At midnight last night Justin Bieber’s fourth studio album, Purpose, hit the airwaves. For some it was a historic moment, for others a regular Wednesday. While we don’t usually pay too close attention to the Biebs, this collection comes packed with enough hip-hop flavor to pique the curiosity of rap fans. We're talking contributions from Big Sean, Travis Scott and most notably, Nas. Yes, you read that right - Nas.
Admit it, you want to know what a Nas and Bieber track sounds like, but you also aren't about to listen to a Bieber album only to find out even the rap-related tracks were a waste of your time. That's where we come in, we're professionals. You're welcome.
Justin Bieber x Big Sean: “No Pressure”
It’s weird hearing Bieber go through puberty in real time and this track particularly highlights that evolution. The beat feels ripped from early-stage Bieber and is somewhat basic, laying out his ability to fall back from a crush. For his part Big Sean has spent most of 2015 trying to do just that and offers up a verse that he squeezes in before the song's conclusion. It’s a Big Sean verse, kind of mailed in, but what were we really supposed to expect here? The song feels overtly forced, as if it were added at the last moment. Shoutout Biebs for pulling out the R. Kelly “key in the ignition” line though, can’t get enough of that.
Justin Bieber x Travi$ Scott: “No Sense”
This one felt more like a hip-hop track from the jump as Bieber takes on a bit of a Jeremih feel over distinctive trap drums that set the tone for Scott’s verse, which comes delivered in Scott's trademark style. Thing is, like "No Pressure" it’s similarly tacked onto the tail end of the track like an aside, a last minute addition. Listening to these two records back to back and where they fall in the tracklist it’s easy to wonder if Bieber just followed the typified way of including a rapper on a song. The song itself is pretty similar as well, discussing Bieber proclaiming his want to only be with one person. Travi$ arrives dripping in Auto-Tune and really fails to take the song anywhere better.
Justin Bieber x Nas: “We Are”
Once again, this record starts off feeling distinctly more rap-centric than the other two, albeit once again packaged in some sort of early-20s, faux love talk that really isn’t that easy to decipher throughout but sounds alright, I guess. Once again though, Nas's contribution is left until the final verse, as Bieber chooses instead to build the track up himself throughout before kicking it to the NYC legend for a few bars. You know how artists talk about getting in the studio together and making something great and timeless? Yeah, this isn’t it. The whole thing, similar to the other rap features on this project, sounds quite literally mailed in, as if a concept was sent over via e-mail and a verse arrived an hour later through Dropbox.
So basically, consider it a favor on our end. If you're into hip-hop in any realistic way, this probably isn't for you, but props to Bieber for bringing Nas to a younger fanbase. I just wish it would have been in an more interesting way than buried at the end of each track.
[By Jake Krez, who is not a Belieber. You can follow him on Twitter.]