Untitled | 5 stars out of 5
Of all the things that separate Nas from pretty much every other rapper, the most important one isn't his great flow or even his legendary rhymes. It's his sense of purpose.
Nas isn't a firestarter, despite the recent dust-up over the title of his new album — now called Untitled instead of the unprintable racial epithet he wanted — or the way he tackles the weighty topics of race and class. He says outrageous things because he's outraged. (“Only Foxx that I love was the Redd one/ Only black man that Fox loves is in jail or a dead one,” he raps in Sly Fox, his seething attack on the Fox Network.)
When Nas boasts, as he does in the new single Hero, it's mainly to give more weight to his opinions. “Try telling Bob Dylan, Bruce, or Billy Joel, they can't sing what's in their soul,” he argues, claiming rappers don't get the same artistic freedoms as their rock counterparts.
As he was on the underappreciated Hip-Hop Is Dead, Nas is as meticulous in lining up collaborators and beats for Untitled as he is with his rhymes. The Last Poets provide gravitas. Chris Brown and Keri Hilson provide hit-making potential.
It all adds up to a classic album that will be dissected for years, with or without a title.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday