DAR Hip Hop: Nas' Life Is Good

By @TrueGodImmortal

1. No Introduction 
2. Loco-Motive
3. A Queens Story 
4. Accident Murderers 
5. Daughters 
6. Reach Out
7. World's An Addiction 
8. Summer On Smash
9. You Wouldn't Understand 
10. Back When 
11. The Don 
12. Stay 
13. Cherry Wine
14. Bye Baby
15. Nasty 
16. The Black Bond 
17. Roses 
18. Where's The Love 
Nas is the greatest MC of all time to me. Through a 22 year career, he's done so many great things. From putting out his classic debut Illmatic to his best album (to me) in It Was Written, Nas has certainly created a legacy for himself that goes beyond the average artist. With his albums being lauded as some of the best of all time, Nas set out to create a new standard for himself with the release of his 11th album, Life Is Good. As Nas was dealing with the strenuous nature of his separation and divorce from Kelis, this album served as therapy of sorts for him. He would compare it to the Marvin Gaye underrated classic "Here, My Dear" as that album was also inspired by divorce as well. The album would center around personal nostalgia, feelings, emotions, and in a sense, refining the confidence and belief that made Nas such a force on previous albums. Today, we are here to look back at Life Is Good, an album that's only about 5 years old, but many have called it a modern classic. Is it? Well, let's get into it. 
For many Nas fans, the biggest knock against him has been his production choices. Luckily for us, this time around Nas was fully aware of what to do on the production end and he didn't disappoint. From the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League to Buckwild to Salaam Remi to No I.D. and more, Nas made sure to team up with a cast of producers that could bring his vision to life. 
Song By Song 
We take a look piece by piece to see which songs are the best and which songs mean the most to the overall quality of the album, and a ranking of each song.    
*No Introduction 
I've always been a fan of intros from Nas. Whether his Stillmatic intro or even his official intro on the Untitled album ("Queens Get The Money"), Nas weaves lyrically through his intros with poise and veteran posturing. This is no different, as he spits some charged lyrics with a stabbing flow to welcome you to his newest opus. This is perfect.
If this feels like a throwback, it's because it is meant to be so. Nas brings in Large Professor here for a vintage Nas track that resembles some of the hardest hip hop from the 90s. The lyrics are once again the biggest focus of the track, as Nas easily weaves through the hard hitting boom bap production with vigor and a reckless abandon. This is one of my favorite songs on the album. 
*A Queens Story 
I'm not really a fan of this track and I couldn't really tell you why honestly. It's a dope concept and it's not lyrically bad by any stretch, but this track misses the mark for some reason. The production lacks just a bit, and though overall, it's decent, it leaves just a bit to be desired overall. I know a lot of people love this track, I'm just not one of them. 
*Accident Murderers 
I know... Rick Ross and Nas seemingly have good chemistry on tracks together. That's true to some extent. Though I'm far from a fan of Ross, he shows up with a decent verse and Nas lyrically assaults the minimal No I.D. production. The song isn't perfect by any measure, and I could have done without Ross (personally) or at least a better feature, but overall this is a dope track. 
A song that personally hit me harder than I realized, this song dropped as I was becoming a father. The focus behind the verses, even the simple chorus is top notch, and the way Nas delivers this track makes it a timeless classic. He goes from reminiscing on the older days of his daughter being born to the current state where she's posting pictures of herself online and now dating boys. It's a reality for most fathers that will come sooner than later and the way Nas looks at this concept is beyond dope. 
*Reach Out 
I didn't like this song initially, I'll be honest. Mary J. Blige on the hook gave me bad memories of this song I think I heard and that I think might exist called "Braveheart Party", but this song is different. Nas lyrically does his thing and Mary isn't annoying on the hook so this song is dope. Not my favorite, but dope enough.
*World's An Addiction 
This song walks the line, but is mostly dope. Nas once again shines lyrically as expected as the production from Salaam Remi feels minimal yet grand and the soulful yet somewhat painful hook from Anthony Hamilton complement him very well. Some have said the song could be considered by corny, but I actually enjoy this track a lot. 
*Summer On Smash 
I really don't like this song. I don't think the beat is great, the Swizz Beatz feature is unnecessary (who really needs Swizz on an actual track like that?), and Miguel does his thing, but it's just not enough to save this song. Nas has dope lyrics as always, but that's really the only saving grace of this. I could have done without this song on the album overall and it's my least favorite track on the project. 
*You Wouldn't Understand 
Victoria Monet appears on this track providing a very laid back hook and smooth vocal, while Nas just drops wisdom in his verses. I saw Nas perform this song live and my appreciation for the track went up immensely. The production is smooth from Buckwild and Nas does his thing with his vocal delivery and lyrics, making this another gem on the album. It flows well into the very next track. 
*Back When 
The laid back rhythm of this track invokes nostalgia at the highest level. The way the production is set up is beyond soulful as No ID provides Nas with the perfect set up to tell his coming of age story in a reflective mood. Usually Nas paints his vivid pictures and it almost feels like he's just lived through it. On this song, it feels like Nas is more comfortable than ever telling older stories of his life and he coasts over this track with some very concise verses. 
*The Don 
With Heavy D assisting Salaam Remi on this reggae styled track, Nas spits some dope lyrics (as always) over a high energy beat. This song isn't too special, but it is very dope and combining the high energy production with Nas utilizing a high energy voice and style made for a perfect marriage. 
The best song on this entire album and truly a top song in the full Nas catalog. Nas spoke honestly about unhealthy relationships in his life, whether he's speaking on women, or old friends from his past who have overstayed their welcome, Nas really paints a picture. For me, the best part of this all is that the entire song flows together perfectly. From concept to the hook to the jazzy and grand production all the way to verses and lyrical compositions. Nas outdid himself with this track honestly and I'd dare say this is a top 20 Nas track of all time, if not top 10-15. It's THAT great. 

