Released: 23rd September 2002.
It's not easy being Nas. No matter what the man does, no matter how strong he comes, people still come back with, “It ain't Illmatic.” It's an unfair way to judge someone's work, though you can hardly deny that statement's accuracy. After all, the 90s only spawned a handful of other hip-hop records that can even be mentioned in the same breath as Nas' 1994 classic.
The first piece of evidence, “The Lost Tapes”, contains twelve songs labelled as unreleased tracks. These ‘unreleased tracks’ are mostly composed of B-sides and songs that didn't make Nas' previous albums. Admittedly, I felt that releasing “The Lost Tapes” was a risky move on Nas' part, but one that works to his advantage as the album's quality caught me off guard. It yields immediate dividends in the form of pure Nas storytelling lyricism coupled with quality underground sounds.
“Poppa was a Player” is the best cut as Nas demonstrates his maturity and understanding, in recounting his father's story. “Blaze a 50” is an upbeat thriller that was surprisingly left off of 1999's “I Am” album. “Doo Rags” features an amazing jazzy piano loop and a catchy chorus. Despite the album's impressive tracks, several cuts falter, including the two that didn't make “Stillmatic”: “Black Zombies” and “No Ideas Original”. Despite impressive lyrical content on “Black Zombies”, it features a truly painful chorus and a sample reminiscent of Tracey Lee's “The After Party”. “No Ideas Original” also didn't make “Stillmatic” for good reason, as it sounds eerily similar to the Inspector Gadget theme.
I enjoyed “The Lost Tapes” because it is a solo album and thus allows Nas to shine lyrically over simplistic and street-credible beats. Not surprisingly, “The Lost Tapes” doesn't maintain Nas' position at the top of hip-hop, but it does however provide hip-hop fans alike with a quality Nas artefact.