Nas Deepens His Legacy by Making 'Magic'

BY Antoine-Samuel Mauffette AlavoPublished Jan 4, 2022

On Christmas Eve, veteran Queens MC Nas dropped his Magic project to an unsuspecting audience. If the Grammy win and nomination for his first two King's Disease projects with producer Hit-Boy weren't enough to grab listeners' attention, this sublime collection of stellar songs certainly will. Nas spits "I am 21 years past the 27 club" on the grimy yet melodic opener "Speechless," confirming his longevity in the game on an album where the themes are timeely but the flow is reminiscent of the Nasty Nas era.

The eternal JAY-Z-versus-Nas debate looms overhead as Nas announces "KD3 on the way, this just to feed the buzz" on the soulful "Ugly." Indeed, the superb chemistry he showcases with Hit Boy, combined with astute cross-generational social observations like "Marvin Gaye to Young Dolph, we taking out our brothers," indicates that Nas has currently taken the edge over Hova in the Grown Man Rap category.

Magic also comes with its share of certified bangers, such as the braggadocious "Meet Joe Black," where Nas confidently repeats, "Your top three, I am not number one, how could you post that?" in the infectious hook. The song's outro skit alludes to Nasir Jones' infamous Hip Hop Is Dead claim, a statement the rapper has recently amended. This is a symbolic moment on the record, as Magic proves the rapper's potency — not through press quotes or his legendary status, but via the music.

"40-16 Building" is chock-full of throwback sound effects from the early 2000s, while the bounce of "The Truth" brings back to the Nas Escobar persona of 1996's It Was Written. However, this album is likely to be more unanimously accepted by fans, with tracks like the playful "Wu for the Children" taking listeners down memory lane as Nas insightfully reflects on his place in the rap world and broader society.

As the album progresses, the cliché of "all killer, no filler" rings true. "Hollywood Gangsta" directly addresses the New York drill movement and its tragic repercussions without becoming preachy. Similarly, when Nas teams up with iconic producer DJ Premier and fellow NYC rapper A$AP Rocky on "Wave Gods," the chorus scratching and boom bap beat are never in danger of being corny. Instead, the track proves that Nas doesn't depend on Hit-Boy and can meld generations to concoct a standout song.

Magic closes with the majestic "Dedicated," as a sumptuous beat switch allows Nas to effortlessly change flows. This caps off an immaculate project that finds Nas regaining top form and will surely find its way close to the top of his illustrious discography, which is aging like fine wine.

Nas himself sums up the project in the chorus of "Wu for the Children": "Special like my classics / Special like my listeners who have attachments / To my old style, won't let me pass it."
(Mass Appeal)

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