*Cherry Wine 
I always thought Amy Winehouse and Nas could make great music together and I wasn't surprised by this smooth track. In the last year or so of her life, it seemed Amy and Nas were closely associated with each other, and as a result, we got this very dope song. Of course, Salaam Remi handles the jazz soul production and Nas drops knowledge about the women he wants in his life going forward backed by the luxurious hook from Amy. 
*Bye Baby
This song hit me harder than I expected it to. When I first heard it when the album dropped, I thought it was really dope overall. A few months later, the track would have much more meaning and every lyric hit harder than before. Nas told a story of his breakup with Kelis and spilled his heart on the Guy sampled production, making for a great way to close out the regular version of this album (I had the deluxe edition of course). This song is also perfect and probably top 3 on the album. 
Another Salaam Remi produced gem, this track from the Deluxe Edition of the album was the first track I heard from it. This is a very solid track and Nas goes in lyrically and expected. The only reason why I don't think it was on regular edition was because it was released in 2011 perhaps. Still a dope track. 
*The Black Bond 
The concept was not one that I was essentially fond of, but I really did like the way it was executed. Nas flows smoothly over a nice production from Salaam Remi. This isn't a favorite for me, but it is enjoyable. 
This track is melancholy in a way, but very smooth, which is a constant vibe on the entire album. The hook provided is also perfect for this song, and while Nas coasts lyrically on this track, the way he delivers the verses might sting a little bit towards a woman of his past (Kelis??), and I would have loved if this song replaced "Summer On Smash" on the actual tracklist because it fit much better.   
*Where's The Love 
I remember my first time hearing this song, I had the feeling of "why wasn't this on the regular version of the album over Reach Out or Summer On Smash", which as you see is something I said a few times during the bonus tracks on the Deluxe Edition. This song features a smooth hook from The Cocaine 80s, and vivid lyricism from Nas, per the usual. 
Best Verses 
These are the verses that made me rewind the song and quote them after listening to the song. Nas always has quotable verses  and this album wasn't any different. The verses I've chosen here represent something important to the direction or flow of the album. With the verse chosen on "No Introduction", I felt it was setting the tone for the reflective vibe on the album and a nostalgia trip for Nas himself, while still painting the picture of his current life and times, as evidenced by the "pushing 40, she only 21" line. With the verse I chose on "Loco-Motive", I thought it was the most vital verse of the album and full of quotable lines, and the way Nas delivered it had a grungy feel to it, only elevating the overall vibe of the verse. 
Verse wise, I could have chosen all of the verses on "Daughters", but the first verse is so vivid that I had to pick that one alone. The same could be said for "Back When", as all of the verses are amazing, but the wordplay and references in the 2nd verse are stinging and raw. As for two of the more emotional songs in "Stay" and "Bye Baby", I chose multiple verses because in order to fully grasp the song, you need to read and understand most, if not all of the lyrics. Both of the verses listed are profound and tell such a strong story with the lyricism that they need to be appreciated. There are other verses I could have chosen on this album because there isn't really a weak verse on the album, but these are the absolute best verses from this project.  
*No Introduction (Verse 2)
-"I remember early mornings - syrup sandwiches, sugar water/ Yeah, walking up the dark stairwells, elevators was out of order/
Yeah, worth 200 million now, bicentennial/
Nigga, flat screens and condominiums/
Brazilian women on Xannies/ They pulling off panties/
I'm pushing 40, she only 21
Don't applaud me/
I'm exhausted G/
Me and my red cup, my blunt and my red cup/
Y'all wouldn't know me without one, I keep a fresh cut/
Remember talking to Biggie inside his Lex truck/
Said stay fly when you bummy/ Keep your pajamas Armani/
Hood forever, I just act like I'm civilized/
Really what's in my mind/ 
Is organizing a billion black motherfuckers, to take over JP and Morgan Goldman and Sachs/
And teach the world facts and give Saudi they oil back/"
*Loco-Motive (Verse 1)
-"Yo, yo, I live it and I speak it/
My religion is reefer/
Big money in most, an uninhibited freak to sleep with/
My visions are realistic, nothing’s figurative/
I can wish it into existence, God want this nigga to live/
Blunt big as a dread/
I get high and forget who bled/
Who we stomp-kicked in the head/
And who we left for dead/
Who are you niggas? Why argue niggas?/
The truth is the truth, I really put my scars on niggas/
They wait a lifetime, they tell they hoes, “Nas did this”/
Pointin’ to they scars like, “Right here, baby, really Nas did this”/
Like a badge of honor/
Not braggin’ I’m just honest/
War stories we tell them, nothin’s realer than karma/
Sip prohibition liquor, prohibition whiskey/
Rap Jack Dempsey/
Matt Black Bentley, pimply/
Shatterin’ your silence/
Pass around the chalice/
Due to my Indian ancestry at the weed dispensery/
Official kings and gents is who I mix and mingle with/
Fuck your ice, I rock rubies, amethyst/
I fuck your wife cause she a groupie, scandalous/
This for my bad hood bitches, ghetto glamorous/"
*Daughters (1st Verse)
-"I saw my daughter send a letter to some boy her age/
Who locked up, first I regretted it then caught my rage, like/
How could I not protect her from this awful phase?/
Never tried to hide who I was, she was taught and raised like/ 
A princess/
But while I’m on stage/
I can’t leave her defenseless/
Plus she’s seen me switching women, pops was on some pimp shit/
She heard stories of her daddy thuggin’/
So if her husband is a gangster can’t be mad, I love her/
Never, for her I want better, homie in jail- dead that/
Wait till he come home, you can see where his head’s at/
Niggas got game, they be tryna live/
He seen your mama crib/ 
Plus I’m sure he know who your father is/
Although you real, plus a honest kid/
Don’t think I’m slow, I know you probably had that chronic lit/
You 17, I got a problem with it/
She looked at me like I’m not the cleanest father figure/ 
But she rocking with it/"
*Back When (Verse 2)
-"To call them fake today is hate, real niggas extinct/
Pac left me inside a rap world with niggas that wink/
At other rappers, undercover niggas spit every way/
Won't be surprised if all their rides have federal plates/
Let alone their wardrobes and Studio 4 flow/
It was real when I appeared, it would've been some jaws broke/
Nas, my real name, stage name, same thing/
How could you let these lames claim king?/
I'm so ashamed, man, I light a L for Vernon/
For niggas who would burn in Hell for Vernon/
10th Street, 12th Street/ Nightmare on Elm Street/
Pimps creep, delve deep/
Inside the editorials/
Of the ghetto queens, kings, stories true/
Who possesses the testicular fortitude/
To blow away myths that's a hindrance to all of you/
You blame your own shortcomings on sex and race
The mafia, homosexuals and all the Jews/
It's hogwash point of views/ 
Stereotypical, Anti-Semitic/
Like the foul words Gibson spewed/
And it's pathetic/
I don't get the credit/
I deserve, that's why I hate doing interviews/
But I don't sweat it/
Study long, study raw, my man Dion said "Nas over-think the songs he writing"/
I'm not a wack performer, standing near a corny hype man/
I got the Donism in me, I'm here to enlighten/"
*Stay (Verses 1 and 2)
-"Peace to the Five Percenters/ Online engine inventors/
Shout to them niggas, family men, bringin' home dinners/
Watch out for desperate lonely women/
Hurt ya happy home/
Miserable and alone/
Kissable, nice to bone/
She not the type deserving of a throne/
Her beauty is her curse/
She fuck for shoes and a purse/
Make me a movie first/
Can watch you on my phone/
I shop in Barcelona, I spend some nights in Rome/
Feel like a knight from England, that's what I named my son Knight/
He was born to be one, that's how my game was won, white/
740 Beamer, licked by an angel's tongue/
I'm livin' dangerous son/
She got a man, a famous one/
Honey be pocket watchin'/
She got a lot of options/
Hard to make up her mind decidin' which baller to rock with/
Hot to death/ 
Slim pickings, but I'm not impressed/
She got the hottest sex/ 
So I guess I'ma just... Stay"

