June 24, 2007

Nas - I Am... (April 6, 1999)

Nasir Jones continued chasing his Illmatic dreams with his third solo release, I Am... He had the respect from the backpackers and the love from the mainstream with his first two albums, and aimed to attract both audiences with a noble concept; a double album , originally titled I Am...The Autobiography, on which every track would serve as a personal glimpse into the life of a rapper from Queensbridge, a stereotype that every white hip hop fan from the suburbs would surely relate to.

The problem was that I Am...The Autobiography was among the first albums in hip hop history that was sabotaged by rampant Internet bootlegging before its release date. Someone (let's be honest, probably someone from within Columbia Records, his label at the time) leaked the second disc online, and fans snatched it up with a quickness usually reserved for Playstation 3 sellouts. Nas then scrapped the concept and decided on a single-disc release, cutting many tracks (some of which would turn up later on Nas's The Lost Tapes) and recording just enough new material to make I Am... look like a different animal altogether. We will never really know how Nas's original vision would have sounded, but since we're now stuck with an amended version, let's go ahead with that.

1. ALBUM INTRO
Nas's rap album intros leave a lot to be desired. The flashbacks to the first two albums are cool, but the creepy children chanting is very unnecessary. If I wanted creepy children, I'd watch a Japanese horror movie. Nas's brother Jungle fills in the role of the album's introductory hypeman.

2. NY STATE OF MIND PART 2
DJ Premier and Nas bring us a calculated attempt to appeal to Illmatic's fan base, with a sequel to arguably the best song off of that album. For anyone else, this song would probably be that next shit. For Nas, this song is extremely weak. But then again, I'm not usually a fan of artists revisiting old themes and expecting similar results.


3. HATE ME NOW (FEAT PUFF DADDY)
Puff Daddy appears in the video crucified and pitches a fit, demanding the scene be removed. MTV accidentally airs the uncut version. Puffy takes a champagne bottle to (Nas's manager) Steve Stoute's dome, and settles out of court. What people don't realize is that this song was not worth all of the controversy and hassle. People, it sounds like shit. Simple as that.

4. SMALL WORLD
People forget that Nas is a pretty good storyteller. This song reinforces that point, even though the beat is fairly simple.

5. FAVOR FOR A FAVOR (FEAT SCARFACE)
While the Trackmasters were the producers du jour for It Was Written, L.E.S. picks up their slack on I Am... Scarface is usually reliable, and is pretty decent here, but Nas sounds like he's trying too hard (especially on the chorus), and the beat sounds waaay too polished for the subject matter.

6. WE WILL SURVIVE
Nas pays tribute to 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G., two artists that he had known beefs with during their respective lifetimes, over a beat which can only be described as sorry. He does bring up a good point, though, about hip hop being the only major genre of music in which the players aim to physically harm others in the same game. It's a shame.

7. GHETTO PRISONERS
Meh.

8. YOU WON'T SEE ME TONIGHT (FEAT AALIYAH)
I wrote in my review of It Was Written that Nas's collaborations with Dr. Dre were overrated. (In the comments, someone had mentioned The Firm's "Phone Tap". You got me, I forgot about that one.) Another overhyped collaborator of Nas would be Timbaland, who presents a boring-ass track that doesn't fit Nas at all. Aaliyah, R.I.P.

9. I WANT TO TALK TO YOU
But that doesn't mean that I want to listen to your words. Make a better song, Jones, and we'll talk then.

10. DR. KNOCKBOOTS
A Trackmasters-produced joke of a song, which is admittedly funny if you've never heard it before today. The song is beneath Nas, though, and that fact alone tears you up inside. At least, a little bit, anyway.

11. LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT (FEAT DMX)
Nas mentions on "We Will Survive" that his dreams include "making it big on the movie screen", so it makes sense that his album, released around the same time as his big screen debut Belly, would feature his co-star, DMX. The problem with this concept is that DMX is actually a pretty good (if one-noted) actor, whereas Nas couldn't act his way out of several paper bags in a rainstorm during monsoon season.

12. BIG THINGS
Double meh.

13. NAS IS LIKE
The first single. (That's right, kids; "Hate Me Now" was actually the second single.) DJ Premier and Nas deliver the goods on this album's best song, bar none.

14. K-I-S-S-I-N-G
And then he follows that up with this shit.

15. MONEY IS MY BITCH
Just from the title alone, you should be able to discern my opinion of this song.

16. UNDYING LOVE
The beat is decent. Sorry, but that's all I got.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I Am... was a commercial success, further cementing Nas's place in hip hop history. It does, however, sound pretty awful. This isn't entirely Nas's fault, though, since he didn't get to release the album he wanted. Should people who download music from the internet be held responsible for the album sucking so goddamn much? Un pequito. The bootleggers didn't actually make the music, though; Nasir Jones did.

BUY OR BURN? Sorry, Nas fans, but a burn of the "Best Tracks" is the only recommendation you'll get from me on this one. I Am... isn't really deserving of your time, nor your ears.

BEST TRACKS: "Nas Is Like"; "Small World"

(Disagree with the above review? Then leave me some comments below! Make your opinions known!)

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Nas - It Was Written
Nas - Illmatic
Nas, AZ, Foxy Brown, & Nature Present The Firm: The Album

17 comments:

  1. The Most Felonious Vocalist In The Wide World Of ShowbusinessJune 26, 2007

    The beats on here are definitely weak apart from the obligatory Premier track, so overall I agree with your review. The lyrics are pretty weak as well, but this was the first album that showed Nas's growth toward sociological lyrics. I remember an interview with Nas where he said that this was also the first album on which he wrote his rhymes to the beat in the studio. I'm against that strategy as it seems to lead to lesser lyrics. My main departure from your review would be that Undying Love is a good story telling track. The beat is average at best but I like the lyrics enough to compensate, particularly the opening and the part when he says, "I guess we goin' out like Kamikazis." I am also entertained by Dr. Knockboot which is definitely beneath Nas but so is the whole idea of trying to appeal to the masses. I actually consider him an artist, unlike most other rappers, even some that I enjoy. But hey, I like money too.

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  2. AlmightyKDJune 27, 2007

    For as good as Nas is lyrically this album blows. I remember buying this first day it came out @ midnight. I listened to it on the way home and returned the CD 3 days later at HMV. Talk about dissappointment. There are 4 tolerable tracks on this album, The 2 Primo joints, Small World and Hate Me Know (I just think it's a hip-hop anthem put it on at anytime and I feel unstoppable)I don't even want to talk about it anymore........ very weak attempt at an album by Nas. I'm gonna listen to Capitail Punishment hopefully it can put me in a better mood.

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  3. AnonymousJune 28, 2007

    Undying Love is def. one of the best Nas tracks of all time in my opinion. Thats just me though. He just paints a ridiculously clear picture of a fucked up situation.

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  4. this cd is undeniable dogshit. Only the primo-produced songs are worth listening to.

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  5. You only mention the beat on undying love? Thats like looking at an M3 and saying "the rims are nice... but thats all i got." One of the best story-raps ever.

    Also, big things is a little better than meh, especially when you realize the third verse is all a dis at Cormega.

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  6. what is this? this is the best nas album of all! just before hip hop did die!

    you obviously dont know your HIP HOP

    and would rather listen to the scum on the airwaves such as chris brown and lil wayne. this album had a lot of talent unlike some of the sh1t released today

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  7. Seriously? You would put this album before Illmatic? Are you sure you've even heard Illmatic? Because everyone would agree that Illmatic is much better than this crap. Even Nas would say so, and while I have no evidence of that fact, I wholeheartedly believe it all th esame.

    Thanks for reading!

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  8. AnonymousMay 07, 2008

    "16. UNDYING LOVE
    The beat is decent. Sorry, but that's all I got."

    FUNNY! ROLF!

    mr.childs

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  9. this aint nas's best album but there are more than 2 good songs in the album though

    N.Y. State of Mind (Part II)
    Hate Me Now
    Small World
    We Will Survive
    Nas Is Like
    K-I-Ss-I-N-G
    Undying Love
    (^^no order)

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  10. Again you blaspheme on NY State of Mind Pt 2. That song is DOPE! Amazing beat, nice lines from Nas.

    Otherwise, I agree with your review.

    SirBiatch

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  11. nas is like says metal-dice luv dis shit forever

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  12. On the track "ghetto prisoners" he says" Don't speak to fools they scorn the wisdom of your words"...sorry you don't get anymore from me

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  13. The whole package is weak shit but with few diamonds inside (same for EVERY Nas album sans Illmatic and Lost Tapes, which are strong throughout).

    NY State Of Mind II is actually one of the best sequel-song. Nas Is Like, Hate Me Now and Undying Love are among his very best works too. 4 tracks, not too much off an album, but that's it.

    sorry for Lost Tapes comment, misplaced it for other review.

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  14. Everytime I see a review of the retail version, its upsetting, because after listening to the original concept 2CD version of I Am, the shit def. could've been one of the best double disc albums ever released in hip-hop. Too bad it got leaked and then got spread out over mixtapes, the retail version of I Am, Nastradamus (which was ass), and The Lost Tapes.

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  15. Wu-Tang ForeverDecember 29, 2010

    Does anybody know where you can find the original 2nd disc bootleg from The Autobiography nowadays? I downloaded what is supposed to be the original 2 disc set but it could've just been somebody putting tracks that were supposed to be on the album together and claiming it to be the real thing...

    Here's the tracklist anyway:

    DISC 1:
    -------
    1. Fetus (Belly Button Window)
    2. NY State Of Mind Pt. II
    3. Life Is What You Make It
    4. Small World
    5. Hardest Thing To Do Is Stay Alive
    6. Poppa Was a Playa
    7. Nas Is Like
    8. Blaze A 50
    9. Favor For A Favor
    10. We Will Survive
    11. Some Of Us Have Angels
    12. Project Windows
    13. Day Dreaming, Stay Scheming
    14. Sometimes I Wonder
    15. Undying Love

    DISC 2:
    -------
    1. After Life (Intro)
    2. Amongst Kings
    3. Life We Chose
    4. Drunk By Myself
    5. Pray
    6. God Love Us
    7. Ghetto Prisoners
    8. Last Words
    9. Family
    10. Come Get Me
    11. Find Your Wealth
    12. U Gotta Love It
    13. Wanna Play Rough
    14. The Rise And Fall
    15. My Worst Enemy

    You can download the bootlegs here: http://smokingsection.uproxx.com/TSS/2008/09/i-am-nastradamus-revisited

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  16. blessing kakadaApril 23, 2014

    I respect Nas a lot

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  17. This album wasn't that bad. It was better than nastradamus

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