MAGIC Reflection by MC Till
“Nas picks trash beats.” You’ve probably heard that before. Sure, in the span of his nearly 30 years in Hip-Hop, has Nas picked some beats that I wasn’t feeling? Yes. Is that abnormal for someone of his pedigree? Not really. What’s abnormal is for an artist like Nas to be around this long, remain so relevant, and produce music that is still impactful. His 14th studio album, Magic, just might be his best work of art since It Was Written.
Magic packs all the necessary elements for me - dope lyrics, great delivery, and boom bap production. It is what both Kings Disease albums achieved in parts. On both 1 and 2 Nas and Hit-Boy made some pre-magic happen. They had moments that were incredible. However, they also had moments that just didn’t seem to fit. That’s not the case with Magic. Everything fits on this short 9 song album. I wonder if Nas and Hit-Boy had that infallible classic Illmatic in mind when they selected those 9 joints as that’s the same amount of songs on that brilliant debut. Nine seems to be a lucky number for Nas.
Months before the release of King’s Disease I by Nas and Hit-Boy, I predicted it would be his best album since Illmatic, even better than his sophomore album, It Was Written. Nas won his first grammy for KD1, but I don’t think that album climbed up into Nas’ top five best efforts, let alone rivaling IWW. However, Nas and Hit-Boy were on the right track. They remained on that path for KD2 with a more sultry and cohesive boom bap experience. Still, there were songs on that project that seemed out of place. Songs like “40 Side,” “EPMD 2,” and “YKTV” did not add to the synergy of the album and in my opinion detracted from it. But, on Magic I think they figured it out. They created a project that felt right and exact from the first song to the last. It is a shorter album, but it’s more poignant and tighter.
Hit-Boy is able to create beats that are both head-nodders for the boom bap purist and easily digestible vibes for the casual music fan to enjoy. You hear it in the crisp drums and bass on “Speechless” and “Meet Joe Black.” You definitely hear it in the fresh yet old school sounding beat for “Wave Gods.” That’s probably my favorite song on the album. It features the only guest emcee of the album, A$AP Rocky, who has such a great emcee voice. The two craft nostalgic verses over the throwback sounding beat that comes equipped with a scratched hook by the legend, DJ Premier. Plus they throw a nod to Gang Starr in the chorus. So much to love about this song!
May I remind you that Illmatic hit the scene in 1994. A few years before that, Nas spit his seminal verse on “Live at the Barbecue.” That’s over 30 years ago. Three decades is a long time. In Hip-Hop years that’s like 300 years! It is difficult for many emcees of that era to spit with a similar hunger in their voice. Nas does it. Nas sounds as inspired and hungry as ever on every single verse here. Perhaps that’s the reason for the album title. Or maybe the magic comes from Hit-Boy who is also sounding nice as ever on the production. Lyrically, Nas sounds like a veteran with youthful energy while Hit-Boy is the youthful energy with veteran poise. It all works well.
Back in June of 2022 when Boston was up 2-1 on Golden State in the NBA finals I heard some pundits blasting Steph Curry. And how did Curry respond? With his 4th ring in 8 years putting on a 3 point shooting clinic and winning his first finals MVP of his career. I’m not sure if he heard the critics or not, but they certainly heard his response! Turning back to Nas and how I opened this review, I’ve heard plenty of Hip-Hop fans criticize him for his bad beat selection. Like Curry, Nas responds with a masterful and magical performance for Magic, which one could argue is one of his best. Give it a listen and enjoy. Author’s Note: KDIII by Nas came out after the submission date for this book, but best believe it will be listed in our next book:)