HipHopRambling: clipping. – CLPPNG (2014 – Sub Pop Records)

clppng

I don’t do a lot of alternative/underground/experimental albums, which is a shame, since I really should do more. Most of the time I’m doing well known albums from the gold-standard 1990s, but I should really spread the word on groups such as clipping. In an age where mainstream hip hop focuses on luxury, lust, riches, playing, and the same tired-old standard topics, clipping.’s first album released this year bristles with identity, ambition, originality, strangeness and fun. It may not appeal to those who aren’t into noise or electronic, but for those that do crave such production, it’s a must.

One that that immediately popped out to me was not the “weird” production that was going on in the album, but rather the delivery. The delivery that is showed on the album is incredibly distinct, which is amazing. At times, clipping. go off real fast, to the point of somewhat incomprehension, and then at times they’ll slow down. Overall, it keeps a sense of always constantly changing. The pacing of the album itself can get chaotic, but such is expected with an experimental album, especially of this identity and breed. In addition, the delivery is a “stream of consciousness”, and in some ways analyzes a psyche itself “in the moment”.

But the more enjoyable aspect was the wordplay. I think a lot of rappers forget that rap was made popular in the first place because of fun wordplay. CLPPNG provides plenty of it, especially in an age of half-assed rhymes. The lyrics are unpredictable, which keeps the listener’s mind going, and it’s what keeps the entire album fresh. Usually, many albums constantly fall off because they get repetitive, but the nature of the wordplay on CLPPNG keeps this from happening. It’s more of a mindtrip, if anything.

The production of CLPPNG is not in any way traditional (as would be with an experimental album). Modern common production techniques are not to be found anywhere on this album. Much of the production is inspired from music, specifically the noise, drum and bass, techstep, IDM, and other electronic genres (think FlyLo FM or MSX FM). Of course, this is where the silver lining is to be determined, and if you’re a lover of these genres, this album is perfect for you. If not, you may not enjoy it as much as others wood.

Overall, there’s no true way to describe it, and it’s up to the listener themselves to really make sense of the album. Overall though, I would definitely give the album a 5 stars out of 5. The originality shines through, as well as the very distinct and nontraditional delivery, which I found very fun to listen to. It is an experimental album that may more or less be a specialty as well, but I legitimately think it’s more than novelty. With more interest in electronic over the past few years, clipping. really could be the future of hip hop.

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HipHopRambling: Ice Cube – The Predator (1992) (Priority/EMI Records)

Ice Cube The Predator

Well, it’s been a while since I last wrote in this blog. I’ve been on and off and busy with school work and so forth. I’ve hardly had time to maintain this blog, but I’ve definitely been thinking about it. I’ve also been following the events relating to Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others very closely, and monitoring shifts of events. I thought it’d be, for this holiday season, appropriate to review more political-charged hip hop content. I plan to also do 2Pac’s 2Pacalypse Now as well as other albums that aren’t political over the next few days. I definitely have a lot to discuss.

Ice Cube’s The Predator was Ice Cube’s third studio album as a solo artist. Although Ice Cube’s 2 works had dealt with political concepts and social issues before (including Death Certificate, an album that seemingly attempted to offend all its listeners regardless of age, sex or color), The Predator was something special. Released in the post-Rodney King riots atmosphere, Ice Cube is more angrier, determined, and ambitious in this album. It’s incredible the work that Ice Cube has accomplished. Both in music and acting.

The content, as you would expect, deals with the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and Ice Cube wastes no time in describing the aftermath of the events in full-detail. The opening track of the album “When Will They Shoot”, goes into the controversy that Ice Cube has garnered with his music, especially the infamous “No Vaseline” track on Death Certificate where he calls N.W.A. manager and Ruthless CEO (and close associate of Eazy-E) Jerry Heller a “Jew”.  “Wicked” is a fast-moving track that talks more directly about the events that had struck L.A., and the struggles of the African-American community. Of course, most people will remember the album for the laidback “It Was a Good Day”, in which Ice Cube describes the perfect circumstances of a specific day in South Central Los Angeles. Immediately after the track ends, the album strikes back with its socio-political charged content on “We Had To Tear This Muthafucka Up”, which describes the LA riots from a rioters’ perspective, as well as Ice Cube’s threats towards officers involved in the beating of Rodney King, such as Stacey Koon. Overall, most of the tracks have some kind of socio-political message involved, which makes the album more enjoyable.

