Nas
Untitled


2.5
average

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
July 12th, 2008 | 76 replies | 30,811 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Great rapping, awful beats.

Before we even get to discussing the music contained on Untitled, let's have a pause to congratulate Nas. This is the man's ninth album, and he's been one of the most consistent, persistent topics of discussion in the music press for the past year, both for the Bill O'Rielly feud over the Virginia Tech concert and, of course, for the infamous decision to name this album Nigger. Be cynical if you like - accuse him of seeking publicity and playing the media, by all means - but the fact remains that for a rapper to still be hot property on his ninth album is a staggering achievement, regardless of how it was achieved. And few deserve it more than Nas - his flow is one of the best in the business, he's only ever released one truly bad album, and he will undoubtedly be remembered as an all-time great. No matter what happens to Untitled and its genesis - whether it is remembered as bravery or stupidity - we should at least put things in context.

Anybody who was expecting Nigger to be a statement of intent - and I think that's most of us - was half-right. The thematic content of this album, and the inspiration Nas draws from it as a lyricist, certainly surpasses Hip-Hop is Dead, a decent album that failed to explore its titular statement with any real aplomb. In fact, this is as inspired as Nas has sounded in many a year; if The Lost Tapes were to be taken out of his discography proper, then it's quite possibly his best personal performance across an album since 1996's It Was Written. It's a thoughtful, almost hopeful performance, too - where a lot of socio-political albums in recent years have taken a deeply angry tone, this is frequently more a meditation than a rant. It's a discussion on how we improve, what we can change and how, rather than simply a list of things that are wrong. Adding to that vibe are sampled voiceovers ("Louis Farrakhan"), and the appearance of The Last Poets on Project Roach. This album's most lasting strength resides on that vibe.

That's the positive. The negative is the performances of Jay Electronica, Mark Batson, Polow da Don, DJ Toomp, Eric Hudson, Stargate, Cool & Dre, The Game, J. Myers, Mark Ronson, and Dustin Moore. These are the people behind the majority of the beats here, and each and every one of them offers up a weak, diluted piece of music for Nas to spit fire over. The only three guys that get a pass on this are stic.man, Salaam Remi and, as much as I hate to admit it, DJ Green Lantern. For the latter, as much as he did to ruin The Nigger Tape and Immortal Technique's The 3rd World, his militant beat on "Black President" is a highlight here, sitting at just the right pace and intensity for Nas to shine at his best, and his use of 2Pac on the chorus is tasteful and smart. Salaam Remi wins out for his use of a hook lifted from Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force's "Renegades of Funk" on "You Can't Stop Us Now" - in contrast to the frantic original, this beat slows the line down to a smooth, fluid electric guitar line, with a gospel choir delivering the same line and providing the album's best chorus in the chorus. As for stic.man, he simply annihilates every other producer on show with the brilliant "Sly Fox". Nas kills it here too, and when the beat boils down for the third verse, you'd better believe Nas brings it.

They say I'm all about murder-murder and kill-kill
But what about Grindhouse and Kill Bill?
What about Cheney and Halliburton?
The backdoor deals on oil fields
How's Nas the most violent person?
Ya'll don't know talent if it hit you
Bringin' up my criminal possession charges with a pistol
I use Viacom as my firearm
And let the lyrics split you
Who do you rely upon?
They shoot shells at Leviathan
I'm dealing with the higher form
Fuck if you care how I write a poem?
Only Fox that I love was the red one
Only black man that Fox loves is in jail or a dead one
Red rum
Political bedlam
Don't let the hype into your eyes and ear drum
Murdoch on Fox, not A-Team with Baracas
And he hate Barack cause he march with the marchers


It's a shame that the other beat that stic.man offers, "We're Not Alone", suffers from the same faults as the remainder of Untitled - weak as hell R&B hooks, an ill-judged '80s bent, and soft drums. "Testify", "America", "Hero", "Make The World Go Round", "Project Roach", "Ya'll My Niggas" - each one of them is a victim of at least two of those flaws. When "Louis Farrakhan" and "Fried Chicken" look like highlights stacked against this wave of mediocrity, you know something is wrong. Neither of those songs are bad, by any means - in fact "Fried Chicken" is pretty enjoyable, its metaphor and concept bringing the best from Busta Rhymes on his guest spot - but they just simply shouldn't stand as the third and fourth best beats on an album with MCing this good.

In a lot of ways, this is the easiest review I've ever written. The flaws and strengths are so obvious, so glaring, that I can tell you outright in two sentences whether or not you will like this album. If you listen to rap for the lyrics, then go ahead and get this, because Nas sound great. If you listen to it for the beats, go spend your money and time on something else. Untitled is far from terrible, but it's still a deflating, disappointing, infuriating listen. Somebody get the master tapes and give these raps the beats they deserve, stat.



