It goes without saying, Nas will always be one of the most accomplished rappers around. Illmatic, It Was Written and the classic joints scattered between Stillmatic and God's Son still continue to influence peers right on down to Joey Bada$$ and the jazz-rap movement that has resurfaced these several few years. Even his collaborations with Damian Marley have become timeless classics. However, the fact remains: Nas changed and grown with us, but he is forever after the magic of his debut. In recent years, his music has had been stuck in the past, trying to recreate the style and impact of the first few albums to no avail. Life is Good showed their was life in Nas yet, so, the prospect of Kanye West producing him and bringing his incredible flow and social messages up to date was a truly interesting one.

Released as part of a streak of GOOD FRIDAY albums by Kanye, Nasir comes after Album of the Year contender Pusha T’s DAYTONA, Kanye’s own divisive ye and Kid Cudi and Kanye's surprisingly addictive, psychedelic KIDS SEE GHOSTS. It is impossible to avoid comparing NASIR to the other GOOD FRIDAY records. Though West’s production paired with Nas’ flow makes for some of the more interesting tracks of Nas’ late career, it feels lackluster. The rapper himself seems uncertain as to how to both stick to his playbook and assert himself over a modern Kanye West song structure. In fact, ‘Cops shot the Kids’, perhaps the most invigorating track on the album, was originally meant for ye. While the frantic Slick Rick sample presents a vigorous, fresh energy for Nas to rap over, the political message of the track feel sone note. Whilst an incredibly important statement, the blunt statements of police brutality is one articulated better by thousands of other rap songs, with, yes, Nas' own words back on Illmatic looming as ever.

When the album is not pushing Nas onto tracks not meant for him, it is living ever in the shadow of Nas’ early output. ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Simple Things’ has the tone and style of classic Nas, but without any of the grit or depth. Nas is trying to keep up without truly adapting or changing his own style. ‘Everything’ stands out as dated even for Kanye, who repeats production flourishes of his previous tracks ‘Lost in the Woods’ or ‘Hold My Liquor’, only for Nas to rap over. The meandering 7 minute production fails to maintain any interest.

There are a few moments on the album that are legitimately promising. The opening track ‘Not For Radio’ has a gigantic feel, suited for Nas. It combines the grand tone of early Nas with flourishes of modern production. But that’s the problem, most of the success of the album comes from the production. ‘I’m Gonna Have to Leave You’ only features a single verse from Nas before devolving to entirely instrumental. The chaotic intro is a perfect backdrop for Nas’ harsh gruff voice, but the lyricism is lost in the mix. Not to be missed, Kanye's vision (and ego) shines through on every song on the album, evident as he upstages Nas on ‘Cops Shot the Kid,’ delivering an infinitely more interesting verse. His autotuned vocals are also the driving force on the song ‘Everything’ as well.

On DAYTONA, Pusha T had the vicious energy to wrest the focus from Kanye. West only featured on one song and used that verse and his production to serve Pusha T and his message. By comparison, Nas simply feels like a passenger. DAYTONA's beats their own personality, that stood out in the GOOD FRIDAY series, even though all 4 albums share a 7 track structure and rushed, lo-fi production. KID SEE GHOSTS allowed both Kanye and Cudi to shine in their own strengths, combining the often concept driven mix of r’n’b and rap from a Kid Cudi album and mixes it with the wild experimentation of Kanye’s recent output. Even the embattled ye has a distinct personality. NASIR plays it safe, rarely veering outside the tried and true of both artist’s earlier output. Even in the more interesting moments of the album, the attention is drawn away from Nas. Which ends up serving no one favourably.

With all that time passed since 'Nas Album Done', and all the expectations that gap has allowed for, Nasir seems to have arrived uncertain of where he wants to go, still here, still flawlessly skilled, still boasting, albeit to no one in particular. Even when surrounded by the bells and whistles, he lyrically never achieves the same complexity of modern rapper or even his past self. He tackles social commentary broadly and without a new angle. It has been explored by countless others, but he attempts to touch on domestic abuse without mentioning his own dealings in it. Either he has run out of things he wants to say or is attempting to cash in on the most potent social issues without truly understanding them. NASIR is the weakest of the recent Kanye output, though perhaps more consistent than ye it fails to put a dent in the current hip hop conversation, feeling especially limp in comparison to the sudden arrival of a one-time nemesis and his wife.