December 4, 2001. Jay-Z was (probably) getting ready to celebrate his birthday with a large group of his family and friends. Unfortunately, an explosion marred the festivities. The explosion was the result of a napalm bomb nicknamed, 'Ether', and was dropped squarely on Jay's lap. The streets had spoken, Jay had been lyrically destroyed, how would he handle it? Would he rebound and seek revenge with a Takeover 2 Atomic Bomb of his own? Everyone was waiting, but instead, Jay rushed his reply and came out with the infinitely weak, Superugly, an attempt at redemption lauded by everyone from Allen Iverson to Jay's own mother. Jay confirmed his defeat by appearing on the radio the next morning, sounding like a whining, broken individual. His voice cracked, and he sounded hurt, scared, and shook up, talking about how the vulgarity of Ether was offensive to him as a man. The King of New York had been knocked from his throne, but for how long? Well Nas' new album should give us an idea. Would Nas continue making the hottest music in rap, as evidenced both by tracks like 'Doo Rags', 'Purple' and God's Son's lead single, 'Made You Look', as well as his guest appearances with Scarface, Devin, and Large Pro already this year? Would Nas continue with his newfound 'positive' attitude seen on Stillmatic? Or would Nas rest on his laurels, take it easy, and release something along the lines of 'Nastradamus'? This album is monumental in terms of the current power struggle in hip-hop. Whether you like it or not, Ether did this. With God's Son, Nas has the opportunity to cement his status as the King of N.Y., at least for another 3-4 year term, or he could prove that he is not the saviour that hip hop fans should be pinning their hopes on.
Nas comes out firing with, 'Get Down', where he provides that mental imagery that only Nas can. Definitely a positive way to start God's Son, a well done Nas concept track. From 'Get Down', Nas slides into, 'The Cross', an Eminem produced track that begs the question, 'where is Em's verse?'. Rumours fly around the internet like there is no tomorrow. Did Nas keep Em from rapping to ensure that no one could use the, 'Eminem murdered you on your own shit', line against him? Did time and availability play a factor in Em dropping a verse? Or was it Em's desire to distance himself from being known as 'just' a rapper keep him off the track? Who knows the truth, but regardless, the song is dope. Next up, the album's lead single, 'Made You Look'. This track has been getting regular rotation on Much Music/Mtv and is a fine choice for a single, an obvious homage to the old-school on Nas' part.
With every Nas album, you expect him to raise the bar with a concept or two that haven't been done before. With Stillmatic, it was 'Rewind', where Nas tells a story Memento style, backwards from the end. On God's Son, there are two examples of this. The first example being, 'Last Real Nigga Alive', where Nas talks about the intricate relationships between New York's top rappers, including Biggie, Puff, The Wu, and Jay-Z. The album is worth the pick-up for this track alone. Of course, the album wouldn't be complete without a jab at Jay, obviously, Nas doesn't agree with kicking a man while he's down, so he lets a simple sentence suffice. On 'Book Of Rhymes', Nas takes us on a journey explaining what goes through his mind while he reads a book of his old rhymes and attempts to decide what's worthy of making the album. Very interesting listen. Unfortunately, the Bravehearts somehow manage to weasel their way onto a Nas album, and again, this is by far the worst track on the album. A horrid Salaam Remi beat, and a couple lacklustre verses, including Nas dumbing it down make up the disaster called, 'Zone Out'.
Other standout tracks include, 'I Can', a positive track where Nas talks to the children, trying to instil in them the idea that they could do or be anything they want. The hook and beat sound a bit elementary, but the message is worth it. Claudette Ortiz of City High and Kelis show up to sing the hook on the infectious, 'Hey Nas'. Are you listening Ja Rule? That is how you make an R&B track and maintain an element of street cred. Canadian crooner Jully Black sings the hook on, 'Heaven', which, when paired with 'Dance', form two of Nas' most introspective tracks to date. Dedicated to the recently deceased Ann Jones, Nas pleads to have one last opportunity to express his gratitude towards his mother on 'Dance'. The already widely known, 'Thugz Mansion', also finds it's way onto God's Son, only reworked, containing 2Pac's original 2nd verse and one brand new Nas verse in addition to his original verse.
At the onset of this review, we asked several questions. Is God's Son the hottest thing out right now? Pretty damn close. This album bangs. If only Nas could find a way to keep the Bravehearts off his albums… Would Nas continue with his newfound 'positive' attitude seen on Stillmatic? Not only does he continue, but he expands and betters his material. 'I Can' does the job nicely. Would Nas rest on his laurels, take it easy, and release something along the lines of 'Nastradamus'? This answer is a clear cut, emphatic, 'NO'. Although the album drops off significantly in the second half, with a few unspectacular yet decent tracks, it is still a fine release on Nas' part. One other question was, 'how long would Nas remain on the throne'?
As long as he stays consistent and drops albums like this, Nas has the potential to retire at the top. At this point, it's his to lose.