Five Best Songs From Nas’ ‘Nastradamus’ Album
In 1994, Nas was regarded as the savior of rap. Considered a lyrical technician and street poet with authentic observations of ghetto life, his debut masterpiece, 'Illmatic,' put him in the conversation with rap greats such as Rakim and Kool G Rap. But a little over five and a half years later, the Queensbridge rapper once hailed as the chosen one and a king of the underground had transformed into a hit-chasing, contrived version of his former self. But a few things factored into this transformation.
For starters, while 'Illmatic' was critically acclaimed and said to be the best thing since sliced bread, it didn't set the world on fire as far as commercial aspirations were concerned. In the end, the heralded album didn't do much for Nas' financial situation. Meanwhile, fellow rap upstarts such as the Notorious B.I.G. and Method Man released lauded debut albums of their own that actually sold well and positioned them as two of the biggest acts from the Big Apple.
Viewing the success of his peers, Nas decided to expand his sound for his next album by enlisting top-notch producers such as Trackmasters and Dr. Dre, among others. Well, the added reinforcements worked, as Esco's sophomore LP, 'It Was Written,' moved over two million copies off the strength of monster singles 'Street Dreams' and 'If I Ruled the World (Imagine That),' respectively.
Anticipation for his next LP, 'I Am...,' was so intense that an unfinished version of the album was leaked. Originally intended to be a double album, Nas decided to release the project as a single disc. The collection sold over 400,000 copies in its first week of release and earned him a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 chart.
Being that record companies are in the business of making money, Nas' record label, Columbia Records, had the bright idea of riding off the rappers newfound star status and released another album with the material left on the cutting room floor after the 'I Am...' leak. Nas, who was obviously drunk off his success at the time, decided to rush back in the studio and record some new material to go along with the leftover tracks. And the end result was the abomination that is 'Nastradamus.'
Released on Nov. 23, 1999, Nas' fourth album is a very lackluster effort. The LP starts off on a high note with 'Life We Chose,' but quickly loses its footing with some not-so listenable songs.
For example, 'Some of Us Have Angels,' which is lyrically solid, sounds horrendous and the L.E.S.-produced beat does the track no favors. The next misstep is the uninspired 'Last Words' featuring Nas' one-time protege Nashawn, who delivers a solid verse and hook, but Esco's beat selection is off again.
However, the most egregious fail on the album has to be 'Big Girl.' Produced by L.E.S., the beat comes off as an ill-advised Darkchild production knockoff. And whoever told Nas it was cool to attempt a double-time flow and sing a lullaby of a hook should have been fired immediately.
After listening to 'Nastradamus,' you're left questioning if 'Illmatic' was one of those Milli Vanilli situations because this couldn't be the same guy who made one of the definitive rap albums of all-time. But to be fair, the album does have moments of brilliance and classic cuts, including 'You Owe Me' featuring Ginuwine.
The main reason why 'Nastradamus' is a subpar album is due to the weak production and weak hooks. Nas did show up and did his part, lyrically, but the window dressing and accessories were even more lackluster.
Overall, we decided to highlight the five best tracks on the album that actually prove that 'Nastradamus' is a redeemable album and wasn't complete trash.
Sing-songy Nas tunes are usually a bad idea, but in this case, it's actually surprisingly enticing. Produced by Havoc, the Queensbridge MC joyfully spits about shooting up everything in sight without regard for caution. Chanting, "Kill, Kill, Kill, Murder Murder Murder" on the hook, this track may not be the first Nas track you point to when speaking of his brilliance, but is still a fan-favorite and deserves a spot on this list.
Mobb Deep joins in on the festivities on the hard-boiled cut, 'Family.' Prodigy is his usual grimy self on here, rapping, "Me and my thuns come from the slums, but can't take the slums out my thuns and that's how it is, that's how we live." Meanwhile, Havoc is riding shotgun on the hook as Nas manages to spit a stellar close-out verse. "I air condition y'all n----s, my prediction is you rewind this, ya hieness, Q-Boroughs finest / Click ya Timbs three times, the wizard is Nas, grant you a wish, get rich while listening hard," he raps. While not on the same high level of past collaborations, QB's three favorite rhymers repped the 41st side in epic fashion.
Nas delivers one of his more endearing songs with the somber 'Project Windows.' Co-produced by Nashiem Myrick and Carlos "6 July" Broady, the track features Mr. Jones painting vivid pictures of the ghetto from the viewpoint of a window of a housing project. "Words are the medicine, two teaspoons for goons, a cup of it for those thuggin' it, y'all sing the tune," he raps as he showcases his insightful bars with depth and clarity. Add R&B legend Ron Isley on the hook and you've got a timeless song on your hands.
A Nas album isn't complete without a beat from DJ Premier. The king of the boom bap showed up on the bruising 'Come Get Me.' Esco gets back to his Nasty Nas persona on this outing, rhyming, "Ya crew knew I blew up, I been shining, baseball diamonds, d--- rings for ya' chickling's / n----s know what my nine pearl handles about, f--- you say, girly mouth, get it crunk like the Dirty South." Giving us a taste of the superb lyricism we first fell in love with, Nas's 'Come Get Me' instantly stands out as one of the superior cuts on 'Nastradamus.'
'Life We Chose' is one of the stellar tracks on 'Nastradamus.' The veteran rhyme-spitter sounds as elite as ever, dropping awe-worthy quips throughout the song. "Gold bathtubs, making love to my Queen, get my back rubbed, Chardonnay, rolling up green / Statues, marble floors, rare paintings on the wall closets, my lifestyle's like the Forbes magazine," he raps. Producer L.E.S. shows up in a big way on the song, making it work with a sample of Bernie Worrell's 'Peace Fugue' and concocting one of the more memorable beats on the album.