This week saw the release of one of the most anticipated albums of the year, Nas’ Life Is Good. The melancholy, nostalgic look at the rapper’s childhood and his recent divorce — perhaps rap’s first attempt at a Blood on the Tracks or Here, My Dear — more than lived up to expectations. In addition to Nas the Don, plenty of other great music hit the streets this week as well. In this edition of LOTW, Tanya Morgan’s Vonpea takes us back to bright colors and funny haircuts, Mistah F.A.B. learns the alphabet, G. Rap gives us some poly-syllabic craziness, and Freeway gives us a history lesson. Below, the lines of the week:
5. “R.I.P. to Pac, we will not stop, we keep it coming/All about them dead slavemasters on that money” — Freeway, ‘Soldier’ lyrics
Freeway, one of our favorite rappers since his 2000 appearance on Jay-Z’s “1-900-Hustler”, keeps up the grind on this new appearance. The poke at America’s founding fathers and former Presidents is too good not to pass on — lest we forget, we have had a dozen Presidents who really were slavemasters.
Tanya Morgan’s Von Pea made our heads dance with memories of middle-school dances with this reference to early-90’s r&b sensations Color Me Badd of “I Wanna Sex You Up” fame. Now we will invariably spend the rest of the day hunting for the “IWSYU” cassingle and our copy of Coolin’ at the Playground Ya Know!
There’s nothing like the use of the alphabet in rhymes to get our heart racing. Here, F.A.B. mentions Jon B’s jam “They Don’t Know” and Jon C(onnor), his collaborator on this song, in rapid succession to form a minor abecedarian masterpiece.
G. Rap is a true pioneer. Whenever we talk to rappers who have mastered complex, multi-syllable rhymes, the Queens veteran always comes up as a pre-eminent influence. On this new song with Don Streat, G. Rap shows that he hasn’t lost a step. The internal and line-ending rhymes, assonance, and imagery in this couplet are up there with his career-best work.
1. “When you’re too hood to be in them Hollywood circles/And you’re too rich to be in the hood that birthed you” — Nas, ‘Reach Out’ lyrics
These lines present in stark terms one of the central themes on Life Is Good. Nasir spends plenty of time reflecting back on his childhood, while simultaneously realizing that he’s now been a successful musician for over twenty years, and thus is pretty far distanced from the projects and street life he remembers so fondly. This poignant bind is explored throughout the record, though sadly (and realistically), the rapper never reaches a resolution.