After the longest dormant period of his career, Queens native and hip-hop hall-of-famer Nas released Nasir, his slimmest, lowest-concept album to date. It’s the fourth of five records produced by Kanye West, all seven songs long, all to be released before the end of June. It also arrived amid scandal with which both men have been involved. West started the promotion for all of these G.O.O.D. Music releases by returning to Twitter® and proclaiming his support for Donald Trump, while Kelis recently released statements claiming that Nas was physically abusive during their marriage (Nas was also previously accused of assaulting Carmen Bryan, the mother of his daughter, in 2006).

While West poked fun of the drama surrounding him on his album ye, Nas hasn’t addressed the allegations publically, and he doesn’t approach the subject on Nasir. Indeed, lyrically speaking, Nas brings precious little that could be considered fresh or poignant. The closest he gets is on “Simple Things” when he raps “Was loving women you’ll never see me/All you know’s my kids’ mothers, some celebrities/Damn, look at the jealousy.” Sure, the album’s length could be a contributing factor, but the project contains precious little of thematic design or narrative, two elements that have always been his strengths. It’s among his most diffused and ill-defined albums. His last album Life Is Good saw him trying to come to grips with middle age and explore new ground, but he often sounds clumsy and subdued here, even in his cadence.

When writing linear narratives or exploring his own biography, Nas has few peers. He’s often at his most potent when he explores abstractions or lofty theories, but within the running time of Nasir, most of those end up sounding like foil-hat conspiracy theories. The opener, “Not For Radio,” contains a cameo from Sean Combs talking trash and statements like “Fox News was started by a black dude.” It almost works in much the same way that a campy villain theme song from a low-budget movie works, but Nas’ verses are too pedestrian, both in writing and enforcement. On more than one occasion here, he plods along, almost sounding bored, as if he knows that half of his audience might not even believe half of the things he says.

Amid all of the G.O.O.D. Music releases, Kanye West has served as both a distraction and a sort of lightning rod for listens and reviews. That being said, Nasir is fairly consistent musically. At times, the music contains focus and energy that reflect a sort of deference that Kanye has for Nas that he has for few other living artists. Many of the samples used here are perfectly germane, the most notable (or perhaps just popular) of which comes on “Cops Shot The Kid,” which contains one of the most refreshing reworkings of a Slick Rick “Children’s Story” sample in quite some time.

There are flashes when Nas sounds like Nas, such as on the end of “Everything,” when he raps about buying back the land on which white men enslaved his ancestors, but then there are moments when he describes himself as a “chin-grabber, neck-choker, in-her-mouth-spitter, blouse-ripper, a**-grabber.” It’s hard to imagine any rapper being that stupid under the circumstances, but intentional or not, that makes for some uneasy listening. Like many other artists, of course, he has had similar failures in the past (“Oochie Wally”), but most of those were spectacular botches. With Nasir, however, Nas is something he’s rarely ever been: humdrum.


June of 2018 might see Kanye West’s music endeavors becoming as polarizing as the man himself. As he continues to executively (and sometimes directly) produce various G.O.O.D. Music projects, he has the internet lamenting aspects of each, all the while Pusha T made Drake look questionable for the first time in his career and saw ye become his 8th number one album on the Billboard charts. The third project to be produced and released by Kanye West is the long-awaited collaboration with Kid Cudi, a man that’s been viewed both as West’s protégé and contemporary (sometimes even antagonist). KIDS SEE GHOSTS a more fleshed-out, cathartic version of ye that finds Cudi playing something of an angel to some of Kanye West’s inner demons.

That seems like an odd notion on the surface, especially considering the history of mental health both men have experienced in the last few years. Much will be made of such things in most other reviews of this album, but suffice it to say, both artists seem to have arrived at a more resolved and peaceful place in both of their life journeys. “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2),” starts with Kanye West saying “I don’t feel pain anymore/Guess what baby? I feel free.” On “Fire,” West raps, “I done proved to myself, back on that rulin’ myself.” On “4th Dimension,” Cudi raps, “The put the beams on, get your, get your dream on/But you don’t hear me though, drama: we let it go.” This isn’t necessarily the typical “f*** the world” attitude that can be seen on many hip-hop records, but rather a pair of men that influenced a generation of artists to bare their minds, souls, and troubles to the world arriving at a better place after all of the turmoil.

