Album Reviews

Nas – Magic 2

(Mass Appeal) UK release date: 21 July 2023

One of rap’s most consistent creatives continues where Magic left off with a spontaneous, casual record

Nas - Magic 2 A distinctive pattern has emerged in Nas’ work over the past few years – with the quality of production on his past records an Achilles heel, he has been exclusively working with Hit-Boy for five consecutive albums now. The King’s Disease series consists of fully-fledged albums while the Magic albums are home to more rough, spontaneous material, but the chemistry is still as strong as ever.

Abracadabra kicks the record off with arpeggiated bass notes and dextrous triplet flows (“Even the great can be on a plate, nobody safe / abracadabra, saw them in half and then re-attach them, I’m doing magic, can you escape?”), as trilling harpsichord notes fill the mid-range. Another production highlight comes with Pistols On Your Album Cover, a time-stretched electric piano riff cascading down and a punchy old-school breakbeat underneath, Hit-Boy displaying the sonic diversity that’s been his calling card ever since his GOOD Music days.

Nas’ lyrics are very much in keeping with the old-head persona he’s developed, with nuggets of rap music’s past and flagrant name-dropping on pretty much every track. One minute he’s sat on Kool G Rap’s couch drinking Olde English, the next he’s lamenting I Am’s botched release, but as the beats bang and the tracks are generally well-structured it’s the best possible platform for these glamorous recollections.

The King’s Disease III track Beef painted a dark picture of petty rivalries late last year, and so it’s only right that Magic’s two guest appearances come from former foes. Nas and 50 Cent were hostile to each other during the mid-2000s but Office Hours features an all-too-brief verse from the latter, followed by some indulgent rambling that could have easily been cut.

21 Savage made some dismissive comments about Nas’ relevancy not too long ago, but the beef has been squashed and they trade bars over a bombastic horn sample on One Mic, One Gun. This proves to be a much more successful pairing, as Nas’ enthusiasm contrasts nicely with 21’s cold demeanour (“Never controversial, I’m mad the fans expected less from me / Nigga sneeze around me, wipe his nose, won’t get no bless from me”).

The streaming era may have killed mixtape culture, but it’s best to come into Magic 2 expecting a more casual affair – Nas is mostly just flexing, surveying his legacy while adding to it.

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