Any opportunity to catch one of New York’s rap cognoscenti needs to be heeded, regardless of the situation. Since the release of Nas’ latest album—this year’s “Life is Good”—folks have been discussing whether or not having a ghost writer (if that’s actually the case) somehow dismisses the MC’s accomplishments. Before arriving at some conclusion, take the Rolling Stones and apply roughly the same critical lens. Does the enduring sixties version of the troupe cease to exist because a handful of those songs were penned by another hand? Probably not—and no one’s even eviscerated Nas’ latter-day works.Granted, there aren’t thirty collective minutes of music anywhere that meet or exceed “Illmatic.” But since there are probably less than a dozen rap discs better than that clutch of songs, arguing that the Queensbridge MC is in decline seems kinda hollow. In the decade after Nas was (self) proclaimed as NYC’s top MC, he hasn’t slowed his release schedule, which could account for some of its lesser moments. Dude works a lot, and issuing an album a year for a bit around the turn of the millennium must have been a trial; it also coincided with the start of the physical CD market crash. Nas has continued to regularly record a torrent of albums, only momentarily interrupted by real-life problems. The album doesn’t take song writing on to the same terrain as a diary entry, but there are tracks on which Nas talks to his daughter, discusses his personal history and explicitly describes his failed marriage. “Roses” probably won’t move a dance floor, but reveals a new sort of reality in Nas’ oeuvre. If it gets too heavy, though, just remember what’s come before all the serious-mindedness: “Fuck them damn monkeys/They can shit all over the place/’Cause I’m high as hell…” (Dave Cantor)
November 14 at the Congress Theater, 2135 North Milwaukee, (773)276-1235, 7:30pm. $49.50. 17+.