Album: God’s Son
Rating: 7.5 / 10
In the spirit of the movie-going season, what with the release of “The Two Towers”, I parallel the careers of Nas and Gandalf.
Like Gandalf, Nas battled his Balrog (Jay-Z), and even though the battle was harrowing, managed to come out on top in the end, reviving a dead career with his brilliant “Stillmatic” , and regaining the trust of hip hop heads everywhere.
Ok, enough of the geekiness : I don’t think you, the reader, knows how hard it was NOT to delete that above paragraph.
Some would say that the ‘comeback’ album isn’t the hardest one to make. Afterall, expectations are usually a little bit lower (why would you have to label it a ‘comeback’ then?), and even if you drop something good but not great, it may be construed as a classic by your fans (see the Duck Down boards and the latest BCC release for an example of this). It’s not the ‘comeback’ album that’s tough in my view, it’s the followup to the successful ‘comeback’. The album that is really telling in that it shows if you’ve learned your lesson and won’t make the same mistakes that caused you to have to have a ‘comeback’ album in the first place.
With Nas, it runs even deeper- with the Jigga beef now basically dead, would he be able to recreate the fire he had for “Stillmatic” and use it towards “God’s Son”?
Fortunately for Nas, it seems like he’s managed to pull it off, albeit on a lesser scale than he might have hoped for. “God’s Son” is definitely a good album, and a worthy followup to “Stillmatic”, while falling short of its predecessor.
Things start off blazingly, with the old-school vibes (a recurrent theme) of ‘Get Down’ and the first single ‘Made You Look’ hitting hardest, with gorgeous samples, great drum breaks, and inspired lyricism, albeit with ‘Made You Look’ on a lower level than the opener. ‘Last Real N*gga Alive’, while sporting an ugly beat, has some of the more interesting lines of the LP, with Nas addressing early to mid 90’s NYC beef between himself, Biggie, Raekwon and others who were at their pinnacle during those times. Incredibly enough, even the Bravehearts come through for Nas this time, with the amazingly constructed ‘Zone Out’… sure it ain’t ‘conscious’ but the winding electric whines will have you nodding your head, and Nas just RIPS the track renouncing the ‘materialistic’ view of life.
Unfortunately, the album seems to build up anticipation with the first half that the second half just can’t deliver on. ‘Thugz Mansion’, with 2Pac acts as this imaginary ‘boundary’ between great and merely average on the LP. The track itself is a marvel, reworked from a 2Pac song of the same name… beautiful in its simplicity and sporting some of the best 2Pac lyrics I’ve heard in a bit. After that though, well, we run into some problems. You can’t deny the lyricism of tracks such as ‘Warrior Song’, ‘Revolutionary Warfare’, or ‘Heaven’, the latter which details the struggles of Nas’ mother with cancer before she died months ago. The problem lies in the beatmaking for the most part. Whether it’s the too subdued beat of ‘Dance’, the waste of nice vocal sample over a merely average beat on ‘Revolutionary Warfare’ or the mismatched singing by Jully Black on ‘Heaven’, there are enough missteps on the latter half of “God’s Son” to keep it from being anywhere near a classic.
“God’s Son” to me, is the album that ‘could have been’. Impressive as Nas’ patchwork “The Lost Tapes” was, it may have REALLY set the bar too high for Mr. Jones, as it showed what he could do with his rapidly maturing lyricism, over beats that worked with the subject matter rather than against it. “God’s Son” is a 10 / 10 album for approximately half the album, and 6 / 10 for the other half. Which only makes me wish Nas would have taken just a little more time to finetune this, rather than rushing it out for the holiday buying season.