Ice On The Dune
Eighteen years into his career, Nas remains arguably hip hop's most erudite and eloquent voice.
Four years ago, the New York rapper's last album found him in highly politicised mode, mounting savage critiques of Bush-era America's institutional racism and societal breakdown. This time around, his focus is very different.
Life Is Good's cover finds Nas sitting baleful and alone in a bar, cradling his former wife Kelis's green wedding dress in his lap. The pair famously split in 2009, a few weeks before Kelis gave birth to their son, Knight: Nas has been comparing this record to Marvin Gaye's classic 1978 divorce album, Here, My Dear.
The comparison holds only to a certain point because whereas Gaye's opus was awash with remorse, the tone of Life Is Good is resolutely upbeat. "Some of y'all may know Kelis, this goes to her with love," he muses on No Introduction, while Bye Baby bids her a tender farewell.
His flow is sharp, the production is slick and imperious, and his divorce is thankfully not Nas's sole subject matter. Daughters finds him freely confessing to being a jealous, possessive father: Cherry Wine, a beyond-the-grave duet with Amy Winehouse, raises goose bumps and is impossibly bittersweet.
"I'm pushing 40, don't applaud for me, I'm exhausted," notes Nas as Life Is Good opens. He may be middle-aged but he retains passion, power and poetry to spare.