For hip-hop purists, there's nothing better than hearing Nas in full flight. The Queensbridge rapper's blistering closing bars on A Queens Story - nearly a minute of unmissable acapella rap fury - is proof that Nas is nearing 40 in the form of his career.
The biggest talking point about his 10th album is a previously unreleased duet with Amy Winehouse, but Life is Good has much more going for it than Cherry Wine's laid-back soul.
It's Nas' most mature, most complete album since his classic 1994 debut, Illmatic, and sees the rapper relaxing into himself after a career of towering highs and brutal lows.
Nas opens up and puts more of himself into these songs, like the breakdown of his marriage to Kelis (the slow-jam nu-soul of Stay), freaking out over his daughter's teenage antics (Daughter) and reminiscing about the good old days (the '90s throwback Back When).
Like most late-period Nas, there are a couple of duds, the dodgy R&B of Reach Out among the worst.
But he includes plenty for purists, with the bass thump of the Salaam Remi/Heavy D joint The Don, the sample-heavy Summer on Smash, the soaring strings and grizzly guest spot from Rick Ross on Accident Murderers, and the piano grooves of gangsta story-telling standout Loco-Motive easy additions to a Nas best-of collection.
Happiness, it seems, suits Nas like a well-worn pair of Nikes.
Verdict: Acclaimed NY rapper finds himself on 10th album.
Buy a copy of Life Is Good here.
- TimeOutBy Chris Schulz @chris__schulz Email Chris