Magic by Nas Track By Track
On Christmas Eve Nas released his fifteenth studio album titled Magic. This is the second album that Nas has dropped in 2021, along with King’s Disease II which is nominated for a GRAMMY. Magic is a nine-track project produced by Hit-Boy and it serves as a phenomenal addition to Nas’s later catalog.
Nas has always been known for his lyrical storytelling ability, however in both Magic and King’s Disease II he has leaned into telling stories from the 80s and 90s hip-hop scene and setting the record straight. It’s clear that Hit-Boy and Nas have found a rhythm together, Nas mentions that they might even by the new “Gang Starr.”
Let’s go thru Magic track by track.
“Twenty-one years past the twenty-seven club,” might be the coolest way for someone to say that they’re forty-eight. Nas has fully leaned into his status as an OG, a hip-hop historian, and one of the GOATs. This song has a simple boom-bap beat with some high-pitched 90’s inspired guitar riffs in the background. Nas sets the tone for what to expect on Magic, effortlessly changing flows and talking about where he comes from compared to where he is now.
Meet Joe Black
Similar to the last track, the purpose of this track is to set the tone for the album and create a sound. The track title Meet Joe Black is a reference to a movie from 1998 where a man is visited by “death” who appears in the form of a man named Joe Black.
Nas is perhaps the only rapper that could dedicate 11% of his album to a niche Brad Pitt film from 23 years ago and make it interesting. I’d bet my money that streams for the movie Meet Joe Black will increase vastly because of this track.
On Meet Joe Black – Nas refers to himself as “New York’s J Prince on Houston Street.”
Ugly features a distorted piano beat, similar to the type of beat Earl Sweatshirt might use. In this song, Nas talks about New York gun violence and shouts out Big L. At the end of the first verse Nas teases the release of King’s Disease III in 2022, saying “KD3 on the way, this just to feed the buzz.”
This is one of the weaker tracks on the album, but still a strong song by all measures. It sounds good, the beat is strong, but overall the song lacks substance. Nas is not necessarily saying anything other than he’s one of the GOAT’s and that you should respect him. “If they don’t say I’m the G.O.A.T., that’s just silly behavior.”
In the beginning of Hollywood Gangsta – Nas shouts out “New York Drill Rappers.” This track has clear themes and impressive rhyme patterns. As an artist, Nas addresses growing as an artist and a person “when you get older you begin to move different.”
The first verse discusses where Nas came from and the second verse highlights where Nas is now. “Hollywood Gangsta, i’m the opposite of that,” Nas says repeatedly in this song.
Wu For The Children
The song starts off with a quote for the ages: “I don’t work this hard to be around people I don’t like.”
On Wu For The Children, Nas takes time to address past mistakes “I shoulda had Grammys when Ol’ Dirty said Wu For The Children. Shoulda did that remix verse on Gimme The Loot for Biggie.” The song ends with “Rest in peace ODB, Taheim, Virgil, The Queen, Jacqueline Avant. Special People.”
This is one of the best songs on the album, phenomenal storytelling, and seamless transitions.
Wave Gods – ft. A$AP Rocky & DJ Premier
“Me and Hit-Boy, they say we like the new Gang Starr. Me and Flacko, they say we the new Wave Gods.” Nas links up with A$AP Rocky and DJ Premier for an All-Star New York collaboration. It’s really interesting to see A$AP Rocky as one of the only features on this project, Lord Flacko is stepping into the upper echelon of hip-hop.
Rocky and Nas go back and while DJ Premier cuts samples and ad-libs into the background. This is a fun track, play it loudly in your car or in your headphones and you’ll catch your head nodding. It would be interesting to see if Nas and Rocky make a collab project under the name Wave Gods.
French Montana dropped a mixtape titled Wave Gods which features Nas.
Once again, Nas starts a song talking about his past and ends the song talking about his current reality. The majority of the first verse is Nas reminiscing about the 80’s in great detail, then transitions into the chorus.
“Y’all don’t look like the truth to us (Hype off that lil’ dirt you did, that ain’t shit to the kid, whoa)”
The song closes with Nas reminding people of the risks he took “when I was tourin’ the nation with warrants on probation.”
Finally, for the first time since the intro – the word “magic” is said. This song has a complete beat change about 2 minutes into the song, it could honestly be two different songs.
On Dedicated – Nas talks about the issues he cares about like financial literacy, funding for education, speaking with African Presidents, and Juneteenth. He repeats “I dedicated my life” without saying to what, that’s for the listener to fill in with the verses.
This album is a must listen for any Nas fan, but unlike other Nas projects I could imagine casual modern hip-hop fans enjoying this project. There’s a very real chance that King’s Disease II will win a GRAMMY this year and that both Magic and King’s Disease III get some recognition next year. Nas and Hit-Boy are damn near perfect together.