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Nas Sets His Sights on Rap Supremacy With Upcoming Album ‘Magic 2’

Nas is back yet again. The rap icon recently took to Instagram to announce Magic 2 is dropping on Friday. Last week, he stirred anticipation for new music with an ominous purge of his page and a video of a thunderstorm. And now, we know for sure that his 16th solo studio album is imminent. 

There’s not much known about the album yet, but it’s likely that it will once again be helmed by his frequent collaborator Hit-Boy. 50 Cent revealed that he’ll be on a song called “Office Hours,” making for their first collaboration since 2002’s “Projects Too Hot” and “Who I Rep With” singles. Magic 2’s release, which follows last year’s King’s Disease 3 (our number two rap album of 2022), Nas is forging new territory for rap acts.  

For years, veteran acts have tried to crack the code to aging gracefully in hip-hop. The genre is undoubtedly part of youth culture, and it can be hard for artists in their forties, with little connection to Gen Z, to maintain mass appeal. But as many of hip-hop’s most prolific names enter middle age alongside a generation of Nineties-era rap fans, a new niche appears to be emerging. Whether one wants to call the work of Nas, Jay-Z, and Wu-Tang members like Method Man and Ghostface Killah “adult contemporary,” “grown man rap,” or whatever else, the scene is an entrenched part of the modern hip-hop ecosystem. 

Hip-hop is at the point where late-career albums are no longer mere fan service. In the past, these projects have felt like mere bonuses for diehard fans of veteran acts. But, as Nas drops his fifth album in three years, it would be foolish to say that his late-career run of releases isn’t substantially adding to his legacy. 

In August 2020, Nas dropped King’s Disease, which won him his first Grammy for Best Rap Album at the 63rd Grammys. He followed up a year later with King’s Disease 2 and closed off 2021 with the surprise Magic. All three albums were executive produced by Hit-Boy, whose been credited for reinvigorating Nas after an otherwise sporadic release schedule throughout the 2010s. Nas told Ebro that Hit-Boy is his “Quincy Jones” in 2021 and said that their M.O. with KD2 was that it “had to be totally different from part one…to see that you can evolve and you can go into different directions, as you should as an artist – you should do things that take you up a notch.” It’s safe to assume they’ve kept that stratagem for the three following projects. 

Nas’ beat selection has long been seen as a blight on an otherwise impeccable music legacy, but Hit-Boy has a knack for meshing traditionalist sensibilities with modern gloss in a way that’s become the perfect sonic canvas for the King’s Disease and Magic series. Nas is the rapper’s rapper, but he’s always sought mass appeal to some extent; the Kings Disease series has features with Fivio Foreign, Don Toliver, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and Lil Durk, artists representing archetypes that didn’t exist when Illmatic dropped. Nas and Hit-Boy work well together, and it’s a marvel that this recharge is happening for Nas after 30 years in music. 


In May, he told the Wall Street Journal, “[rap’s] become my therapist, my friend,” Nas said. “It’s not always the happiest place; sometimes I want to do other things. But I feel compelled to be there. In this day and time, it’s all about the studio.” When someone’s been rapping on a high level since they were a teenager, it’s impossible ever to turn that urge off. That now means that Nas, an all-time great, isn’t just dropping projects to keep himself relevant in between business ventures but because he wants to release the best music possible. That decision has a ripple effect on the rap annals. 

Hip-Hop fandom is a peculiar science. We nestle top fives and GOATdom in our hearts like family members while simultaneously admitting that it’s completely arbitrary and intangible. For years, Nas was already grandfathered into whatever slot people had him at after his legendary tussle with Jay-Z. It didn’t feel like Life Is Good, NASIR, or Lost Tapes 2 made a difference either way in terms of how his fans or detractors viewed his legacy. But all of a sudden, his releasing a slew of well-regarded albums in his late 40s may shift how people feel he stacks up with the other rap GOATs. That may not be a big deal to someone who’s never argued about who’s “better” than who until their throat strained. But this run is prime fuel for people to scream, “Five albums in three years!” in their Nas vs. Jay-Z debates. Nas kicked in the door as a young phenom at “Live At The BBQ” and is now redefining what it means to master hip-hop in middle age.

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