The Predator’s message, while may be incredibly provocative, nonetheless gets to the point. Ice Cube, with incredibly fiery anger and wrath, describes the struggles of the African American community post 1965, and details how police brutality, racial segregation, income, unemployment, poverty, political apathy, and a whole number of issues affected the African American (and also the Hispanic) community in 1992, and how they are still major problems today. Throughout the album, Ice Cube clearly cares about the community being affected, and really wants to prove his point. It may not be as shocking as AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted or (especially) Death Certificate, but nonetheless, it’s powerful. It also comes off a bit as if Ice Cube is stuck in between the guerrilla movements and MLK Jr, which is what made the political efforts of many rappers so special. In no way does Ice Cube try to tone down his efforts or be politically correct, and he’s not trying to be optimistic either. Simply put, The Predator kicks reality.

The production is absolutely sonic and a step up from Ice Cube’s 2 previous efforts. Take note that this was the pre-Chronic/Doggystyle G-Funk era. The producers employed in the album include traditional Ice Cube-cooperator DJ Pooh, Sir Jinx, and Cypress Hill member DJ Muggs. Ice Cube samples the usual funk heroes of the 70s and 80s (such as Parliament and Ohio Players), as well as older hip hop acts (such as Public Enemy, who played a huge role in AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted) and even classic rock (Queen) and films (The Predator and American Me). The production sounds very anxious, dark, and aggressive, which describes Los Angeles after the riots. Although not exactly as memorable as say, Doggystyle or The Chronic, the production nonetheless is amazing.

The Predator is one of the last few politically charged albums of the 90s, as mainstream artists began to stop rapping about real issues and instead move towards either stereotypical gangsta rap inspired by films like Boyz n the Hood, or to party pimps with G-funk instrumentals. Although the golden age of hip hop definitely continued past 1992, the political charged content it brought sadly didn’t for the most part. The Predator deserves a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Outside of “It Was a Good Day”, I’d say “We Had to Tear This Muthafucka Up” is perhaps the most memorable track, with it’s hard hitting beat, graphic yet vivid lyrics, and serious message.

Nas – Life is Good (2012 – Def Jam)

La Vida es Buena

Let it be known that I am a big Nas fan. From his very first baby steps in Main Source’s Live at the Barbecue to his latest single release in The Season, Nas is easily my favorite rapper of all of them (and that’s a lot of good musicians). Really, the 1990s birthed so much in what really became a fantastic renaissance in the music genre. Nas is one of the very few rappers from this time that has managed to remain among the top in 2014, and still beloved by young and old.

To start off, Life is Good is an incredibly cathartic and honest album. In an era of hip-hop and rap where much of the content is boring and infinite about sex, alcohol, money, cars, and narcissism, Life is Good goes in a completely different direction. One complaint that many musicians get is that they abandoned their old style, and Nas is no different. He’s always been told to go back to his very roots in the 1994 release Illmatic, his original (but definitely not only) magnum opus. After years of different themes, issues, and collaborations, Life is Good truly goes back to the original themes of Illmatic, but does in a way that is nostalgic, reminiscent, respectful, and rather hopeful. One might argue that Life is Good is the proper sequel to Illmatic, 18 years on (1994-2012). (Also, for those of you who have gone through a bad breakup, divorce, or were involved in relationships that just didn’t work out and were laden with issues, I suggest picking this album up; it’s like therapy)

The first half of the album  (tracks 1-7) are incredibly strong. Each track really is Nas reflecting on his childhood and teen years; it’s almost as if it were Illmatic in hindsight. The real standout here is “Daughters”, which is very good, but also very nerve-wracking and uncomfortable to listen to (especially to anyone who has had to raise a child, or even is a teen). It’s really something that was never done in rap, but Nas couldn’t do it better. Of course, the album hits a bump in the road when the made-for-clubbing Swizz Beatz-produced “Summer On Smash” plays, and then the less-than-stellar “You Wouldn’t Understand” picks up the pace of the album. Thankfully, the album gets back on track with “Back When”, which is a nostalgic ode to Nas’s rough past, and again it has the “Illmatic in hindsight” type of feel. However, the best is definitely saved for last, and the final 4 tracks of the main album really serve perhaps as some of the finest closing acts in hip-hop history.

“The Don” is a very strong banger, and it just sounds so intoxicating and addicting. Admittedly it’s very club and radio friendly, but it sounds… amazing. You want to listen to it over and over again. It’s reminiscent of what The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac were doing around 1996-97. The whole song is a tribute to the 90s rap scene, and how Nas has somehow managed to live past the expiration date of his other classmates.

