God's Son is the sixth studio album by hip hop artist Nasir Jones, better known by his stage name Nas. It was released on December 13, 2002 by Columbia and Ill Will Records. It reached #12 on the Billboard 200, and obtained a platinum certification from the RIAA a month after it was released.
The album was partly inspired by Nas' mother, Ann Jones, who died of breast cancer in early 2002. Multiple songs such as "Warrior Song" reference Ann Jones, but the song "Dance" is a direct tribute to her. In addition, Nas was nearing the end of his feud with Jay-Z at the time of the album, which also inspired its emotional and personal feel.
Nas' 1994 debut album, Illmatic
, received much acclaim, but his next few releases were considered to have a more commercial
feel, which received criticism. Fellow New York rapper Jay-Z
dissed Nas on "Takeover
" from his 2001 album, The Blueprint
. Nas responded with "Ether
," a response to Jay-Z's "Takeover," elevating a heated feud (see Nas vs. Jay-Z
). "Ether" was released on 2001's Stillmatic
, an acclaimed album that signaled Nas' return to "hip hop prominence." Jay-Z later challenged Nas to a pay-per-view rap battle
, but Nas rejected, and said: "Pay-per-view is for wrestlers and boxers. I make records. If Jay-Z wants to battle, he should drop his album the same day I do and let the people decide" referring to God's Son
and Jay-Z's The Blueprint 2
After the release of Stillmatic, Nas spent time tending to his ill mother, Ann Jones, until she died of breast cancer in April 2002. Nas has described Jay-Z's disses during this time period as "sneak attack[s]" because Nas did not want to record music while his mother was sick. Nas' mother died in his arms, and later served as inspiration for various songs on God's Son.
During 2002, fans and critics speculated that Nas was still willing to make commercial music as he started associating himself with artists from Murder Inc., a pop rap distributing label. Irv Gotti, the head of Murder Inc. claimed that Nas might sign with him, and he said: "I will definitely be affiliated [with Nas] and I'll definitely be a part of [his projects], me and my brother Ja Rule." Nas soon appeared on "The Pledge (Remix)," a song by Ja Rule in which Nas hints at signing with the pop rap label. In October of 2002, God's Son expected to be released on December 17 with production from Salaam Remi, Large Professor and The Alchemist, as well as songs recorded alongside Ja Rule in Miami. Around the same time, a music video for Nas' new single, "Made You Look," was being shot. In December, Nas appeared in the video for a 2Pac single, "Thugz Mansion (N.Y.)," a song of which an alternative version was later released on God's Son, featuring two verses from Nas and only one from 2Pac. On December 4, Nas decided to push up the release date for God's Son by a few days in order to prevent bootlegging. Commenting on this, he said,
Although guest appearances are made by Kelis
, Alicia Keys
, and others, God's Son
is considered to be a personal album, in which he covers lyrical themes of his own emotional experiences The personal lyrics are a result of Nas' mother dying less than a year before the album's release. He dedicates "Dance" to his mother, and references her in "Warrior Song" and "Last Real Nigga Alive." "Dance" is considered to be one of Nas' most introspective tracks, and has been described as a "a requiem for Nas' mother" that "is touching rather than mawkish." Nas' lyrics also deal with religion as the album's title conveys. He ponders the concept of heaven
on "Heaven," and makes various biblical
references to describe himself on "The Cross." Even with similar themes, each track is different from the rest providing God's Son
with a "narrative sense." One noteworthy concept track is "Book of Rhymes" where Nas raps songs that he had written in his rhyme book years ago. At times, he stops rapping, and starts commenting on how bad some of his lyrics are amongst other things.
featured production from various producers, including Salaam Remi
. Remi produced five tracks while all other producers work on two or less tracks. Serena Kim of VIBE
supports Nas' use of a variety of commercially risky producers saying, "The risks he takes with the production are a big part of the allure of God's Son
. In a time when a Neptunes
beat is as essential as a savvy marketing plan, Nas goes in the other direction, giving producer Salaam Remi plenty of room." "Get Down
" is a funky
rework of "The Boss" and "Funky Drummer
" by James Brown
, while "Last Real Nigga Alive" contains a simplistic beat dominated by eerie keys that seem to be made by a Casio
keyboard. Remi samples many genres of music from classical
's "Für Elise
" in "I Can
") to deep funk
(Incredible Bongo Band
" in "Made You Look
") while other producers do not rely on samples at all. "Dance," a Chucky Thompson
production, contains a simple beat consisting of a bass guitar
riff and faint drums, neither of which are sampled. Another track that is notable for its lack of sampling is "Thugz Mansion (N.Y.)
." Produced by Claudio Cueni and Michael Herring, it contains a beat consisting solely of an acoustic guitar
riff. These diverse productions are summed up by Brett Berliner of Stylus Magazine
Although there is no actual band for God's Son, various musicians play instruments on it; Mercedes Abal plays the flute, Jeff Bass plays the keyboards, Nas' father Olu Dara plays the horns and Michael Herring plays the guitar.
