"Nas Album Done."
If it feels like it's been years since DJ Khaled let the world know the iconic rapper's long-awaited LP was finished, it's because it has been.
Nearly two years after delivering the Major Key standout, the June 15 release of Nas' long-awaited 11th solo album is fast approaching. We're six years removed from the Queens native's critically acclaimed Life Is Good album, and just over a month removed from disturbing allegations of physical and mental abuse from Nas' ex-wife and artistic icon in her own right, Kelis. Shadowed by a cloud of controversy—regarding allegations to which Nas has yet to respond—and amidst a whirlwind month of Kanye-involved albums, there's a lot to unpack.
What do we know? The album will be executive produced by Kanye West, who is three-fifths of the way through delivering on his five-album promise from a few months ago. Like DAYTONA, ye, and KIDS SEE GHOSTS before it, the album will contain just seven tracks.
What don't we know? The name of the album, to start. [Editor's Note: The album title is NASIR.] Beyond that, we don't know who else is involved beyond Nas and Kanye, and what Nas will (or won't) speak on regarding the divulged details of domestic abuse.
While we wait for the album's impending release later tonight, we reached out to a couple of our industry friends to answer the most burning questions surrounding Nas and his new, still-untitled album.
Our panel: Anthony Fantano, owner and host of the popular vlog The Needle Drop. Ebro Darden, co-host of Hot 97 morning show Ebro in the Morning and a host on Beats 1 on Apple Music. Brandon "Jersey" Jinx, writer and video host for Complex and Pigeons & Planes, and one of the best follows on Twitter. Crooked I, 15-year veteran emcee, a former member of rap supergroup Slaughterhouse. His latest album, Good vs. Evil II: The Red Empire, was released this past December.
1. How should we view Nas' new album in light of Kelis’ domestic abuse allegations?
Very skeptically. But I'm guessing Nas will avoid the topic and hope fans will overlook it in favor of excitement over new music. If the Kelis situation makes me majorly overhaul my views on anything, it's his last album: Life Is Good. I was never a fan of it, but her words give the album's relationship-oriented tracks (and the cover) a twisted view now—you know, with the whole green dress being left behind narrative. I find it pretty unsettling. In a way, it makes me question Nas' dependability as a narrator, considering there's this whole other side of the story he's leaving totally untold. That isn't being real. —Anthony Fantano
I can’t speak for others but based on Kelis’ explanation of their relationship, the whole thing was toxic. Not an excuse, just a fact. I will listen to Nas’ album like I have any of his last projects to hear him unpack his trauma, fantasies and life lessons like any other imperfect human. My father used to beat my mother. I still love my father and have reconciled that his drinking and emotional instability at the time and an inability to reconcile with the trauma of his life and upbringing caused him to be violent. Do I forgive him? NO! Did I still love him while he lived? YES! Did I learn from his mistakes? Absolutely. —Ebro Darden
2. Does commercial success matter for an artist of Nas' caliber?
In my opinion, commercial success will always be a measurement by which we measure artists. Especially an artist with the notoriety of Nas. But with that said, sales have never been apart of Nas’ story or the way in which fans have specifically gauged his work, past or present. If Nas' album bricks, that’s a problem for any artist, let alone one attached to Kanye. But I think Nas’ true measurement is the music. Its lyrics have to be honest, his vocabulary has to be aspirational, and the beats have to be exquisite. At this point in his career, and with just seven songs, I think it’s less about how many people listen, and more about him living up to his body of work and impressing the people that tune in. —Jersey Jinx
3. It's been six years since Nas' last album, Life Is Good, and two since DJ Khaled proclaimed "Nas Album Done." Did Nas need Kanye to executive produce his new album for people to care?
Hip-hop forces you to care about a new Nas release. A teenage rap fan who isn’t into his music will have to pay attention because his name will dominate rap conversations everywhere once he drops. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter who produces the album. I don’t care how much you love LeBron James, Jordan will always remain in the debate. Nas is one of the “Jordans” of this rap thing. Not too many MCs from his era own that bragging right. Lonzo Ball may not care, but we saw how quickly he was pan-fried by the culture for his jabs at Nas. Standing next to Kanye and his MAGA dad hat may actually dent his armor with the old head and super-woke young rap fans but even they know, NAS IS NAS. —Crooked I