Nas has been a rap icon for over three decades, delivering classic albums and solidifying his status as a businessman and a symbol of hip-hop’s golden era. In recent years, he has impressively shown how to age gracefully while crafting compelling music. After the lukewarm reception of his 2018 album Nasir, produced by Kanye West, Nas teamed up with Hit-Boy for a series of projects that breathed new life into his artistry, combining modernized boom bap beats with a rejuvenated and hungry Nas, resulting in some of his most inspired work in two decades.
Magic 2, a sequel to his second release of 2021, continues this trend. Although it falls slightly short of the heights reached by King’s Disease albums or the first Magic, it still captures the essence of an artist who remains at the top of his game.
At its best, Magic 2 brings together Hit-Boy’s competent production, Nas’ acrobatic flows, and self-mythology that bridges the gap between the street-wise veteran and the revered elder statesman of rap. “Office Hours” showcases vivid flashes of ’80s nostalgia, as Nas presents himself as a forceful yet benevolent Godfather figure in a world full of challenges. The reunion with 50 Cent on this track adds a touch of nostalgia, hinting at the artist’s journey coming full circle. On “Pistols On Your Album Cover,” Nas pays homage to Boogie Down Productions while interpolating a famous Tupac lyric, creating a powerful juxtaposition of the past and present. With poignant verses on daily struggles, broken dreams, and the dual tragedy of gun violence, Nas continues to deliver thought-provoking storytelling.
Tracks like “Office Hours” and “Pistols On Your Album Covers” exemplify quintessential Nas, showcasing his ferocity and regal demeanor, his nostalgia blended with forward-thinking perspectives. He crafts verses that can be razor-sharp and venomous or warm and reflective. “Motion” stands out as the album’s best song, as Nas skillfully weaves luxurious vignettes together, flaunting his wordplay and effortlessly memorable hooks.
While Nas’ lyrical prowess remains undeniable, the album’s soundscapes feel somewhat lackluster. Hit-Boy’s use of predictable samples and approaches doesn’t elevate the tracks as much as they could. Songs like “Earvin Magic Johnson” and “Slow It Down” lack the creativity found in other Nas-Hit-Boy collaborations. While “Black Magic” includes an interesting Memphis rap sample, it still feels familiar and doesn’t bring anything truly new to the table. The overall production falls short of the colorful and vibrant beats found on King’s Disease III.
Despite this, Magic 2 remains a solid effort, sticking to the tried-and-true formula of a Nas and Hit-Boy collaboration. The chemistry between the two artists still shines through, but there’s room for Hit-Boy to explore some fresh ideas. The album may not be groundbreaking, but it maintains the magic that makes Nas a rap legend.