Critics Would Like To Have A Word With Nas

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From time to time, we round up the all-important, all-summarizing last sentences of the biggest new-music reviews. This time around, we look at the critical reaction to Nas’ long-delayed, controversy-skirting Untitled, which hits stores tomorrow.

• “Of course, Nas is too talented to come up entirely empty. Jay Electronica’s plaintive piano on ‘Queens Get the Money’ meshes perfectly with Nas’ imagistic stanzas, while ‘Fried Chicken’ finds Busta Rhymes and Nas wreaking havoc over a throwback ’94 NYC track tailor-made for the duo. More often than not, though, Nas offers windy whines instead of innovative ideas. Sadly, the onetime kid out of Queensbridge has become a cantankerous crank. ” [LAT]

• “Untitled features an invigorated Nasir Jones, and showcases one of hip-hop’s greatest emcees as still one of the most prolific acts in the game today. Lyrically, Nas challenges himself to be better, taking on serious subject matter and taking the time to tackle it with dense, well thought-out raps that do the music justice. Aided by a production line-up that is highlighted by lesser-known beat-makers such as stic.man of Dead Prez, DJ Green Lantern, and Jay Electronica, Untitled is another great achievement to add to Nas’ already stellar catalogue.” [RealTalkNY]

• “Only someone as stubborn as Nas would have chosen the tremulous, distant-sounding piano loops of ‘Queens Get the Money’ to open his album. But then again, only someone as stubborn as Nas could find a way to deliver such a firm, arresting, if occasionally nonsensical verse atop it. Just two minutes long, it sounds almost accidental, and it is transfixing. Perhaps not surprisingly, the best song on this album is barely a song at all.” [NYT]

• “On Hip Hop Is Dead, Nas made the mistake of presenting that topic as a loose theme over the album and expecting listeners to pick up subliminal messages. With Untitled, he’s able to not only cohesively explain his stance on the word n****r, but detail its use throughout history on social, political, and judicial levels. And despite the dense subject matter, Nas’ varied lyrical presentations keep the opus from ever becoming preachy or condescending. Notwithstanding minor missteps in sequencing and production, Untitled has delivered on its potential as a cogent, intellectually honest piece of art. And like its predecessor The N****r Tape, Nasir Jones has crafted not only a career highlight in his catalogue, but the most thought-provoking and challenging mainstream Hip-Hop album in a long time.” [AllHipHop]

• “Neither preachy nor overly polemical, Nas uses his lyrical gifts to keep us guessing: One moment he’s addressing rap fans who ‘live way out in safe suburbia,’ the next he and guest Busta Rhymes gleefully play with stereotypes on the funky ‘Fried Chicken.’ Over a soul sample, ‘Testify’ starts, ‘I just burned my American flag’– yet before the Obama-sampling ‘Black President,’ Nas declares, ‘I love America.’ In a summer of ‘Lollipop,’ it’s refreshing to hear a complicated record that doesn’t shy from grown-up ambition.” [EW]

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