Review: ‘The Lost Tapes 2’

The Lost Tapes 2 lacks a punch to bounce back from 2018’s Nasir.

Nas has had quite a rollercoaster of a career. After releasing what is widely perceived as the greatest rap album of all-time, Nas struggled to live up to expectations. Internet leaks spoiled the material on the albums I Am… and Nastradamus, both released in 1999. Then came a trio of redemption albums – Stillmatic, The Lost Tapes and God’s Son – solidifying Nas as one the greatest rappers to ever do it. Within that trio, it is the collection of unreleased material that the public remember as one of Nas’ greatest works. Released in 2002, The Lost Tapes boasts some of Nas’ greatest songs to date. Seventeen years on, Nas has finally released the sequel that has been intended for release over the last two decades. After his underwhelming performances on last year’s Kanye-produced Nasir album, Nas is in need of another reminder of his brilliance.

Unlike its first instalment, The Lost Tapes 2 feels like leftovers that justify their exclusion from Nas’ past four albums.

With the sort of production credits involved (Kanye West, RZA, The Alchemist), The Lost Tapes 2 struggles to deliver great beats. Nas is no stranger to this critique, and it leaves a gaping hole in the replay value of Lost Tapes 2. A handful of songs lack the engagement necessary to revisit, despite not being terrible songs (“It Never Ends”, “Queensbridge Politics”, “Adult Film”, “War Against Love”). The album reaches its potential on tracks like “Lost Freestyle” and “Tanasia”, gripping the listener with both the production and Nas’ rhymes of grandeur.

Nas evidently knows how to pack a punch thanks to songs like “Blaze a 50” and “No Idea’s Original”, both off the first Lost Tapes. The majority of Lost Tapes 2 runs a marathon without intent to beat competitors to the finish.

Lyrically, Nas explores stories of being a womanizer and emphasises his confidence as a rapper. “Tanasia” is vivid in Nas’ storytelling, connecting with the signature RZA production to portray his infatuation with a woman. Elsewhere, Nas doesn’t explore many concepts, providing verses that lack subject matter.

The Kanye-produced “You Mean the World to Me” is straight from the Late Registration era, although the beat is a hit and miss. The looping vocal sample is obnoxious rather than creative, constantly interfering with Nas’ rhyming. The second half of the song mutes the sample and allows the song to reach its peak.

Nas is the last rapper to care for trends. However a handful of Lost Tapes 2 suffer from being outdated. The line “Young queen cross your legs” on “Royalty” is one part of the unpleasant hook that doesn’t fare well in the 2019 climate. “Queens Wolf” would have comfortably fit into the original Lost Tapes, capturing the nostalgia of Nas’ earlier work. However, Queensbridge is a subject that Nas has very much exhausted up to this point in his career.

The Lost Tapes succeeded by picking the best eleven leftovers. Its sequel provides five too many and shows why a lot of these songs were left on the cutting-room floor. While Nasir delivered on production, The Lost Tapes 2 lacks the punch of both the production and wizardry of Nas’ pen.

Rating: 6 / 10

Favourite tracks: “Tanasia”, “Lost Freestyle”, “Vernon Family”, “Beautiful Life”, “Queens Wolf”

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