„Illmatic“…such a great album, right? There are so many titles and attributes that were given to thisalbum. It was not just consideredas the best debut rap album, but the greatest rap album of all time. This was Nas’ gift and the curse, because every time he was supposed to put out another album people were expecting another „Illmatic“. However, if we were comparing other artists albums to „Illmatic“, we would say that the most of hip-hop albums that are considered classics wouldn’t even be worth mentioning. All of the harsh and negative opinions on „I Am…“ and „Nastradamus“ came from people having high expectations, rather then them listening and forming opinions on the actual music.
People wanted another Nas album that would be as great in every aspect, an album that would make them feel the same way, even if they knew that it wasn’t possible. Nas never wanted to keep doing the same thing on every album, but people made it hard for him. This is why some would say that „It Was Written“ was a dissapointment, but what would you expect as a follow up to such greatness as „Illmatic“? Still, there are a lot of people who prefer Nas’ sophmore album over his debut, but one thing that most people agree with is that albums „I Am…“ and „Nastradamus“ were major dissapointments. But, if these people would take a step back and ignore their expectations and comparisons with „Illmatic“and paid attention to the actual music on these albums, they would realise that „I Am…“ and „Nastradamus“ may not be hip-hop classics, may not be best Nas albums, but they are not as bad as the most people make it seem.
Before we start judging these albums, we should take into consideration the fact that both of them were pretty much rushed to be finished. „I Am…“ was supposed to be a double disc album, but most of the unfinished recordings were leaked on the Internet. Nas decided to scrap most of the made material and did some new songs for it. Later on that year, his record label decided to put out the „I Am…“ scraped material as an album, but Nas didn’t agree with that so he rushed to make a completely new album, which was „Nastradamus“.A lot of people don’t like these albums because they sounded more „commercial“ than anything Nas had previously released.That was the popular hip-hop sound in the late ’90s, it’s just that people didn’t want to hear over those type of beats because they were’t used to it. Lyrically, Nas drops a lot of knowledge for youth on both albums, there are a lot of smart lyrics that you can quote for days.
I’ll first get into „I Am…“ album. You shouldn’t expect Nas to only use beats like „Nas Is Like“and „N.Y. State Of Mind Part 2“.A lot of people say that Nas always had problem with making the right beat selection, but i disagree. He is an artist who simply doesn’t rely on beats, but he still manages to grab some good ones. This album has some classic Nas storytelling that we are used to, such as „Small World“, „Money Is My Bitch“ and „Undying Love“. Nas is dropping knowledge about life all over this album, we got „Ghetto Prisoners“, „Life Is What You Make It“, „I Want To Talk To You“, „We Will Survive“ (third verse). I didn’t expect to like the ladies joints, but „K-I-S-S-I-N-G“ and „You Won’t See Me Tonight“ are good tracks. Sure, it is little strange to hear Nas with Aaliyah over Timbaland track, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t deliver. Honestly, „Dr Knockboot“ and „Big Things“ are the only tracks that i feel like they could’ve been left out.
Let’s get into „Nastradamus“ album. I think that „I Am“ is better as a whole album, but like i said, „Nastradamus“ isn’t bad. I think that people were already dissapointed with the sound and singles off „I Am“ and they practically gave up on Nas after they heard „Nastradamus“ singles, which were „You Owe Me“ and „Nastradamus“. Singles made them overlook the substance of this album. The album theme is dope, it’s about Nas being a prophet and looking into future. Kind of like what he started with „If I Rule The World“ 3 years earlier. If you pay attention to his lyrics on both „I Am…“ and „Nastradamus“, you would realise that he truly was ahead of his time in 1999. „Life We Chose“ is one of my favourite Nas tracks, great beat and great lyrics, a lot of smart words that you can quote. The first single „Nastradamus“ is probably as dumbed down as Nas would be ready to dumb it down for wide audience, but lyrics are still harder and better than most rappers material. He goes on to drop more knowledge on „Some Of Us Have Angels“…“They tell you to keep it gangsta, no matter the predicament/Even though your decision won’t help you benefit“. Nas may be talking about dark and harsh reality but he is sending a positive message on this song. We also can’t forget about „Come Get Me“,an underrated collaboration with DJ Premier. „Project Windows“ is a beautiful song which featured legendary Ron Isley. For most people, this is their favourite track off this album. „New World“ is Nas talking about technology taking over the world over a sample of classic song „Africa“ by Toto. This track in particular shows that Nas was ahead of this time with the way he was thinking.
The only reason why people were, and are talking shit about these albums is simply because of low ratings and negative reviews they received. Most people probably never even bothered to listen to these albums after they heard bad things about them, so they just jumped on the hater bandwagon.My suggestion is that you listen to both albums in detail, take them for what they are without comparing them to other Nas albums, and you may find something that you will appreciate.