God's Son is an emotional album, imbued with recent experiences in Nas' personal life, particularly his bout with Jay-Z and the unfortunate death of his mother, Ann Jones. These experiences had challenged the self-reappointed King of New York, attacking both his street status and his heart, and he in turn looked within, embracing both his craft and his spirit. Brazenly declaring himself God's Son, in tribute partly to his mother's legacy as well as his own increasingly Jesus-like one, Nas emerged from his experiences wiser, stronger, and holier than ever, less engaged by the material world than the inner one, less interested in flossing than teaching, and less obsessed with his riches than his soul. And his soul he bares nakedly; profusely personal, Nas' lyrical divulgence is sometimes even startling: "Last Real Nigga Alive" name-drops Biggie, Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, and other '90s-era rappers; "Hey Nas" reflects on recent failed relationships with women; "Dance" is an ode to his mother; and "Heaven" questions spirituality. As usual, there's a street-rallying leadoff single here, "Made You Look," that announces Nas' periodic return with fury and bombast. Salaam Remi produces the Marley Marl-fashioned track and lays down similarly inventive beats on four others. He's joined by many of the other producers who had worked on Stillmatic a year earlier: Chucky Thompson, Ron Browz, and the Alchemist, all of whom deliver harsh tracks without pop gimmickry. In addition, God's Son includes three noteworthy collaborations: Nas and 2Pac trade gentle verses on "Thugz Mansion," Alicia Keys contributes the production and hook to "Warrior Song," and Eminem produces "The Cross." Throughout it all, God's Son plays like an album. The playing time is reasonable, clocking in at under an hour; the song selection is diverse, no two tracks resembling one another; and the themes are interwoven, giving the album a narrative sense. God's Son isn't quite the masterpiece it could be -- mostly because Nas is so self-involved, sometimes seemingly intoxicated by his kingliness -- but it's surely one of the more remarkable albums of the Queensbridge rapper's highlight-filled career. ~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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