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user ratings (341)
Chart.
3.5
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other reviews of this album
thecreative0ne (4.5)
One of the best Nas albums ever....

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...


Comments:Add a Comment 
badtaste
July 12th 2008



824 Comments


Nice review. Would have been nice if you analysed the lyrics (in any way) though, I'm clueless about how good lyrics differentiate from poor lyrics.

Penultimate paragraph says I won't like this album, so yeah, probably won't track this one down.

username345
July 12th 2008



594 Comments


Excellent review, I agree with it 100%

dub sean
July 12th 2008



980 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I lost interest in Nas after Illmatic for the pretty much all the reasons in your review. That quote is sick though.

Oddsen
July 12th 2008



1127 Comments


nice review. I'm not surprised at all that this album didn't turn out so good, but it sounds like there might be some memorable tracks. Maybe I'll download a few. Also, I know Nas is a better lyricist than most rappers, but I think usually these days the beats are what make rap most enjoyable. Another reason i don't want to get this.

Altmer
July 12th 2008



5652 Comments


Iai your writeups are always amazing :D

I've been thinking about checking out some hiphop, I hear Nas' lyrics are pretty good: where to start?

(I prefer lyrics to beats)

SynGates
July 12th 2008



2467 Comments


I've been thinking about checking out some hiphop, I hear Nas' lyrics are pretty good: where to start?



(I prefer lyrics to beats)

Get some Army of the Pharaohs to get both lyrics and beats.

And good review too :thumb:

username345
July 12th 2008



594 Comments


Definitely 'Illmatic'.

You could try A Tribe Called Quest's 'The Low End Theory' too.

SHOOTME
July 12th 2008



2393 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I disagree with you, I kind of like the beats. Other than that, wonderful review.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
July 12th 2008



16083 Comments


I didn't read the review but the summary makes this seem like every album he's made since Stillmatic so poo

tcaporale
July 12th 2008



177 Comments


"Be a Nigger Too" should have been put on the album...in any case, it has a great video.

And "Hero" is a rather underwhelming first single, although from your review, it doesn't seem like there'll be any smash hits.

tcaporale
July 12th 2008



177 Comments


Listening on Last.Fm..."You Can't Stop Us Now" is excellent..."Sly Fox", like you said, is great too...very raw...I like "N.I.*.*.E.R. (The Slave and the Master)"...great message.

brandtweathers
July 12th 2008



2007 Comments


i prefer lyrics to beats as well (for a thinking man's hip hop) such as black star so i'm still looking forward to this.
and i don't think i'd be shocked if these beats did get reworked in the next year (amplive?)

Iai
Emeritus
July 12th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Depends if the acapellas get leaked (or if they already have). There's literally hundreds of DJs who'd do it. There's a couple of bootlegs I've heard called Rap Phenomenon, one each for 2Pac and Biggie, where it puts their vocals over the top of beats from tracks that have been released since they died....although the idea would be different for Nas I could still see somebody doing something similar.

brandtweathers
July 12th 2008



2007 Comments


quick question: do you mind giving me an order to listen to nas records?

cbmartinez
July 12th 2008



2525 Comments


just get illmatic

i've listened to a couple tracks on this album and I liked what I heard, "We Make The World Go Round" is pretty good for like a radio hit. But idk, did you like Hip Hop Is Dead Iai? Because my biggest problem with that album at first was the beats but now I love the album. I mean you can't expect Illmatic old school east coast beats anymore, Nas hasn't really been about that for a while. He can still rap great and I can dig on the beats. Anyway, I haven't listened to this extensively so I'll hold my tongue until I can judge it better.

But anyway, the new Game album is better than this.

Iai
Emeritus
July 12th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

quick question: do you mind giving me an order to listen to nas records?

LISTEN TO NAS RECORDS

THAT'S AN ORDER

Iai
Emeritus
July 12th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

illmatic, it was written, stillmatic, the lost tapes, god's son, untitled, hip-hop is dead, street's disciple, i am, nastradamus

The Lost Tapes is quality but you kind of need to have a grounding to get why it's special I guess.

Also, only get Nastradamus if you're really morbidly curious. I kinda like "Project Windows" but yeah, that album sucks.

Tyler
Emeritus
July 12th 2008



7926 Comments


But anyway, the new Game album is better than this.

Did it leak? I havent found it, and it isnt out until August now. I think you might be thinking of one of the mixtapes he's put out recently. This Message Edited On 07.12.08

Tyler
Emeritus
July 12th 2008



7926 Comments


Yep, but Nas caved.

brandtweathers
July 12th 2008



2007 Comments


har. thanks tons tho. getting a few as we speak



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