Indeed, KIDS SEE GHOSTS sonically finds Kanye and Cudi catching up and passing a wave of artists who were profoundly influenced by West’s 808’s & Heartbreak. The music sometimes feels disjointed and often intense, but the constant sampling and prayers offered up by Kanye on songs like “Cudi Montage” signify a sense of resolution that both men have found after all this time. And while neither has ever been the type to hold feelings or ideas in reserve, the album length seems to benefit both here more so than Kanye’s solo project. It’s true that a few aspects are a little distracting, like when both yell gunshot sound effects on “Feel The Love,” or when Kanye raps about accidental anal sex, but they also signify Kanye being himself again, basking in that grey area between creative power and absurdity. Indeed, he’s always seemed most comfortable standing atop the musical Grand Canyon at night, looking down into the abyss.

Lyrically, most of the catharsis comes from Cudi talking about leaving behind his scars, having heaven lift him up. “Pain in my eyes, in the time I find, I’m stronger than I ever was/Here we go again, God, shine your love on me, save me, please.” While it’s true that Life of Pablo was heavily influenced by gospel music, it’s also true that Kanye has not quite displayed any sense of justification in the eyes of his creator. It is interesting, and at times refreshing, to see Kid Cudi of all artists sing on a song called “Reborn” that talks about moving forward and having no stress. Add that to the ethereal title track featuring vocals from Yasiin Bey and Anthony Hamilton, and the project is, at the very least, an achievement for Cudi in that regard.

KIDS SEE GHOSTS is a stronger outing than ye, one that is sure to receive more critical acclaim. Whether it can supplant its predecessor atop the charts remains to be seen. Many thought that ye was a sign that this month of music wasn’t going to be as noteworthy as Kanye was making it out to be, but this album goes a long way to proving him correct. This might have upped the stakes and pressure on a Nas album higher than any other besides Illmatic.



If all of the forthcoming projects produced by Kanye West meet their release dates, then G.O.O.D. Music might just swallow all of hip-hop and perhaps even the entire music industry whole this summer. It’s been three years since Pusha T released Darkest Before Dawn, and quite a while since the rest of the artists with whom Kanye West has been working in Wyoming released as well (Nas, Kid Cudi). If DAYTONA is any indication of what’s to come, the masses might almost forget West’s recent social media statements.

Pusha’s new album, named after his favorite watch, represents the luxury an artist of his stature has at this point of his career in taking as much time as he needs to create a worthwhile project. In an age of radio singles, downloads, free SoundCloud releases, and viral videos, DAYTONA arrives as an antithesis, an exercise by a veteran that’s been in the game for more than two decades who no longer feels the pressure of making a name for himself or reaching a larger audience (“I’m too rare amongst all of this pink hair”). The album clocks in around 21 minutes at only 7 tracks long, but the deep production samples suggest months of crate-digging. There isn’t a shred of fat to be found here; no hooks, no clear radio single in sight. DAYTONA goes like the finest steak money can buy.

Some fans, undoubtedly, will feel shortchanged by less than ten tracks. The creative decisions do indeed leave little room for error with the album, but the finished product amounts to a statement from an artist continuing to reject what has become en vogue in the industry. Ultimately, Pusha T emerges triumphant, and any complaints will be most likely end up being similar to people complaining about the cover artwork (a photo published in 2006 of Whitney Houston’s bathroom) or to others complaining that he is still writing luxury drug raps. Pusha is a specialist, however, that writes such raps so well that most naysayers probably aren’t listening closely enough.

With DAYTONA, Pusha aligns himself with hip-hop legends, figuratively and lyrically. On the obdurate, no-nonsense “The Games We Play,” he compares himself to the likes of Ghostface and Raekwon (“To all of my young n****s, I am your Ghost and your Rae/This is my Purple Tape, save up for rainy days”), and later on “Infrared,” includes himself on a guest list that includes names like Jay-Z. Like the latter accomplished with American Gangster, Pusha has provided a highbrow appeal to tropes that wouldn’t be considered the shortest route to widespread appeal or the cutting edge of the genre. And after twenty years, there are few of his peers rapping at his level on “What Would Meek Do?” (“Angel on my shoulder, “what should we do?” (we do)/Devil on the other, “what would Meek do?”/Pop a wheelie, tell the judge to Akinyele/Middle fingers out the Ghost, screamin’ “Makaveli”).

Much will be made of “Infrared,” the album’s conclusion that seems to re-ignite Pusha’s beef with Drake and the Cash Money label. The song contains a Quentin Miller reference and at least one other shot at using ghostwriters, but the most scathing remarks are directed at Baby and Wayne. “Salute Ross ’cause the message was pure/He see what I see when you see Wayne on tour/Flash without the fire/Another multi-platinum rapper trapped and can’t retire.” It’s not just a diss track, but more of a declaration of Push’s own ability to navigate the rap game like he navigated the streets. “Only rapper that sold more dope than me was Eazy-E.” DAYTONA proves that King Push is still coming out on top.