When I acquired this album I was only starting to really get into hip hop and music, and it took a few listens to grow on me as this was quite different to what I'd been listening to. I'd heard ‘I Am…’ which was one of my first rap albums and I loved that, but from a production point of view, this is quite different as it was to the other stuff I was playing. It feels more like live instruments were used at times rather than the boards. Once I started to enjoy it though, it seemed/seems every time I listen to it I like it more and more, and now, while every track isn't brilliant, I don't find one song I don't enjoy.
The album itself is a collection of different ideas. Much of the first disc is about race issues, where Nas calls out people including Kobe Bryant - “Little kids with they bus pass who look up to you, To do something for the youth, stupid spoof”. It feels like a prequel to ‘Untitled’. 'Sekou Story' and 'Live Now' also feature Scarlett, who is just Nas with his voice altered to sound like a female. Disc two is more varied in subject matter. The first half is really just a collection of random songs including a track about Rakim (produced by Nas), which created a bit of beef interestingly enough. Rakim was left wondering how Nas knew as much as he did about the legend. From the 'Remember the Times (Intro)' though, we get a run of tracks built around his relationship with Kelis that was going on at the time. And we also get a track with his father, and a song dedicated to his daughter Destiny, so that theme of family continues.
Although I'm glad it's not, because I like most of this, I think that if Nas just had one disc of the best this album offers, this could be possibly contending for his second best album by a larger audience. It was actually released in an abridged fourteen track version, that may be more to people's taste and attention span. However, as I say with many double albums, when an artist gives us double the material, I'm someone who overlooks a bit of filler/low points for the high points of the album, so it gets a good rating because there is enough great stuff across the two discs. It is up there competing to be my second favourite Nas album.
Best Tracks: Message to the Feds, American Way, These Are Our Heroes, Suicide Bounce, Makings of a Perfect Bitch (same beat used on Kool Savas & Azad’s ‘All 4 One’), Streets Disciple, to name a few.