Since his classic debut, Illmatic, Nas has been mostly coasting on his charm, gift for public relations, and skills as an MC. But on Untitled, he's clearly hoping that by name-dropping big issues (reparations, single motherhood, media control) and dazzling you with his acrobatic flow ("I'm over they heads/Like a bulimic on a seesaw"), you'll gloss over the fact that he's not saying anything coherent. Credit Nas for understanding that relevant pieces of art should speak to big things, and indeed Untitled — partly through its original title, Nigger — takes on the incendiary intersection of politics, race, and language. But bits of intelligent rumination are overshadowed by his endorsements of inclusion and Louis Farrakhan, and by his decrying poverty while glorifying materialism. One can't help but conclude he chooses his subject matter simply for its shock value. (What will he call his next album? Nazi? Abortion?) Even songs that should be slam dunks — including the Murdoch-critiquing "Sly Fox" — clank on the rim with erroneous claims such as "they own YouTube." (No, that's Google.) "I am tuned in," says an ominous voice later in that song. So are we. Nas has a forum, passion, and talent. Too bad his message is muddled.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.