After “The Don” though comes “Stay”, perhaps the most cathartic and beautiful highlights of the entire LP. The song is fitted with a somber jazz beat, and Nas raps about his previous failed relationships, and his own experience with love and the way people act in their relationships. Nas shows absolutely no restraint, and it truly shines. It’s the shining gem of an already impressive opus. What follows though is more impressive, with the lady’s hit (but definitely a lot more classier than that label) “Cherry Wine”, featuring Amy Winehouse (who herself had a crush on Nas), a song about 2 star-crossed yet doomed lovers and their failures in dating. The entire tone of the song is very cathartic, as both artists were coming off nasty and failed marriages (Nas with Kelis and Winehouse with Blake Fielder-Civil). Both of their performances are incredibly commendable, and also help serve as the final ride into the closing moment of the album, “Bye Baby”, a very personal vent and reflection on the failed marriage with Kelis. The final song sounds like a gigantic mind-trip, which reflect confusion and disillusionment. All in all, absolutely beautiful and awesome.

The production of the album is strong and varies and Nas makes the best of it. Salaam Remi’s production truly shines here, with joints such as “A Queens Story” and “Cherry Wine”. No I.D. also plays a major part in production, wasting no time in “Accident Murderers”, “Daughters”, and perhaps most strongly in “Stay”. The samples and sources for production include various 1980s and 1990s hip-hop songs, as well as a number of heavy influences from classic jazz music as well, which help cement the nostalgic and reflective hindsight tone of the album. Life Is Good arguably is the true sequel to Illmatic. 

What one really notices about the album though is the themes. Say what you want about hip-hop. It can be conscious, gangsta, narcissistic, violent, misogynist, positive, strange, or a whole lot of other things, but there never really was a rap album that had the themes of an alternative rock album. Nas does this beautifully, and keeping very strong cohesion in the entire album, so nothing feels out of place (not even the Swizz-produced club banger). It all makes sense. It’s really a shame that both 2Pac and Biggie are deceased; it really would’ve been interesting to see them make an album similar to Nas’s Life is Good or even Eminem’s recent release in The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Regardless, the album really deals not only with break-up, but divorce, and looking back on a failed relationship and dealing with the estrangement of a former romance. As I said before, the album teeters on the point of being used as some kind of treatment for this kind of stuff. Even if you never have been married, one can relate very strongly to the content of the album.

Overall, the album definitely deserves a 4.5 out of 5Life is Good, as I said before, is truly the sequel to Illmatic. The production is outstanding and Nas’s rapping is as strong as it is. The only issues are the slow-down caused by the Swizz-produced club track. If “Summer on Smash” and “You Wouldn’t Understand” were removed, and replaced by the deluxe edition bonus track “Nasty”, Life is Good would easily be 5 stars, and perhaps legitimately deserving the label of Nas’s best album ever. I easily recommend this album to anyone. Even if you don’t like rap/hip-hop, at least give this album an exception. It’s truly something delightful and brand-new.

Mobb Deep – Murda Muzik (1999 – Columbia Records/Loud)

Murda Muzik

Remember Mobb Deep? Remember when, at one point, during the 1990s, they were considered as some of N.Y.’s finest emcees? Mobb Deep was also known as one of the most hardest groups during fine age of hip hop and rap that was the 1990s, dropping their debut album Infamous in 1994 and then releasing another strong (perhaps even better) album in Hell on Earth in 1996. By the late 90s Mobb Deep found itself in a very crowded New York rap scene, which included Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z, Jadakiss, Busta Rhymes, Big L, Big Pun, Ja Rule, the Wu-Tang Clan, Capone-N-Noreaga, and Lil Kim, just to name a few. Around the late 90s also saw rap really go pop (it was the P-Diddy and Master P era), with accusations of selling out everywhere. In 1999, Mobb Deep (with some label issues) dropped Murda Muzik. Compared to a lot of rap albums coming out in the late 90s, Murda Muzik was incredibly hard, yet very honest. No obvious pop-crossovers (with the exception of “It’s Mine” and “Quiet Storm”), no selling out, no unnecessary change of delivery or themes; just pure, beautiful, yet dark Mobb music.

