Nas' 10th album Life Is Good is officially out today and it is...not Illmatic. While it is generally assumed that the rapper is chasing the elusive glory of his classic 1994 debut, there is a confidence that pervades Good. The result is a spotty-as-ever Nas record that is as enjoyable as it is dismissible. For example, the kiss-off to his ex-wife Kelis, "Bye Baby," is more exhibitionistic than it is profound ("Reason you don't trust men, that was ya daddy fault / He in the grave let it go he no longer living / Said you caught him cheating with mom, fucking other women / Fuck that gotta do with us? Here's the keys to the newest truck"). On the album cover, he sits with her green wedding dress draped over his knee.
"Reach Out" is similarly close but not too close ("So what I rap about my riches and I'm ostentatious?"). More interestingly, it's warmed over enough to be molten. The track samples Isaac Hayes' "Ike's Mood I" (from 1970's ...To Be Continued), which Nas has spit over before (on 2004's "Getting Married"). But so has the track's guest, Mary J. Blige, who sang with the creepy piano figure on 1994's "I Love You." Additionally, "Reach Out" uses the same break that floated Blige on the Daddy Hip-Hop remix of her debut solo single, "You Remind Me." "Yo, Puff that's that knock right there, boy!" she squeals in the beginning of that track, and 20 years later, it still is that knock.
All this is on top of the fact that Nas and Blige are frequent collaborators. "Reach Out" revels in the idea that there is nothing new under the sun, that the heart of hip-hop is recontextualization, that eating several tails is a delicious meal.