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Kanye West delivers on his 2016 promise to Obama with new Nas album 'Nasir'

Ralph Bristout

 // Jun 15, 2018

Artist // Instagram

Back in 2016, Kanye West revealed that he promised former President Barack Obama to produce Nas' next album. Two years later, Ye can say he delivered.

As the fourth consecutive Kanye-produced album released in recent weeks, Nasir puts an end to all of those "Nas Album Done" puns and adds another solid Kanye-Esco combination in the history books. Much like the previous listening sessions for ye and Kids See Ghosts, the album was premiered during an eventful live stream event, this time in Queensbridge, where everyone from Ye to AZ, Pusha-T, 2 Chainz, Havoc and more attended.

NAS "NASIR" ALBUM LISTENING
Mass Appeal

By far, it's the most sparse sounding album in the thinking man's rapper's catalog with a scant seven songs. But over the course of its 27-minutes, Nasir delves into some thought-provoking topics. On "Not for Radio," the unapologetically black intro, he makes mention of John Hanson, notes it was the people, not Abraham Lincoln, who put an end to slavery ("Abe Lincoln did not free the enslaved/Progress was made 'cause we forced the proclamation") and, in non sequitur fashion, adds "Fox News was started by a black dude." On "Everything," paired with guest vocals from Kanye and The-Dream, he calls out media vultures ("Listen vultures, I've been shackled by Western culture/You convinced most of my people to live off emotion") and details his master plan with these business ventures ("I'm buyin' back the land owned by the slave masters/Where my ancestors lived, just to say a rapper made a change"). "I drop lines that prestigious schools teach to their students," he raps on "Simple Things." Over most of these records, Nas' politics are sewed within the African diaspora and weave between black consciousness and drip-feeding intellectualism. Considering the time that we're in, a lot of these lyrics speak to and heighten the black identity.

On the production side of things, "chop up the soul" Kanye returns in top form, lacing his rap idol with some of his most soulful production in — and this is no hyperbole statement — years. As Nas spews colors to the page, the Chicago beatsmith's carefully-selected dusty soul samples and resonate drums shape around these rhymes to underline its urgency. More than just being aesthetically beautiful, they provide some context. On "Cops Shot the Kid," which details the "disadvantages of the brown" under the eye of law enforcement, an excerpt from Richard Pryor's appearance at the 1973 Stax Records benefit concert, Wattstax, in which he describes past experience with excessive police force, opens the song, while Slick Rick's famous lyric ("Cops shot the kid") from "Children's Story" is sprinkled all over. On the standout "Adam and Eve," Kourosh Yaghmaei's 1974 song "Gol-e Yakh" is interpolated as Nas paints a picture of his journey from "the ghetto, my Garden of Eden," while "White Label" pulls the vocals and horns from Shahram Shabpareh's 2011 cut "Prison Song".

There will be arguments about how the album compares to its expectations and Nas-Kanye's earlier collaborations, however Nasir finds two hip-hop touchstones coming together for a history-making moment. Where Kanye was once lost, on his promise to Obama, he is found. As excitement builds, many are quickly calling it an "instant classic."


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