"Even though I don't like you/
Next Friday night can't wait to fight you/
Locked up I would knife you/ 
Don't fuck with you/
Last month I even bucked at you/
You got locked, I felt bad, wait, do I got love for you?/
I might kill you, but do I got love for you?/
I want you dead under 6 feet of soil/
At the same time, want you here to witness me/
While you in misery/
We hate each other, but it's love, what a thug mystery/
Years ago they ate the heart of a slain enemy/
We enemies, but your hatred could never enter me/
Some seek fame cause they need validation/
Some say hatin' is confused admiration/
Spotlight on me, I still look twenty/
Still get money, lady killer pushin' a Bentley/
Maybe niggas could see too much of they failures/
Through a nigga who realer/
I don't like you near bruh/
But I need you to...Stay"
*Bye Baby (Verses 1 and 2)
-"Bye baby, I guess you know why I walked away/
When we walked to the altar that was an awesome day/
Did counseling, couldn't force me to stay/
Something happens when you say I do, we go astray/
Why do we mess it up, we was friends we had it all/
Reason you don't trust men, that was your daddy fault/
He in the grave, let it go, he no longer living/
Said you caught him cheating with mom and other women/
Fuck that gotta do with us/
Here's the keys to the newest truck/
Birkin bags, we burnin' cash, now baby do it up/
No matter who you fuck/ 
That was before me/
Wanted you as my shorty/
Since I saw you screamin'/
"Hate you so much right now"
Should've saw the man in angry black women, ashes of a demon/
I'm leaving/"

