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God's Son (originally titled Nasir Jones: God's Son) is the sixth studio album by American hip hop rapper Nas, released December 13, 2002 on Columbia-imprint label Ill Will Records. Production was handled by several hip hop producer, including Salaam Remi and The Alchemist. God's Son has been recognized as a personal album by Nas, in which he covers lyrical themes ranging from religion and violence to youth and his own emotional experiences. It was partly inspired by Nas' mother, Ann Jones, who died of breast cancer in early 2002. Multiple songs on the album reference Jones, and the song "Dance" is a direct tribute to her. Nas was nearing the end of his feud with Jay-Z at the time, which also inspired the album's emotional and personal feel.

Upon its release, God's Son reached number 12 on the Billboard 200 chart, and its three singles achieved a considerable amount of success. It also garnered universal acclaim from writers and music critics, earning praise for Nas's lyrical ability, despite some criticism as to the album's production. While some compared it to his landmark debut Illmatic (1994), music writers also praised God's Son for exhibiting a maturity and lyrical progression by Nas. On January 14, 2003, the album was certified platinum in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), following sales in excess of one million copies.

Background

Nas's debut album, Illmatic (1994), received much acclaim, but his next few releases were considered to have a more commercial feel, which received criticism. Fellow New York rapper Jay-Z dissed Nas on "Takeover" from his 2001 album, The Blueprint. Nas responded with "Ether," a response to Jay-Z's "Takeover," elevating a heated feud (see Nas vs. Jay-Z). "Ether" was released on 2001's Stillmatic, an acclaimed album that signaled Nas' return to "hip hop prominence." Jay-Z later challenged Nas to a pay-per-view rap battle, but Nas rejected, and said: "Pay-per-view is for wrestlers and boxers. I make records. If Jay-Z wants to battle, he should drop his album the same day I do and let the people decide" referring to God's Son and Jay-Z's The Blueprint 2 release.

After the release of Stillmatic, Nas spent time tending to his ill mother, Ann Jones, until she died of breast cancer in April 2002. Nas has described Jay-Z's disses during this time period as "sneak attack[s]" because Nas did not want to record music while his mother was sick. Nas' mother died in his arms, and later served as inspiration for various songs on God's Son. At the time, Nas was nearing the end of his feud with Jay-Z, which also inspired the album's emotional and personal material. During 2002, fans and critics speculated that Nas was still willing to make commercial music as he started associating himself with artists from Murder Inc., a pop rap distributing label. Irv Gotti, the head of Murder Inc. claimed that Nas might sign with him, and he said: "I will definitely be affiliated [with Nas] and I'll definitely be a part of [his projects], me and my brother Ja Rule." Nas soon appeared on "The Pledge (Remix)," a song by Ja Rule in which Nas hints at signing with the pop rap label.

In October 2002, God's Son expected to be released on December 17 with production from Salaam Remi, Large Professor and The Alchemist, as well as songs recorded alongside Ja Rule in Miamimarker. Around the same time, a music video for Nas' new single, "Made You Look," was being shot. In December, Nas appeared in the video for a 2Pac single, "Thugz Mansion ," a song of which an alternative version was later released on God's Son, featuring two verses from Nas and only one from 2Pac. On December 4, Nas decided to push up the release date for God's Son by a few days in order to prevent bootlegging. Commenting on this, he said,

Music

Lyrics

Although guest appearances are made by Kelis, Alicia Keys, and others, God's Son is considered to be a personal album, in which he covers lyrical themes of his own emotional experiences The personal lyrics are a result of Nas' mother dying less than a year before the album's release. He dedicates "Dance" to his mother, and references her in "Warrior Song" and "Last Real Nigga Alive." "Dance" is considered to be one of Nas' most introspective tracks, and has been described as a "a requiem for Nas' mother" that "is touching rather than mawkish." Nas' lyrics also deal with religion as the album's title conveys. He ponders the concept of heaven on "Heaven", and makes various biblical references to describe himself on "The Cross". Even with similar themes, each track is distinct from the rest providing God's Son with a "narrative sense". One noteworthy concept track is "Book of Rhymes" where Nas raps songs that he had written in his rhyme book years ago. At times, he stops rapping, and starts commenting on how bad some of his lyrics are amongst other things. According to one writer, "The self-examination that inevitably accompanies the death of a loved one has also provoked a renewed sense of socio-political consciousness in Nas."

