Nas / Street's Disciple

With the release of his classic debut "Illmatic," Nas cemented his place as one of the most gifted lyricists in hip-hop. The problem with subsequent albums was that they were always weakened by inconsistent performances. Now, with his seventh studio album, Nas has returned to the storytelling narratives that made him so compelling on his debut. After battles with Jay-Z and former friends 50 Cent, Cormega and Nature, Nas is now stronger and more focused than ever. While Streets Disciple is a bit bloated over two albums, there's new classic material here, including his homage to the era that birthed him. On "Coon Picnic," a scathing indictment addressing sell-outs, the tomfoolery of UPN, WB and other stereotypical portrayals of blacks in Hollywood, Nas sarcastically thanks the likes of Tiger Woods and disses Kobe Bryant over his rape charges: "Who woulda knew? Mr. goody-two-shoes/ He love a little butt crack, got enough cash/ little kids with their bus pass who look up to you/ do something' for the youth, stupid spoof." Nas comes correct. The sinister "Thief's Theme" and "You Know My Style," both underground classics, bring the hardcore sound Nas is known for. "Virgo" featuring Doug E. Fresh and Ludacris finds Escobar paying respect to rap legend Slick Rick. AZ returns to form on "Understanding," while newcomer Quan holds it down on "Just a Moment." Next time Nas might want to keep his flirtations with R&B to himself. "No One Else in the Room" with Maxwell and "The Makings of a Perfect Bitch" are both completely unnecessary. Despite a few missteps, Nas returns to make his claim as king of New York.

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