Nas

God's Son (Columbia)

God's Son is the creative by-product of a tumultuous period for Nas: The last year brought battles with everyone from Jay-Z to the on-air staff of New York's Hot 97. After dropping a certified classic with 2001's Stillmatic and then giving fans some great leftovers in Lost Tapes, he returns triumphant with a new collection of "street hop" that takes listeners back to the golden era of hip-hop while establishing him as one of the top five contemporary rappers.

God's Son begins with the old-school vibe of "Get Down," which marries James Brown loops and tough tales of ghetto life. Later, on the Eminem-produced "The Cross," Nas reclaims his throne as the king of the streets over a dark, melodic piano beat. The CD's first single, "Made You Look," is a musical throwback to the days of Public Enemy, with an uptempo beat, horn hits and the lyrical hook "They shootin'...Aw, made you look/You a slave to a page in my rhyme book."

An update on the beef between Nas and Jay-Z is found on the standout "Last Real Nigga Alive," in which Nas provides a history of the relationship among himself, Notorious B.I.G., P. Diddy, Raekwon (of Wu-Tang) and Jay: "I was Scarface, Jay was Manolo/It hurt me when I had to kill him and his whole squad for dolo." Other strong tracks are the Alchemist-produced "Book of Rhymes," in which the rapper simulates thumbing through his notebook of written rhymes and reciting lyrics he comes across, and "Thug Mansion," which features a verse from Tupac Shakur speaking from beyond the grave. Alicia Keys makes a cameo as both vocalist and producer on the emotional "Warrior Song," while "Dance" is an uncharacteristically sweet number, in which Nas requests one last dance with his deceased mother.

Does God's Son fulfill the promise of 1994's Illmatic and the more recent Stillmatic? Almost. There are a few filler-feeling tracks here and there, but the lyrics and beats are exponentially better than those found on Nastradamus and I Am. Maybe all the controversy was just what Nas needed.

 
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