Nas - I Am...      
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written by Philip Oliver    
Everyone knows my opinion on what Nas has become, so originally despite having this album in my possession for over 2 weeks I wasn't gonna review it because people would think I'm 'hating' (A phrase I completely dislike). I have to put my opinion forward though as its still amazing me how many people think this return is a good one. We all know the situation with the promo/bootleg, it wasn't too hot but going back and listening to that now he would have been better releasing that instead of this album.

I've laid the blame on many people in the past for Nas' decline, mainly the Trackmasterz but even I know they can produce hardcore material for our ears. After hearing this album who knows what the hell is going through Nas' head, the title was obviously meant to be a reflection of himself and a personal outlook on his life. The promo was more than heading this way successfully with 'fetus' 'poppa was a player' and 'drunk by myself'. Further adding to this direction was 'Nas is like', no words will describe the lyrical brilliance he showed us again on here but it seems he's lost the plot along the way.

The intro can only be explained as 'Phenomenal' the songs echo in and out from his past and it just gives you such a good feeling to hear all those classics within 2 minutes. This is also a bad thing as it is a painful reminder of what he is capable of. So we dive head first into 'NY state of mind', what a start as a first track, its not the deep layered production of Premier that stands out here it's the vivid depiction within Nas's Lyrics, 'Broken glass in the hallway Blood stained floors / Neighbours look at every bag you bring through your doors/ Lock the top lock mama should have cuffed me to the radiator/ Why Not? It might have saved me later from my block'. I think DJ Premier must be kicking Nas in the balls every time he works with him to snap him out of that esco shit. 'Hate me now' is a grower I'll admit but it is pale in comparison to the track that has just come beforehand. 'Favor for a favor' with Scarface is unnecessary as Brad Jordan goes for the record in saying as many 'muthafuckers' as he can in a verse and this is where it starts a steady decline. Listening to 'always survive' I can just overcome its crap hook and beat to listen to Nas sending out what is a real heartfelt tribute, what hit me was the line to Biggie 'I missed your wake, not cos I'm fake, cos I hate to see somebody so great in that way'. Now no disrespect to Timbaland (Cos you all know I Like his production) but what the Fuck is his RNB beats doing on here, 'You won't see me tonight' with Aaliyah is one of the biggest mistakes he's making on here but wait 'KISSING' just took that award, how low can you go? Is it me or do a few of the tracks on here begin with a beat skipping, that includes 'I Wanna Talk To You' the aforementioned 'KISSING' and 'Undying Love'.

'Undying Love' is the track that everyone teems to be talking about, I don't think its incredible but its definitely one of the best tracks on here. 'Dr Knockboots' comes off as one of my favorite tracks, I've had some feedback saying that I don't like Nas because he's growing and changed, well I really like this and this is different to his normal style, how he breaks down the do's and don'ts of sex is put down well. Same goes for 'Big things' I originally didn't like it because it was different, but that's true cos its different to anything else on here, I still don't like the bone Thugz style he's adopting though. Not brilliant but one of the tracks I won't skip by with its subtle sample of 'Do you know'. 'Nas is like' is just another bad reminder of what we should be listening to. One of the last highlights comes in the form of 'money is my bitch' which we also heard on the promo, over a littered set of steel drums Nas talks to his money like its his woman, again going in a different direction but doing it well this time.

The sad fact is that this is an above average album but from an incredible emcee, half the tracks could be thrown away. The best tracks could be coupled with the best tracks from the promo like 'blaze a 50', 'stay alive' and 'fetus' plus a couple more to create a worthy successor to 'Illmatic' and actually fulfill the title of 'I am'. In October we're supposed to be blessed with 'Nastradamus' but after this album I have lost any hope that it will be worthy of my hard earned cash. I'm not looking for another Illmatic, I'm just looking for this emcee to display his full potential.

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