When you first play the album, the first thing off the bat is the intro: it’s an excerpt from a speech Ronald Reagan gave in Homestead, Florida in 1983, with the theme of Crime Inc going on at the same time. It sort of tells you “don’t worry, things are still the same with us”, and prepares you what is to come: where Hell on Earth left off.

Murda Muzik wastes absolutely no time in showing that Mobb Deep were not going to follow the same crossroad as fellow East Coast artists did with obvious pop-chart hits. The first track, “Streets Raised Me” sounds as dark as anything Mobb Deep had done years past, with Havoc producing another strong and dark beat. Havoc follows up with yet another strong self-produced beat in “What’s Ya Poison”, which features a dark piano melody accompanied by a sample of “1000 Rads” by David Axelrod. All in all, the production of the music hasn’t changed much compared to the original Infamous release that proved to be Mobb Deep’s magnum opus.

Mobb Deep has always had very strong guest appearances on their albums, and Murda Muzik is absolutely no different. Mobb Deep presents a very strong supporting cast to its 3rd manuscript. Big Noyd provides a very strong performance on “Streets Raised Me” and underground Queensbridge MC Cormega absolutely kills it on “What’s Ya Poison”. Perhaps the most notable appearance on the album though, is Lil’ Kim, who provides perhaps one of the best lines in hip-hop not only for a female MC, but perhaps of all time, in “Quiet Storm” (albeit a remix of the original). Nonetheless, both versions “Quiet Storm” remain hallmarks of Mobb Deep singles discography.

The content of the album is fairly cohesive, sticking to the original Mobb Deep themes that they’d been doing since their first release as a juvenile group in Juvenile Hell. There are sinister, thuggish, dark tracks such as “What’s Ya Poison” and “It’s Time”, as well as much more conscious and emotional tracks such as “Spread Love” and “Where Your Heart At”. However, even with the conflicting emotions and viewpoints, it all blends fairly well with the tragic, sad, and hopeless, yet very violent and dilapidated scenes of the urban projects. Regardless, it’s pretty clear that Mobb Deep stays real to their background. The emotions range from completely sociopathic and heartless to tragic, mournful, almost remorseful. There’s definitely a mix of emotion. So few hip hop albums can do so without sounding discombobulated, but Mobb Deep accomplishes this. Especially in an era where hip hop artists were shooting for pop chart singles and the same old boring themes that plague hip hop today: money, cars, sex, women, status, etc.

Overall, Murda Muzik may not be as strong as say, Hell on Earth or Infamous, but it definitely is great third album after 2 strong efforts. Often rappers struggle with making a follow-up, yet Mobb Deep hits another home-run with Murda Muzik. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t filler songs, but compared to the watered down and repetitive shtick that was being released during this time, it’s very enjoyable. Final rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars.

What did happen to Mobb Deep afterwards? Sadly, Jay-Z decided to strike a major, major blow towards them during Summer Jam 2001 by exposing Prodigy’s early childhood days as a ballerina dancer, and Mobb Deep followed up with a lackluster release in 2001 with Infamy. Eventually the Mobb did the inevitable in going pop by collaborating with Lil Jon in 2004’s Amerika’z Nightmare (which sort of provoked memories of various early 1990’s albums of using the term AmeriKKKa, especially Ice Cube and Spice 1), but was a drastic change in formula. Mobb Deep would go through another change yet again in 2006 after signing with G-Unit Records and releasing Blood Money, but by this time Mobb had lost their Midas touch they had in the 90s. There is perhaps though a bright future for Mobb fans, seeing the release of The Infamous Mobb Deep in 2014, easily Mobb Deep’s strongest effort since Murda Muzik. Only time will tell.

HipHopRambling: Too Short – Get In Where You Fit In (1993 – Jive Records)

Too-Short-Get-In-Where-You-Fit-In

For my second HipHopRambling, I’m going to take you all the way back to the year 1993. The early 90s clearly told of a very bright future in hip-hop. Snoop Dogg had dropped his debut album Doggystyle, which marked the maturation of West Coast G-funk. The East was beginning to see a revival with the release of Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers) by the Wu-Tang Clan. 2Pac had also shot into super stardom with the release of Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. 