Production

God's Son featured production from various producers, including Salaam Remi, Eminem and Alchemist. Remi produced five tracks while all other producers work on two or less tracks. Music critic Serena Kim of Vibe magazine supports Nas' use of a variety of commercially risky producers saying, "The risks he takes with the production are a big part of the allure of God's Son. In a time when a Neptunes beat is as essential as a savvy marketing plan, Nas goes in the other direction, giving producer Salaam Remi plenty of room." "Get Down" is a funky rework of "The Boss" and "Funky Drummer" by James Brown, while "Last Real Nigga Alive" contains a simplistic beat dominated by eerie keys that seem to be made by a Casio keyboard. Remi samples many genres of music from classical (Beethoven's "Für Elise" in "I Can") to deep funk (Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache" in "Made You Look") while other producers do not rely on samples at all. "Dance," a Chucky Thompson production, contains a simple beat consisting of a bass guitar riff and faint drums, neither of which are sampled. Another track that is notable for its lack of sampling is "Thugz Mansion ." Produced by Claudio Cueni and Michael Herring, it contains a beat consisting solely of an acoustic guitar riff. Brett Berliner of Stylus Magazine described the sound of "Made You Look" as old-school influenced and "trunk-rattling", while he wrote that "Dance", an plea by Nas for one more day with his recently passed mother, features production that "sounds straight out of 1995 and a Hootie and the Blowfish album." Berliner summed up the album's diverse productions, stating:

Although there is no actual musical band or ensemble for God's Son, various musicians play instruments on it; Mercedes Abal plays the flute, Jeff Bass plays the keyboards, Nas' father Olu Dara plays the horns and Michael Herring plays the guitar.

Singles

"Made You Look", the first single on God's Son was released on February 12, 2003. It features production by Salaam Remi that samples "Apache" as performed by Incredible Bongo Band. Jason Birchmeier of Allmusic claims that the first single on God's Son "announces Nas' periodic return with fury and bombast" and is a "Marley Marl-fashioned track." Jon Robinson of IGN.com claims that "Made You Look" shows Nas' "lyrical genius." Additionally, Ethan Brown of New York Magazine, says it to be "extraordinarily powerful." It was the second most successful single on God's Son reaching #32 on the Billboard Hot 100. It reached #16 and #47 in "Singles of the Year" lists from Blender magazine and Pitchfork Media, respectively. Q magazine also ranked it as the 903rd best song ever in 2003, and Blender followed suit, ranking it as the 185th best song from the 1980s to the 2000s in 2005.

The second and most successful single, "I Can", was released as early as March 4, 2003, internationally. It boasts production from Salaam Remi, who samples from "Für Elise" by Ludwig van Beethoven and "Impeach the President" by The Honey Drippers for the song's beat. Its lyrics are positive, encouraging the youth to stay drug free, and pursue their dreams. The lyrics also detail various events in African history, but Christian Hoard of Rolling Stone magazine labels "I Can" as "a silly stay-in-school ad attached to a Beethoven sample." This comment may be attributed to the "singsongy" call and response chorus featuring the voices of young children. Other reviewers appreciated "I Can" more: Jon Robinson of IGN.com claims that on his second single, "Nas delivers some of his most inspiring lyrics to date." "I Can" received significant commercial success, reaching #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #7 on the Rhythmic Top 40 charts.

