The Lost Tapes

Throughout his ten-year career, Nas has let the music industry get the better of him, filling his albums with monotone odes to the good life and R&B-crossover pabulum. The Lost Tapes — which collects a dozen stellar, radio-unfriendly, oft-bootlegged unreleased tracks from the last decade — is the Queens, New York, icon's mea culpa to the underground that birthed him. Over subdued soul loops and improbably mellow piano work, The Lost Tapes displays Nas' gifts for tightly stitched narrative and stunningly precise detail. The fantastical "Blaze a 50," the wistful "Doo Rags" and the melancholy "Poppa Was a Playa" are found classics, easily among Nas' best work and unlikely to be topped by many rappers this year, or the next. This is the real Stillmatic.

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