"Bye baby, I guess you know why I had to leave/
Seven months in your pregnancy, 'bout to have my seed/
Let's take it back some years/ Rewind it to the happy years/
You and your Star Trak fam, I'm thinking you cats are weird/
Same time, different year, I was diggin' ya flow/
Then I tatted you on my arm so niggas would know/
I thought no one could stop us/ Matching gold watches/
I was your Johnny Depp, you was my Janis Joplin/
Yet, the cuter version/
Yet I knew you personally/
Better than you knew yourself and I knew this for certain/
Crib in the Dominican, you got away from everybody/
You screaming at the racist cops in Miami was probably/
The highlight of my life/
like "Ha, yo look at my wife"/
Gangsta, me and twenty cops 'bout to fight, crazy night/
Bailed you out, next morning we got clean/
Like it never happened and later we at that Heat game/
Just another day in the life of two people in love/
But it wasn't enough/
So baby guess what/"

While only about 5 years old (it's time for a new Nas album), this album has a very strong legacy. This is probably one of the most emotionally raw Nas albums ever, right up there with God's Son (his most emotional effort). In times of strife, despair, and maybe even hurt, Nas turned his misfortunes into beautiful art, much Iike the great artists of the generations have always done. Is this album a true classic? I would say it rests within the realm of a debatable classic, as there are some songs I could do without, but overall, the album just flows so well that I can't help but lean towards that near classic label. So no, it isn't an undisputed classic (there isn't really a such thing in hip hop.... since music is based on opinion), but I'd crown Life Is Good the best Nas album since Stillmatic and honestly, it might be better than that, consider the emotional aspect of the album and near flawless production choices. It holds a high spot in the Nas catalog and was my favorite album of 2012 (even over GKMC), which says a lot about the quality of this project. Nas does it again. 
Overall Rating: 9/10


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