Let’s go to Oakland, California, circa 1993. Too Short was on a hot streak. He had released the ground-breaking Life Is… Too Short in 1989, then released Short Dog’s in the House (best known for “The Ghetto”, though “Short But Funky” is an overlooked yet also notable single from the album), and would release another solid album in Shorty the Pimp. By 1993 Too Short was thoroughly cemented as one of the West Coast’s finest emcees, alongside with the Dr. Dre (who had dropped The Chronic), Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Ice T, and Compton’s Most Wanted, alongside with the growing 2Pac. However, by the end of 1992, Dr. Dre had re-invented the way the West Coast sounded, and had essentially perfected the G-Funk subgenre, deriving from the Oakland-based Mobb music, as well as works from Above the Law and Compton’s Most Wanted. Too Short needed to respond to the changing climate of hip-hop, so he teamed up with fine Oakland-based producer Ant Banks to release Get In Where You Fit In, which also introduced the world to the short-lived rap supergroup The Dangerous Crew (which included Shorty B, Pee-Wee, Ant Banks, Goldy, Spice 1, and the now deceased Rappin’ Ron). What came out was an album that, although not terrible, definitely was not as good as Too Short’s earlier works, and sounded odd in 1993.

Perhaps the most notable part of the album is the production. Get In Where You Fit In was a pretty ambitious experimental project, and was an attempt to mix the more traditional and old-school P-funk and Mobb sounds of Oakland while mixing it with the Dr. Dre-created Chronic G-Funk. What came out was a very odd and awkward sounding album. Although there are a few nice tracks here and there (such as “I’m a Player”), much of the album sounded incredibly awkward, and was clearly a miss in 1993, making the album a big “huh?”. From a regional standpoint, it’s understandable. Too Short wanted to preserve the Oakland identity while nonetheless producing a G-funk album for 1993. However, it was a failed experiment.

One of the major issues with the album is that it’s just too long, and unbelievably long. All songs (not counting the intro) surpass the 4:30 mark, and with 13 tracks, this made the album an endurance test, mixed in with the awkward hybrid Mobb/G-funk instrumentals. Although there are some songs where the length is understandable on some tracks (such as “I’m a Player”, which is the shining gem in an album which leaves a lot to be answered), there are other tracks where the song drags itself on way too long, with no substance. The album could have benefited from being much shorter, but the length and filler really take their toll on this one.

The themes are what you’d expect from the standard Too Short album: pimping, cussing, and dirty rapping. There is some nice ghetto story-telling mixed in as well. Although Too Short was not nearly as notable as say, Ice Cube or 2Pac when it came to more socially conscious and political themes, nonetheless Too Short always had something real to say in each of his previous 3 albums, and it’s toned down in Get In Where You Fit In, with the slight exception of “Money in the Ghetto”. At times, the lyrics can get rather disturbing. Admittedly, Too Short is not recommended for the easily offended, but there are some songs where it does get a bit too graphic (such as “Blowjob Betty”), whereas the earlier 3 albums took a bit more of a satirical approach to the theme of pimping. It’s unsurprising the watered-down version cuts a lot of length and lyrics.

Another thing going on in this album is the lack of any notable kind of guest appearances. The only real standout guest appearance here is Spice 1. The rest really isn’t anything too special. Too Short had already collaborated with Ice Cube on “Ain’t Nothin’ But a Word To Me” on Short Dog’s in the House, and had toured previously with N.W.A., as well as Spice 1 having close ties to MC Eiht. Too Short could have had some more notable guest appearances going on here, but chose to introduce the world to local mostly underground Oakland emcees (with the exception of Spice 1, who had a successful debut album a year before), which is understandable, but it doesn’t achieve much in the end.

Overall, I’d give Get In Where You Fit In2.5 out of 5 stars. It was a pretty ambitious effort by Too Short, but unfortunately it ended up failing, and didn’t have a strong effect on the West Coast as say, The ChronicDoggystyle, or Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. all did (Ice Cube laid his own egg the same year with Lethal Injection). The track that is definitely worth checking out would be “I’m a Player”, which is easily some of Too Short’s finest work. “Just Another Day” is a nice ghetto story telling piece. If you’re a Too Short fan, or interested in the curiosity of the experiment itself, it is worth checking out. Despite the flaws that this album has, it nonetheless was a financial success, peaking at #4 on the Billboard 200, and #1 on the Rap/R&B Albums Chart (which, given the immense competition this particular year, is quite impressive), and eventually went platinum.

