When Nas made his rap premiere, he was a mere 16 years old, barely old enough to drive much less become the voice of the people. Nonetheless, the Queensbridge MC came into the hip-hop league as the most valuable player amongst rookies, simply by keeping his concepts as translucent as possible. He's always been relatable but complex in his rhymes and 18 years after the release of his classic debut album, Illmatic, Nas is still dropping headscratching bars, with hopes people will think of more than the superficial -- even if it means serving his life experiences on a platter for the sampling.

Life Is Good, due July 17, is Nas' 10th LP and his first solo album in four years. A lot has changed since 2008. That was the year of his controversial Untitled album, which he planned to release by another name, until he was pressured to drop it. Hip-hop's favorite married couple, Nas and Kelis, promoted that record as a unit and fans noted their solidarity. The two have split up since then, with the public being made privy to all the heartbreaking details of the relationship's demise.

Nas compares Life Is Good to Marvin Gaye's Here My Dear -- the soul album that famously detailed the singer's contentious first marriage and provided the monetary support that his ex took him to court for. Die-hard Nas fans have been waiting on an opus like Life Is Good for some time now, with the knowledge that Nas thrives best when expressing genuine, heartfelt emotions. It seems he's done exactly that with records like "Daughters" and "Bye Baby."

Next Tuesday, fans and critics will witness Nas master the balance of lyrics and life with Life Is Good. The BoomBox is celebrating the album release by counting down the days until its debut. Over the next five days, actors, fashion stylists, producers and music industry professionals will dissect the many reasons why life is so good for Nas.

Actor Romany Malco kicks off the countdown, sharing his thoughts on the rhymer as a former MC himself and as a longtime supporter. The "Think Like a Man" star has been a part of the Hollywood industry for a number of years now. Most recently his voice has been featured on FX's animated series, Unsupervised. His original HBO comedy, "Tijuana Jackson," has been approved for a second season and he's preparing to expand on his fascination with social media through an upcoming project entitled "Romany Meets His Friends," where he travels the world meeting Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

Read on as Malco speaks on Nas' growth, the importance of honesty in rhyme and his first time meeting the man he labels one of his favorite rappers.


Romany Malco's Countdown

to Nas' Life Is Good Album


"Whenever I think of certain artists, certain things come to mind, when I think of Nas... What makes me a Nas fan is integrity. I was a rapper, touring with Naughty [by Nature] and all these dudes, had a hit record back in '91, '92, '93, and I've witnessed hip-hop change. I've witnessed it become more corporate. I've witnessed corporate dollars squeeze out underground artists or any kind of alternative hip-hop artist. I've noticed it basically almost homogenize what we consider mainstream rap.

One of the things that really made hip-hop dope back in the day was that you could have so many diversified sounds representing one art form and the thing I give Nas so much credit for is that he never succumbed to that bullshit, he never said, 'OK, everybody sounds like this now? I gotta sound like this now.'

Even when he was doing things like ['Oochie Wally'], I feel like he was on a search. I feel like he held out for a minute before he even got there. He was trying to find himself as Nasty Nas, but with all the shit that's been going on, with all the different styles of records that have been going on, Nas somehow managed to sustain and resist the temptation to conform with his sound. Let's be real, if you listen to the lyrical content of the mainstream artists today, there's not a lot of conscious... 'What goes around comes around...' [raps], and all that. It takes a lot of balls to continue making conscious delivery in this day and age in hip hop.

If we going back, talking about Marvin Gaye, Etta James or Fleetwood Mac, it doesn't matter, to me the artists that have impacted me the most are the ones who make it the most personal. So for me, when he makes it that much more personal, that's when I really feel Nas when he accesses that part of himself. He has some albums out there where he maybe have felt dissed or personally attacked, or disregarded and when he expressed himself, to me it was more authentic.

It's like I was aware of Lil Wayne and how cold Lil Wayne was but I hadn't begun to evangelize Lil Wayne until he made the song 'Miss My Dog' because it was such a personal song and it was so heartfelt and that was when I was like, 'Whew...' And we got Mr. [Frank] Ocean who recently 'came out,' and I'll even go as far as saying Kanye [West] has made some great personal records himself.

I think the best artists are the ones who share themselves and make you feel something because they're coming from such an honest place. Nas is willing to take that risk and put himself on the table so I'm sure he'll recruit more fans with this album. Every artist I just named recruited me when they became personal. I can't tell you how true or false any of that is but I will say that they made me believe it.

I met Nas once. He was with Kelis at the time, and I was like, 'Yo, where's your husband?' I went over to meet him and I straight pulled a geek move like nobody's business. I'm ashamed to this day. I could see it in his face like, 'What is this dude doing?' I couldn't help it."

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