The final single "Get Down" was released in July 2003. Produced by Salaam Remi and Nas, it samples James Brown's "The Boss", the percussion from James Brown's "Funky Drummer", "Rock Creek Park" by The Blackbyrds, and a speech from an unknown source. Its lyrics detail three loosely-described criminal stories each from different locations. The first story takes place in New York Citymarker where an alleged criminal steals the gun of a court officer, and starts shooting in the courtroom. The second story deals with cocaine dealers from Tennesseemarker who provide Nas with a laced blunt. The final story takes place in Los Angelesmarker where Nas goes to a violent funeral in Crenshaw with his cousin, and later ends up murdering three people. The stories are linked together by a sampled speech from an unknown origin that implies that black people will never "get up" if they "get down" in criminal activity. Christian Hoard of Rolling Stone considers "Get Down" to be the best song on God's Son, as does columnist Serena Kim of Vibe. The single was not a significant commercial success, and it failed to reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart altogether.

Reception

Commercial performance

God's Son peaked at number 12 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, a chart position that Nas had not achieved since the release of his first studio album, Illmatic (1994). God's Son reached number one on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and was certified platinum in sales on January 14, 2003 by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Additionally, its three singles performed well on the charts. "I Can" was a Rhythmic Top 40 and Top 40 Mainstream hit that reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Made You Look" reached number 32 on the Hot 100 singles chart, while "Get Down" peaked at number 76 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. The success of its three singles allowed God's Son to obtain platinum status, as had his previous studio albums.

Critical response

God's Son garnered universal acclaim from music critics, based on an aggregate score of 84/100 from Metacritic. Although, it is rarely considered to be Nas' best album, as some place it below Illmatic and Stillmatic. It is considered to be highly emotional and personal, but some consider Nas' self-involvement to be a weakness. Other critics feel that the album's production is a weakness; columnist Jon Robinson of IGN.com stated, "What drops the CD down a notch isn't the lyrics--and it's definitely not Nas' smooth flow--it's the production of the tracks. Nas delivers some remarkable lines over some of the most unremarkable beats heard in years." Beyond those two weaknesses though, most publications had a positive outlook on God's Son. Despite calling the production "lukewarm", Pitchfork Media reviewer Sam Chennault lauded Nas' verbal ability, describing him as "technically stunning" as an emcee, as well as "rhythmically versatile and intellectually astute." Chennault also compared God's Son to Nas' debut album, writing that the former has more emotional depth than Illmatic, and stating "In many ways, God's Son is lyrically superior to Illmatic. Nas has created an album that is at once mournful and resilient, street-savvy and academic." In an article for New York magazine, music writer Ethan Brown praised the album and Nas' lyricism, stating:

Some critics simply did not like certain tracks on God's Son, as one critic wrote "Honestly, if Nas had chosen to drop about four tracks and cut it down to Illmatic's ten, it would be in the class of Stillmatic, and we’d be talking about it as Nas’ fourth classic." Stylus Magazine writer and editor Brett Berliner explained Nas' consistency on God's Son, stating "Nas is responsible for the lyrical content of the album, and it, like his previous releases, is nearly flawless. The man simply doesn't slip up and say anything that makes casual listeners cringe, unlike many MCs in this day and age. Nas stays poignant, clever and intelligent, and, in doing so, adds an extra incentive to purchase his album: simply put, he's the best lyricist in rap today, maybe all time. Specifically, his consistency is such that he has the ability to save poorly produced songs with his rhymes alone." Despite criticizing it for its "boring-ass filler", Christian Hoard of Rolling Stone lauded Nas' "talent" throughout the album, and stated "he may yet have another masterpiece in him. Either way, he's hip-hop's Comeback Playa of the Year." Spin named "Made You Look" the ninth best single of 2003. The Village Voice ranked God's Son number 52 on its Pazz & Jop critics' poll. The website aggregator Metacritic ranked it as the 25th best-reviewed album of 2002. Henry Adaso of About.com cited God's Son in retrospect as the one album where Nas shows "growth and maturity".