HipHopRambling: Nas – Nastradamus (1999 – Columbia/Ill Will)

Nastradamus (1999)

Nastradamus might as well live as perhaps Nas’s most infamous work. In the late 90s, things were changing in the hip hop game. After the deaths of both 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G., a lot of  attention shifted towards the predominant New York emcees who were roughly at their peak: Jay-Z, Nas, and Mobb Deep traditionally dominated the New York scene, and Eminem had dropped his first album that same year with The Slim Shady LP, as well as Dr. Dre dropping The Chronic 2001. The late 90s marked hip hop entering a transition phase, with both Death Row and Bad Boy collapsing and eventually disappearing from the map for the most part, and the music becoming much more commercialized. The late 90s also marked the rise of the Southern hip hop scenes as well as crunk music, which would dominate the early 2000s.

1998-2000 were quite turbulent times for Nas. Rival emcee Jay-Z was dropping album after album from 1996-1999, and was easily the most commercially successful rap artist during this time. Nas was also under incredible pressure to create songs for radio play that matched the more misogynist themes of Jay-Z. In addition, Nas’s last effort I Am was not incredibly well received (albeit having a number of hits such as Hate Me Now). Nas at this time knew he had to hit a home run with Nastradamus. However, in the end, the album failed to meet expectations.

There are some Nas fans who argue that the album itself was decent, but was derided because of the infamous single You Owe Me that featured Ginuwine. However, there are reasons for why the album was not well received. I’m going to into why it was such a dud.

One of the main problems with Nastradamus is that Nas tries way too hard to be… hard. Nas has never been known to be an extreme hard-ass (although the more mafioso themes in It Was Written were more well received), but it really shows in Nastradamus. The song “Shoot ‘Em Up” is a prime example of this. He goes on about talking about murdering various people in his neighborhood, but it comes off as extremely out-of-character for Nas (it didn’t help that the same song is a prime example of the cheap production that was going on in this album). He even goes as far as to say “kill kill kill, murda murda murda” in the hook, the same words said by 2Pac on “If I Die 2Nite” on his 1995 hit album Me Against the World. Nas simply isn’t a street thug, yet he attempts so in this album. Basically, there’s just way too much thug going on in the album for it to be enjoyable.

It doesn’t help that Nas’s rapping efforts weren’t as good as they usually were, and as the album goes on, it becomes clear there wasn’t a whole lot of quality control going on. If you compare Nas’ efforts on Nastradamus and compare it to say, It Was Written or Stillmatic, you’ll notice that Nas somewhat sounds rather disengaged from this album, practically at his worst. His classic flow that you hear on the original Illmatic or It Was Written is just not there, and is replaced by a more “harder” tone to fit the more thuggish themes that go on in this album.

The production is even worse. The instrumentals sound extremely cheap and that alongside with Nas’s pretty out-of-shape flow indicate this was incredibly rushed. The only memorable instrumental that comes out of here would be the lead title song (Nastradamus). Otherwise, most of the instrumentals sound rather cheap and unmemorable. This was an album that also had Havoc, L.E.S., and DJ Premier handling the production, so there was little excuse for the instrumentals sounding so bland.

The album also lacks cohesiveness as well. There are tracks which go on about Nas’s personal opinions on the state of society (New World and Life We Chose), others which are meant to be shots at Nas’s detractors (Nastradamus, Come Get Me), as well as more misogynist and thuggish tracks that are spread around the album. The album title more or less implies that the album is more leaned towards the philosophical themes that were present in Illmatic, but it sort of comes out as one big “huh?”. There’s so much going on in the album it’s really hard to get at what it’s trying to get across. Illmatic was about the struggles of living in the Queensbridge projects from a more pedestrian perspective with deep philosophical meaning, It Was Written tackled a much more darker side of living in the projects as well as the gangsta/mafioso raps that were popular at the time. But Nastradamus seems confused.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t highlights in the album as well. “Life We Chose” and “Nastradamus” are worth a listen. “Project Windows” featuring Ron Isley is much more closer to the original themes of Illmatic, and again is worth the listen. “Come Get Me” is also a pretty nice track on the album. However, the other tracks in the album are pretty bland and unmemorable, and don’t make up for what else is wrong with the album.

Overall, I’d give this a 2 stars out of 5. The cheap and rushed production, failed marketing, out-of-character rapping, confused themes, and that infamous single really keep down the bright spots that this album had; it was really dark times for Nas around the time. Eventually Nas would re-birth himself with the release of the much better (albeit far from perfect) Stillmatic in 2001 before truly putting himself back on the map and as an important and integral part of the game with 2002’s God’s Son. However, no matter how much you can sugercoat it, Nastradamus was a pretty bad album.