New York rapper Nas recently released a surprise album Magic with superstar producer Hit-Boy. Nas and Hit-Boy began working together in 2020 and Magic is their third studio album, with a fourth on the way. Combined, you might have the greatest rapper in history working with the greatest producer in hip hop. The two, Nas and Hit-Boy, can’t be stopped.
Nas and Hit-Boy
Nas and the Illmatic Curse
Nas is one of the greatest rappers in history. He has been working tirelessly since his debut album Illmatic in 1994. Magic (2021) is the Queens-born rapper’s 19th studio album. Illmatic is considered one of the greatest albums in hip hop but this comes with some trepidatious territory. Nas and his most hardcore fans have been at odds since the release of this album. His fans continue to compare his current work to Illmatic, a near-perfect album. It has nearly been 30 years since the release of this album and Nas recently said that it’s time to move on and move forward.
“I don’t want to celebrate another Illmatic anything. I’m done. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for appreciating that record, but it’s over.” Nas said in an interview with XXL Magazine, “I’m grateful, but it has started to take on a life of its own. I just did the 20th anniversary with the National Symphony Orchestra five years ago and, the next thing you know, five years go by and it’s a calendar that I didn’t ask for showing me how fast time moves. Twenty-five years is a lifetime. So I did another Symphony Orchestra show for Illmatic this year; I got another plaque for it. I’m very grateful”
On Magic Nas says, “The Nas enthusiasts thinkin’ they know what’s best for me, More than I know what’s best for me, no rest for me”
Illmatic has become the icon of the east coast genre of hip hop. It’s gritty and thick with smart verses. What has won fans over from the past 27 years is how complex and direct Nas’ lyrics were. Since then he has done a ton of great work but fans continue to look back and compare his work to Illmatic. As a huge fan of Nas, I will confidently tell you Magic is some of his best work.
Hit-Boy Makes Hits
Hit-Boy has been working hard in the background and most hip hop fans won’t recognize the name, but will absolutely recognize the work. Hit-Boy worked as a producer on tracks SICKO MODE for Travis Scott, Ni**as in Paris for Kanye West & Jay-Z on Watch the Throne, Feeling Myself for Nicki Minaj & Beyonce. Additionally, he was worked with A$AP Rocky, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, DJ Khaled, Ariana Grande, Eminem, Nipsey Hussle, among others.
His previous work, King’s Disease (2020), with Nas and Hit-Boy, earned himself his third Grammy Award. Now, the two are back with Magic and it might be their best work.
Nas and Hit-Boy – Magic Album Review
Magic feels like a successful return to form for the entire art. As hip hop strays away from its roots this album feels like dedication and call back to its roots of New York, Boom Bap of the ’90s. The album thematically spends some time criticizing modern hip hop and disparages violence in urban neighborhoods.
This album has grimy beats and smooth samples. Great drum loops which Nas nails rapping over the beats. His lyrics are tight and smart, Nas continues to impress.
The track Ugly might be the best work on the album. A smooth beat, drums, with a decomposing piano sample. Most of all, Nas is dancing over his smooth lyrics and showing multiple syllable rhyming.
It’s ugly outside (A1)
They say beauty (A) is in the eye of the beholder (B)
I see the envy (A) getting closer (B) through my optics (C)
Knew I had vision before I seen (C1) an optometrist (C)
I seen (C1) a whole lot of shit (C)
Never altered my confidence (C) or my consciousness (C)
It’s ugly outside,(A1) stay dangerous, (C) stay out the mix (C)
Poppin’ (D) back out on niggas, homie I’m poppin’ shit
Kill ’em (D) with no accomplices (C)
Watchin’ (D) my rearview, the envy is obvious (C)
It’s ugly outside (A1)
In just a few lines of the second verse, one can see how Nas earned his stance in the hall of fame of hip hop lyricists. He rhymes multiple different words throughout the line and does multiple syllables. And connecting the entire theme with repetition of It’s ugly outside but not emphasizing this, instead, it becomes part of the flow. The repetition does not feel forced.
However, I would have liked a little more risk on this album as a whole. It’s a short album and if it were any longer listeners would confidently point out that we’re not getting anything. It’s a perfection of this style and if it were any longer than 30 minutes we would have grown tired of the sound. Another drawback is not every beat gives us perfection. Hollywood Gangsta sounds a bit cartoon-ish for example and this tone undercuts the seriousness of the message.
Nas – Ugly (Official Audio)
Magic is a quality album from Nas and Hit-Boy. Fans of classic style hip hop, east coast hip hop, boom bap, or hardcore hip hop will love this. It reminds me of why I fell in love with hip hop in the first place. These tracks will be on repeat and gets the highest recommendation.