October 19, 2007

Drink Coasters: Nas - Nastradamus (November 23, 1999)

I realize that referring to Nasir Jones's fourth album Nastradamus as a 'Drink Coaster' is equivalent to jumping on the bandwagon of haters that finds this album to be utterly ridiculous. But it's an honest perspective; after listening to this album again, I feel confident enough to tell my two readers that this album is awful.

Nastradamus was Nas's second album to be released in 1999. Supposedly, it was intended to be the fabled "second disc" of the original I Am... recordings, but Nasir decided to record new songs and made an almost completely new album, save for a few tracks he had from those original sessions. It is universally known as Nas's worst album ever, but the reasons vary depending on who you talk to. Some will say that it's due to Nas selling out, and their evidence is the gawdawful title track and the horrible, horrible Timbaland-produced "You Owe Me", featuring Ginuwine, which, if you listen closely (which I don't recommend), you can almost hear Columbia forcing Nas to give them something radio-friendly in order to recoup their budget. Those folks would be only half-right, though, since most people forget Timbaland actually appeared on I Am..., on a song that didn't sound nearly as supposedly-club-friendly as "You Owe Me". In their favor, though, "You Owe Me" is one of the worst Nas songs I've ever heard in my life, and yes, I've also heard "Oochie Wallie".

Others will say that Nas sounds lazy on his fourth disc, but that would also only be correct about half of the time. Nas has always been one of the better storytellers in hip hop, and "Some Of Us Have Angels" can actually be chalked up as the best track on Nastradamus. Nasir also sounds energized on "Family", which is a collaborative effort with fellow QB citizens Mobb Deep that, oddly, was not produced by Havoc; after Prodigy spits his verse, we hear a rejuvenated Nas, a byproduct that always occurs whenever Nas rhymes with his friends from around the corner. (Too bad this trend would cease after Nas's fifth album, where he basically destroyed whatever career P had left after Shawn Carter publicly flogged him). When he's inspired, he has the ability to amaze (see: "I Gave You Power", from It Was Written), but when he's tired, he sounds about as good as that dude on the corner rapping for bus fare. Unfortunately for us, we get the lazy Nas for the majority of this disc.

My opinion is that Nastradamus is weak because it was destined to be that way. Nas rushed a CD to store shelves for the holiday season, so not every song he recorded in that short span of time can be considered a winner. In the rush, apparently Nas only had third-tier beats to choose from; in addition to the mess of a Timbaland track Nas thought he could improve upon, we are also subjected to a crappy Havoc beat (on "Shoot 'Em Up"), some poor choices by the Trackmasters and L.E.S., and, most surprisingly, DJ Premier, who supplies "Come Get me" with the weakest Primo drums and samples that I have heard in a long while; perhaps it's no wonder their working relationship seemed to end after one more album. Combine all of this gumbo with spoken-word intro and outro interludes, and you have a recipe for the worst solo album of Nasir Jones's career.

I cannot truly fathom that Columbia Records (who released this monstrosity on Nas's vanity label, Ill Will Records; since Nas signed with Def Jam, does that label even still exist?) sat around in their boardroom, listened to this album in its entirety, and saw dollar signs; it's just not possible. It's not like Nas is the caliber of artist (yet) that deserves to see a release date for any random ideas he can come up with: he's not Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen. Nastradamus is a creative misfire that Nas took two years to recover from; if Nas were not such a strong lyrical performer, this album would be what we call a 'career-ender'.

Avoid this one at all costs.

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Nas - Illmatic
Nas - It Was Written
Nas - I Am...

9 comments:

  1. 'Shoot Em Up' & 'Last Days' are awesome...

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  2. Hear you man, both Nastradamus and I Am are sub-par albums relative to Nas' capacity. However: 'Come Get Me', 'Project Window' together with 'Family' are tight tracks.

    Can't stand the singin' on 'Some of us have angels' tho. One.

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  3. as some reviewer I know might say: "meh" for almost the entire album ...
    I am ... was already a warning of things to come but this is indeed his worst work , period.

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  4. Any hip hop fan who say any nas cd was wack is trippin the only person that could ever see nas is biggie(rip) so what does that tell you every body else is either a runner up or a tie but they not better. Nas said, "I can't sound smart cuz ya'll will run away they say i ain't hungry no more cuz i don't talk about yay".

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  5. AnonymousJuly 25, 2009

    this is so far the wackest nas album ever along with I Am.., but the other are great,especially Illmatic

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  6. nas smoked crack when he thought of this piece of shit

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  7. project windows is a classic track, last days is not that bad, but other shit is straight wack, agree on Primo his worst beat for Nas ever..

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  8. Came across this at a friend's crib ... why he still owns this, I don't know ...
    Anyways, looking back, there are actually some nice songs on this: Life We Chose, Project Windows, Come Get Me (admittedly Primo's done much better for Nas in the past, but still), Last Words (very underrated track) and Family.

    Unfortunately, the bad songs are just unbelievably HORRENDOUS. Big Girl, WTF? Some Of Us Have Angels was just boring, as was Quiet N****s, and New World. And of course, You Owe Me is so bad, SO BAD, that I wouldn't buy this disc even if it was basically all of Illmatic plus that fucking song. It's that bad. From NYSoM to that shit .. unthinkable at the time. Thank God for Stillmatic.

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  9. seeing that this is 3 years old i doubt it will be seen...but besides this album sucking, the verse where Nas raps from the perspective of a jail cell is genius. The song itself isn't good, but THAT VERSE

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