‘music’

NAS Life is Good Review

July 19, 2012 1 comment
The cover to "Life is Good"

The cover to “Life is Good”

Here’s a secret about Life Is Good: It is the BEST RAP ALBUM OF THE DECADE THUS FAR.

Nas has once again perfected the art of song writing in Hip Hop. His flows and lyrics land over the beats effortlessly, and he has something on this album he did not have on his last effort Untitled: AMAZING PRODUCTION.

When you hear people criticize a Nas album, it’s always for one reason: his production. This time around, however, Nas paid close attention to the streets, and Salaam Remi did not disappoint  on his end of the music. In addition to long time collaboration with Salaam Remi, Nas also enlisted No ID, Kanye West’s mentor, to bless the album with the smooth, laid back ferocity that he laced Common’s “The Finder/ The Believer” album. Justice League gives Nas another great introduction track (Nas has not had a less than stellar intro since “The Prophecy” on Nastradamus). And of course by now you have surely had the perfectly executed track “The Don,” which was produced by the late hip hop legend Heavy D with some great after-touching by Da Internz. And for the old school fans still “stuck in the 90s,” Nas gave them something extra special: not one, but TWO songs featuring The Large Professor. One listen to the track “Loco-Motive” will have fans wondering if this track is an updated cut from Illmatic. The production on this album is even better than amazing instrumentation used on Nas and Damien Marley’s 2010 collaboration album Distant Relatives.

So happens now that Nas has good beats? Well, with this one flaw corrected, this album is nearly flawless. Nas spits some of the craziest rhymes in years, and does it  with a variety of style and grace. The story telling on “A Queens Story” paints a picture of early 1990s Queensbridge so vivid that eyes need not be closed to envision Nas’ words come to life upon entering the listener’s ears. The alliterations and metaphors used on “World’s An Addiction” cannot be matched by any other rapper in hip hop, other than maybe Jay Z on his A-game. Cherry Wine is one of the standout tracks on the album, as Salaam Remi produces a smooth classical ballad on which Nas shows his maturity as a man and the late Amy Winehouse sings a soulful and infectious chorus that really leaves one wishing she had lived longer to make more beautiful music.

In a 14 track album full of great material, if there is one track that deserves its own special praise and the status of “CLASSIC,” it must be track number 5, “Daughters.” Here Nas provides Hip Hop with the first single ever dedicated to the struggle of a single man raising his daughter. Pac had “Dear Mama” for mothers, Will Smith had “Just the Two of Us” for sons, and Nas had already made two songs dedicated to his father with “Poppa Was a Playa” off of The Lost Tapes compilation album and “Bridging the Gap” from Nas’ 2004 Street’s Disciple double album. Nas now completes the family with “Daughters” as he weaves together an introspective tale about his performance as a father and the now-famous ordeal he faced when his daughter Destiny posted a picture of condoms on her dresser on Twitter. This track embodies everything Nas is idolized for: brutal honesty upon reflection, great wordplay, amazing storytelling, and conceptual songs few in hip hop would dare to even attempt to craft.

If there is a flaw to be found on the album, it is with Nas’ attempt at commercial appeal with the sure-to-be radio single “Summer on Smash.” Swizz Beats provides a typical Swizz Beats track and Nas flows well over the beat, but the rhymes are nothing special. While this is expected of a radio hit, the problem is not with Nas or Swizz, but rather the feature of young RnB sensation Miguel, who raps a lazy verse and then proceeds to sing a only half-decent bridge. Miguel just seems out of place on the song, but I’m sure Def Jam thought this feature would guarantee some more spins on the radio, hence one can’t be too mad at Nas- radio play has been something he has not had since 2002’s God’s Son album.

Aside from the small misstep on “Summer on Smash,” Life is Good is nearly perfect. It will most likely go down as yet ANOTHER classic from Nasty Nas, who is increasingly harvesting the greatest discography in Hip Hop history. This masterpiece has almost everything that one could ask for from a hip hop album musically. The great production, seamlessly masterful lyrics, and ever intriguing topical matter makes for an album that will be replayed for decades to come. When one looks back at Nasir Jones’ career, Life Is Good will undoubtedly be placed on the top shelf beside Illmatic, It Was Written, Stillmatic, God’s Son, and Hip Hop is Dead. Escobar Season has returned, and it seems already at age 38 Nas will be here forever.

Final Score: 10/10.


I shouldn’t know Albert Hibbler. How videogames serve as time portals to music of decades past.

June 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Albert Hibbler

I love music. I think music is a natural commodity of the human spirit. It is impossible to live without music in today’s day and age. I also love videogames. I have often heard people say, “Videogames are stupid… you don’t learn anything… It’s just useless entertainment.” I beg to differ hugely. In addition to participating in an interactive story and having to constantly tackle somewhat complex puzzles and mission objectives, videogames also immerse the player into different atmospheres, many of which expose a variety of cultures from past time periods. This is especially true of the arts, and nowhere can it be heard and felt more than in a game’s musical soundtrack. In my opinion, videogames are creating time portals to past societies, and it is this generation of game studios and gamers that are helping to preserve the arts of our past through videogames- especially the music.

When I say that videogames create time portals to music, I am speaking of the emergence of a whole new generation of music listeners who, without videogames, would have no clue about the styles and artists of decades past. I am seeing young kids discover artists like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Fats Domino, Dean Martin, The Chordettes, The Andrews Sisters, Bo Diddley, Louis Prima, Doris Day, Glenn Miller, and much more, all thanks to videogames. Everybody knows Bing Crosby because of “White Christmas”, but until now, I never met a person under the age of forty who could name another song, let alone sing the lyrics to said song. That was until the other day, however, when I was walking on campus and heard someone singing “Pennies from Heaven.” I quickly turned around and saw that the man singing was a college student my age. I said to him “Hey man, sorry to interrupt, but where did you learn that song from?” and he replied, “From Mafia II, I love that game man… it’s got some great music.” At that point it donned on me. I had heard the 1936 tune from the same game myself. I have to admit; I thought I was the only one who paid close attention to the nostalgia presented in videogames. Turns out I was dead wrong.

To elaborate with my own example, I will refer to an artist from the Mafia II soundtrack by the name of Albert Hibbler. He was a blind man like Ray Charles, and his discography only consists of a few solo albums, but he did a lot of work with Duke Ellington and produced a couple chart topping songs himself during his career. Two of those well-charted songs are in Mafia II: “After The Lights Go Down Low” and “Count Every Star”. I absolutely love these songs, and because of Mafia II, I researched Albert Hibbler and found out that not only did the man make great music; he was a civil rights activist supported by Frank Sinatra and was so loved by the music community that he sang two songs at Louis Armstrong’s funeral. Albert Hibbler was a great singer and an excellent role model for society, but he is nowhere to be found in any textbook nor is he discussed as a topic in pop culture. But because of the influence of videogames like Mafia II, his name and his music will live on for future generations to discover.