the lost tapes

Dressed in all white Nas announced the release of his new album without words. Don­ning a lab coat and white gloves hold­ing up what looked like the ruins of a fos­sil­ized cas­sette tape bear­ing the album title — ‘The Lost Tapes II’. The cas­sette tape is a ‘future rel­ic’ art design by artist Daniel Arsham. Des­pite the cas­sette tape being worn out, the clin­ic­al set­ting eluded a futur­ist­ic feel and I couldn’t help but think this por­trayed Nas’ longev­ity. Keep­ing his clas­sic style that is adored by mil­lions but also able to stay rel­ev­ant in the present day.

The pre-album release of track ‘Jar­r­eau of Rap (Skatt Attack) feat. Al Jar­r­eau, Key­on Har­rold’ was received by fans with mixed feel­ings. Jazzy beats using the sample of the late Al Jarreau’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk” this was a more exper­i­ment­al track for Nas but it exem­pli­fied his diverse abil­ity to flow. The lyr­ics still on point with Nas claim­ing, “Every­body not gone get you but keep going”. And some fans might not get this, but oth­ers will. It grew on me. At the listen­ing party Nas stated, “I appre­ci­ate any­thing you say because at least you gave a fuck­ing fuck”. And this track really did insight a reac­tion and got every­one talk­ing about the album.

The full album dropped on Mass Appeal and Def Jam on 19th July with a prom­ising track list­ing. Nas often cri­ti­cized for being a “bad beat pick­er” has col­lab­or­ated with argu­ably some of the best pro­du­cers in the world on these tracks such as Swizz Beats, RZA, Pete Rock, Kanye West and Alchem­ist and the beats are just right. There is some­thing for every­one on this album. Sev­en­teen years since the release of the Lost Tapes this second install­ments had fans wait­ing for more tra­di­tion­ally sound­ing tracks from Nas. Only Nas could com­pile such a strong album from tracks that didn’t make it on oth­er albums and if you listen close you can work out which albums they prob­ably would have gone on.

The open­ing track, “No Bad Energy” really spoke to me as Nas pleads for an end to neg­at­iv­ity. Nas went into a bit more detail on the con­cepts here in the listen­ing party, “I really want to inspire you all to really do what you need to do in your heart and nev­er be dis­trac­ted by naysay­ers and people who don’t really know that’s mak­ing you tick, that’s mak­ing you – push­ing through your blood to do great”. Inspir­ing as always. With angel­ic choir voices on the hook Nas addresses the heavy cri­ti­cism he has received through­out his career being “obli­vi­ous to you scep­tics” A great open­ing with recit­ing “Iri­des­cent her­oes’ essence, please clear the exits” as we get ready for the rest of the album, I feel like I need to fasten my safety belt. To top this off it sounds like a sample of DMX in the back­ground shout­ing, “What” but per­haps it was my ima­gin­a­tion run­ning wild in the wish that they had done more tracks togeth­er in the 90’s.

Ver­non Fam­ily is upbeat and a cel­eb­ra­tion of suc­cess, Nas refers here again to Escar­got as he did on the Untitled Album. No Nas album would be com­plete without him show­ing love to QB. “Queens­bridge Polit­ics” was emo­tion­al with Nas giv­ing a shout out to dearly depar­ted Prodigy. “I wish that book nev­er came out” says Nas refer­ring to P’s auto­bi­o­graphy which is whilst they still didn’t quite see eye to eye. Nas states, “Bandana P will always stand as tall as the trees”. Nas breaks down Queens is like no oth­er hood, “Music’s leg­acy is incred­ibly high ped­i­gree” as he goes on to list some of the most tal­en­ted and you really do real­ise its impact on Hip Hop.

The flow on “Lost Free­style” is very remin­is­cent of old Nas. I loved the Pete Rock pro­duc­tion on “The Art of It” this instru­ment­al I could hap­pily play all day long. “Queens Wolf” is the story of Nas’ grow­ing up in Queens and trans­form­ing into the beast that he is today mak­ing par­al­lels to a were­wolf. Again, a lot of clas­sic Nas vivid imagery.

“War on Love” was anoth­er per­son­al favour­ite of mine which Nas was inspired to write after hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with Lauryn Hill. Nas shouts out many Afric­an coun­tries, “the war which is going on is against love, we under attack”. He drops so much know­ledge on this track with his­tor­ic­al ref­er­ences from the Wright Broth­ers who inven­ted the first plane to con­spir­acy the­or­ies about chem trails. It makes you con­tem­plate how strong we would all be if we united instead of let­ting the media divide us. There has always been debate on Nas’ reli­gious affil­i­ation which he addresses on this track, going from Chris­ti­an to Muslim to now no reli­gion, only his own stand­ards.

You can instantly recog­nise RZA’s pro­duc­tion on “Tanas­ia”. The beat is so Wu Tangish, you can visu­al­ize ninjas train­ing in temples. Also men­tion­ing QB on the hook, Nas brings the Asi­an fla­vour, “If you not from Queens­bridge you must be from Asia”. Anoth­er track to exem­pli­fy Nas’ storytelling skills you are locked in.  The chilled, “You Mean the World to Me” nar­rates a love story which went from a fairy-tale to an end­ing.

On the last track, “It’s A Beau­ti­ful Life” Nas touches on past rela­tion­ships with his exes. He men­tioned without name Car­man Bry­ant who wrote a tell all book men­tion­ing Nas, “in Barnes and Nobles new release sec­tion she’s con­fess­ing”. Nas also ref­er­ences his ex-wife Kel­is who’s tried to keep Nas from see­ing his son, “Stevie won­der said he’s in my corner blind but can still sees the pain of a young per­former”. Des­pite their rocky rela­tion­ships he wishes her well, ‘‘She’s mar­ried again and I’m wish­ing all the best to her”. The mor­al of the song is that life is Beau­ti­ful, “when you place blame then your defect­ive, when you take blame then your affect­ive”. Nas is tak­ing respons­ib­il­ity for his actions.

Also at the listen­ing party, Nas men­tioned hav­ing enough unre­leased mater­i­al for a Lost Tapes 3 and 4 albums. If they are as deep as these tracks, per­son­ally I can’t wait to hear what else he’s been sav­ing. Few many not under­stand the scattered thoughts of Nas but for the fans it is that errat­ic diversity which is cher­ished, you nev­er know what to expect.


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Faizah Cyanide

Faizah Cyanide

Faizah works in clin­ic­al research by pro­fes­sion and has been an avid Hip Hop lov­er since the early 90’s, hav­ing cre­ated her own Hip Hop event, ‘Breakin’ Bound­ar­ies’ in the early 2000’s which was pre­dom­in­antly based around the concept of bboy battles, she has worked with sev­er­al inter­na­tion­al events pro­moters and dan­cers to inspire oth­ers through this art­form.

About Faizah Cyanide

Faizah Cyanide
Faizah works in clinical research by profession and has been an avid Hip Hop lover since the early 90's, having created her own Hip Hop event, 'Breakin' Boundaries' in the early 2000's which was predominantly based around the concept of bboy battles, she has worked with several international events promoters and dancers to inspire others through this artform.