Feud with Jay-Z

After the release of the song "Ether" and its album Stillmatic, Nas gained acclaim as the best rapper in New York, also known as the "king of the New York". God's Son was a chance for Nas to either reassure his prolific status or prove to be an inconsistent artist. In a review of God's Son, Joseph Jones of PopMatters stated:

On God's Son, Nas referenced his feud with Jay-Z on various tracks. Most notably, Nas references Jay-Z's attacks on Nas "Last Real Nigga Alive" as "sneak attack[s]" while he was caring for his mother. This track also revealed roots of his feud with Jay-Z including his feud with Jay's friend and now-deceased rapper, The Notorious B.I.G.. In fact, Nas ends the first verse of "Last Real Nigga Alive" by saying, "There's more shit than wanting to be this King of New York shit." Similarly, on "Mastermind," Nas says: "This King Of New York shit only last 15 minutes." Additionally, on "The Cross", Nas explained how he was the old king of New York rap, and soon reinvented himself to reign again as New York's king.

Track listing

# Title Producer(s) Samples Length
1 "Get Down" Nas, Salaam Remi 4:04
2 "The Cross" Eminem 3:47
3 "Made You Look" Salaam Remi 3:22
4 "Last Real Nigga Alive" Ron Browz 5:07
5 "Zone Out" (feat. Jungle, Wiz) Salaam Remi 3:48
6 "Hey Nas" (feat. Claudette Ortiz, Kelis) Salaam Remi
  • "Risin' to the Top Bill" by Allan Felder
4:06
7 "I Can" Salaam Remi 4:14
8 "Book of Rhymes" Alchemist
  • "For the Dollar Bill" by Tommy Tate
3:54
9 "Thugz Mansion " (feat. 2Pac & J. Phoenix) Claudio Cueni, Michael Herring 4:07
10 "Mastermind" Alchemist 4:07
11 "Warrior Song" (feat. Alicia Keys) Alicia Keys
  • "Na Poi" by Fela Kuti
4:42
12 "Revolutionary Warfare" (feat. Lake) Alchemist 3:29
13 "Dance" Chucky Thompson for The Hitmen 3:34
14 "Heaven" (feat. Jully Black) Agile, Saukrates (co) 4:42
15* "Thugz Mirror" (Freestyle) Alchemist 1:50
16* "Pussy Killz" Chucky Thompson for The Hitmen 4:38
17* "The G.O.D." Swizz Beatz 2:39


Chart history

Album
Chart (2002) Peak

position
U.S. Billboard 200 12
U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums 1
UK Singles Chart 57


Singles
Year Song Chart positions
Billboard Hot 100 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks Hot Rap Singles UK Singles Chart
2003 "Made You Look" #32 #12 #9 #27
"I Can" #12 #7 #6 #19
"Get Down" - #76 - -


Personnel

Musicians


Production
  • Alchemist – producer (tracks: 8, 11, 13)
  • Eminem – producer (tracks: 2)
  • Ron Browz – producer (tracks: 4)
  • Claudio Cueni – producer (tracks: co-produced 9)
  • Michael Herring – producer (tracks: co-produced 9)
  • Chucky Thompson – producer (tracks: 11)
  • Agile – producer (tracks: co-produced 14)
  • Saukrates – producer (tracks: co-produced 14)
  • Chris Gehringer – engineer (mastering)
  • Steve Stoute – exec.
  • David Belgrave a.k.a. "mr.anderson" - marketing
  • Chris a.k.a. "Brother Feldmann" – artwork (art direction, design)
  • James Hunter –artwork (graphic artist)
  • Jarrett "J-Blood" Demartino – artwork (illustrator)
  • Jonathan "I Stay Focused" Mannion – photography


References

  1. Metacritic: God's Son (2002): Reviews. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved on 2009-02-22.
  2. Spin End of year lists. Rocklist. Retrieved on 2009-02-22.
  3. The 2002 Village Voice Pazz & Jop lists. Rocklist. Retrieved on 2009-02-22.
  4. Metacritic: The 30 Best-Reviewed Albums of the Year. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved on 2009-02-22.
  5. Adaso, Henry. Nas Discography - Albums by Rapper Nas. About.com. Retrieved on 2009-02-22.
  6. Rap Sample Faq: Nas. The Breaks. Retrieved on 2009-02-22.


External links




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