A new segment, in which I examine the good songs on bad albums, the bad songs on good albums, throwaway lines on bangers, memorable lines on terrible song choices, and reevaluations of once loved or reviled albums.

I was listening to a mix of the Nas songs I have one my phone, and I came across a few gems from an album largely considered his worst offering: Nastradamus. The song reminded me of my multiple efforts to give that album renewed attention, hoping to find more good than previous listens, and how I have done the same with other albums over time. When an album did reveal something new, I’d give it an award in my year-end list, but Nas never made it. And writing lists kept getting pushed back, so I’ve since ceased trying.

While I was listening to the song, I thought about a new idea, a new way to honor those albums that improved with time, and to give praise to the standouts of otherwise un-listenable albums. I might even comment on bad songs from otherwise classic records.

First up: Nas. Nastradamus was an album I really wanted to love. I Am… was an instant classic for me, and its follow-up was one I tried hard to love. The cover was in keeping with his concepts to that point, and it promised an even deeper record than what came before. Then came the titular track. Then came “You Owe Me Something”. I admit that I liked them at first. As a sophomore in high school I liked having songs that would contribute to a Hip-Hop dance playlist for this epic party I’d never get to throw; but repeat listens quickly became repeat skips.

Come Get Me” was an instant standout, though. A quick rifle through the accompanying booklet during the first track revealed that name that made any track buzz-worthy: DJ Premier. At the time, the album started out pretty strong, but after the mellower “Project Window”, “Come Get Me” was like a wake-up call, a cold slap in the face. The never-gets-old scratching of lines from previous Nas songs, a driven beat that induced instant head-nodding, and then Nas jumping in tearing the beat to shreds. Like with anything he’s done with Preemo, he rode the beat as seamlessly as he breathed the air. There were no classic bars on this one – just straight trash talk spittin’ – but it worked. It was flexing. It was pure vigor. And for me it hinted at something darker and more aggressive on the horizon.

What would follow the doomed Nastradamus? His second classic record, and the reinvigoration of his career (minus one song, sure to be covered in an analysis of the album someday soon.) There were more great songs on the album, including the ominous “Last Days”, “Shoot Em Up” with its jarring juxtaposition of a Christmas carol and violent lyrics, and the somber reflection “Project Windows”, blessed with a timeless Ronald Isley chorus. But the album itslef reeked of trying to cater to a mainstream sound, when Nas should’ve realized that he could always set the standard to whatever he chose. He remains in my top 5, and always will.

 

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