Nas Nastradamus

A mere six months after the lacklustre I Am, Nas returns with more of the same. The latest rather pretentious moniker that Nas has acquired is the latest step in his increasing need to feign significant artistic development while issuing calculated drivel. Nas’s obvious talent has never been less apparent than on this, his fourth album. Early on, there are brief flashes of his capabilities. His knack for vivid narratives resurfaces on “Project Window” with old-school balladeer of choice Ron Isley, and “Come Get Me” finds Nas dropping his gloves, and in gritty form. Yet, the same problems that plagued I Am — weak production, Nas’ puzzling affinity for crooning hooks at levels that wouldn’t be deemed suitable for showers — rear up again to even more underwhelming effect. And just when you thought the penchant for jacking ’80s K-Tel compilations was over, he poaches Toto’s “Africa” wholesale on “New World” to inform us, in sage millennial mode, that Bill Clinton is the new JFK (“without the hole in his dome”), Roy Jones in the new Mike Tyson and Bill Gates is the new Donald Trump. With deep insights like these, it’s probably impossible to realise that you are an acclaimed and gifted MC on a very steep artistic decline. (Columbia)