Follow Us on Twitter

Nas - Untitled

Nas, Untitled

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

NAS has never been one to shy away from controversy and his ninth album, Untitled, is steeped in it. The title alone has been left deliberately blank because of the furore that followed his original choice for the name, a derogatory term for black people.

The rapper claims he wanted to see how far he could push things; to test boundaries. But there’s also a sneaking suspicion that the row that followed brought even more publicity to his LP and will no doubt boost record sales. Young people always love to own something that sparked a cultural outrage, so it’s also a savvy marketing move.

In truth, Untitled is a pretty average hip-hop album and a bog standard Nas album. It’s as provocative as ever, lashing out at American social ills, cheap celebrity and global politics. But it’s not really saying anything we haven’t heard before from countless rappers; and it’s openly confrontational approach is sometimes a little too gung-ho, at the expense of enjoyment. If pumped up hip-hop is your thing, then binge. If not, best avoid.

That said, there are some tracks worth noting – whether for good reasons or bad. Lead single Hero, featuring a sassy guest vocal from Keri Hilson, is a guaranteed monster smash that drops a kick-ass beat, some incendiary lyrics, some sharp electronica and a bomb of a chorus. It’s catchy as hell and marks the album at its most commercial and accessible (which is no bad thing). It’s sure to appeal to the Timbaland adorers.

Likewise, Make The World Go Round, featuring Chris Brown and The Game. It’s got plenty to say and couches things in some pleasing smooth groove production values that wouldn’t sound out of place on Jay-Z’s recent American Gangster collection.

Mark Ronson adds some typically slick production values all over Fried Chicken, a sexy mix of snappy beats and horns that finds Nas teaming up with Busta Rhymes to salivate over some really racy lyrics.

Black President, meanwhile, is an empowering rallying call to Americans to help “change the world” and help Barrack Obama to become the first black president of the United States. It’s passionately delivered and contains more heavy-hitting lyrics, as well as a plea for “Americans surprise us and let us have a black President”. Such moments are arguably the sound of Nas at his most potent.

But I couldn’t help but tire of some of his rantings, especially when it comes to the over-use of the word “nigger”. It’s a recurrent theme and Nas tends to bludgeon the listener with his hypoethesising. Tracks like You’re All My Ni**as and NI**ER (The Slave & The Master) are particularly bad cases, as is album opener Queens Get The Money.

The latter part of the album also runs out of steam and becomes fairly repetitive and formulaic, diminishing the quality of some of its best tracks. Hence, once the controversial elements have dimmed and the music is stripped bare, it’s nowhere near the essential listening experience that its creator thinks it is.

Download picks: You Can’t Stop Us Now, Hero, Make The World Go Round, Fried Chicken, Black President

Track listing:

  1. Queens Get The Money
  2. You Can’t Stop Us Now – Nas, Eban Thomas, The Last Poets
  3. Breathe
  4. Make The World Go Round – Nas, Chris Brown, The Game
  5. Hero – Nas, Keri Hilson
  6. America
  7. Sly Fox
  8. Testify
  9. N.I...E.R. (The Slave and the Master)
  10. Untitled
  11. Fried Chicken – Nas, Busta Rhymes
  12. Project Roach – Nas, The Last Poets
  13. Y’all My Ni**as
  14. We’re Not Alone – Nas, Mykel
  15. Black President
  16. Like Me

  1. Can this review of a Hip-Hop album, from an Indie site be taken seriously?

    From what I am reading you clearly don’t understand the album.

    Ikem    Jul 17    #
  2. wow what a review. Damn did you listen to it. For crying out loud. What a stupid review. I do not listen to nas but i bought that album to here what he is saying. I have gone back to hmv to get his catalogue u get the picture indie haters

    dennis    Jul 21    #
  3. stupid review im from uk and like indie and rap but this reviewer clearly doesnt know that the reason he uses Nigger alot is because the album was supposed to be called nigger….oh wait they did put that at the beginning of the review but then they say later on that its used to much ?? contradictory at its finest.

    Also its not as easy to understand songs like “slave and the master” if you dont know any history about blacks or you dont know much about hip hop.

    The bottom line is its a very lyrical album lyrics being not very widely used in indie and it takes intelligence to understand nas which most of my mates who are indie only fans don't have

    James    Jul 23    #
  4. I think the reviewer has a valid point about the over-use of the word nigger by rap artists. This is a great album but that word does stick out like a sore thumb on a few tracks. And what was it that Russell Simmons was saying….? Maybe Nas fans should think before over-reacting!

    Mike    Jul 24    #