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Nas

I Am...

  • Columbia

Done up in gold on the cover of I Am..., the current king of all rappers isn't about to abdicate his throne for anyone. The disc is Nas' best yet, packed with plenty of the street savvy poetry and power grooves that have been his calling card since his 1994 breakthrough “Illmatic.” This time out, he delivers and then some on tracks like the money-fueled duet with Puff Daddy, “Hate Me Now,” the take-no-prisoners sizzler “I Wanna Talk to You,” and the raunchy split-up saga “K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”

Though the Kenny Loggins' samples and Christ-like imagery used to deify Tupac Shakur in “Stay Alive” stretch the point, most of this set is illuminating both lyrically and musically. And as hard and tough as Nas can come across, it's also worth noting that one of the best songs on the album is the duet with Aaliyah on “You Won't See Me Tonight, ”which shows the rhyme-master's softer side.

Kevin O'Hare