"Made You Look"
"Made You Look
," the first single on God's Son
was released on February 12, 2003. It features production by Salaam Remi
that samples "Apache
" as performed by Incredible Bongo Band
. Jason Birchmeier of Allmusic claims that the first single on God's Son
"announces Nas' periodic return with fury and bombast" and is a "Marley Marl
-fashioned track." Jon Robinson of IGN.com
claims that "Made You Look" shows Nas' "lyrical genius." Additionally, Ethan Brown of New York Magazine
, says it to be "extraordinarily powerful." It was the second most successful single on God's Son
reaching #32 on the Billboard Hot 100
. It reached #16 and #47 in "Singles of the Year" lists from Blender
magazine and Pitchfork Media
magazine also ranked it as the 903rd best song ever in 2003, and Blender
followed suit, ranking it as the 185th best song from the 1980s to the 2000s in 2005.
The second and most successful single, "I Can
," was released as early as March 4, 2003 internationally. It boasts production from Salaam Remi, who samples from "Für Elise
" by Ludwig van Beethoven
and "Impeach the President" by The Honey Drippers for the song's beat. It's lyrics are positive encouraging the youth to stay drug free, and pursue their dreams. The lyrics also detail various events in African history, but Christian Hoard of Rolling Stone
magazine labels "I Can" as "a silly stay-in-school ad attached to a Beethoven sample." This comment may be attributed to the "singsongy" call and response
chorus featuring the voices of young children. Other reviewers appreciated "I Can" more: Jon Robinson of IGN.com claims that on his second single, "Nas delivers some of his most inspiring lyrics to date." "I Can" received significant commercial success reaching #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #7 on the Rhythmic Top 40
The third and final single on God's Son
, released in July 2003, is "Get Down
." Produced by Salaam Remi and Nas himself, it samples James Brown
's "The Boss," the percussion
from James Brown's "Funky Drummer
," "Rock Creek Park" by The Blackbyrds
, and a speech from an unknown source. Its lyrics detail three loosely-described criminal stories each from different locations. The first story takes place in New York City
where an alleged criminal steals the gun of a court officer, and starts shooting in the courtroom. The story may be inspired by a similar real life incident that occurred in 1970, in which Jonathan Jackson
(brother of then-incarcerated Black Panther Party
member George Jackson
) burst into a courtroom armed with a machine gun
and demanded the release of the aforementioned older brother, taking the presiding judge
, Harold Haley
, hostage in the process. The second story deals with cocaine dealers
who provide Nas with a laced blunt
. The final story takes place in Los Angeles
where Nas goes to a violent funeral in Crenshaw
with his cousin, and later ends up killing three people. The stories are linked together by a sampled speech from an unknown origin that implies that black people will never "get up" if they "get down" in criminal activity. Christian Hoard of Rolling Stone
considers "Get Down" to be the best song on God's Son
as does Serena Kim of VIBE
. It was not much of a commercial success, and it failed to reach the Billboard Hot 100 altogether.
Music videos were made for "Made You Look," "I Can" and "Thugz Mansion (N.Y.)." The "Made You Look" music video was directed by Benny Boom
. It contains footage from all five boroughs
in New York
from hip hop artists including Jadakiss
, DJ Kayslay
, Killah Priest
, Fat Joe
and Lord Jamar
. The video has the theme of "showing love" to the streets, and shows images of a Big Pun
mural as well as Rucker Park
. The video for "I Can" was directed by Chris Robinson
, whose work on "One Mic
" earned Nas a Video of the Year
nomination at 2001's MTV Video Music Awards
. The "I Can" video was shot in Los Angeles
, and contains footage of Nas rapping while children stand around him. The video starts out with the music from the introduction of "Get Down," but it soon transitions into "I Can." As "I Can" starts, a girl plays a piano
in a vacant lot, and later one can see children jumping on a mattress in the same lot. The video also contains footage of breakdancing
and famous Egyptian
structures. The "Thugz Mansion (N.Y.)" music video was released to promote 2Pac
's album Better Dayz
, but the song appeared on God's Son
as well. The David Nelson
-directed video contains various actors and their interactions. One character plays the acoustic guitar to the song, while a sad black
girl sits on a sidewalk. Nas can be seen rapping in a television within a shop, but 2Pac had died by the time the video was made.
Although God's Son is rarely considered to be Nas' best album, some consider it to be a notch below Illmatic and Stillmatic. It is considered to be highly emotional and personal, but some consider Nas' self-involvement to be a weakness. Others feel that the album's production is a weakness; Jon Robinson of IGN.com states, "What drops the CD down a notch isn't the lyrics--and it's definitely not Nas' smooth flow--it's the production of the tracks. Nas delivers some remarkable lines over some of the most unremarkable beats heard in years." Beyond those two weaknesses though, most publications had a positive outlook on God's Son. Ethan Brown, a New York Magazine writer, says "God's Son is not simply a great album, it's a reminder of what we've been missing. [...] here Nas brings hip-hop back to the basics with a rough break-beat and a well-told story." Some critics simply did not like certain tracks on God's Son, and one said "Honestly, if Nas had chosen to drop about four tracks and cut it down to Illmatic's ten, it would be in the class of Stillmatic, and we’d be talking about it as Nas’ fourth classic." Stylus Magazine writer, Brett Berliner explained Nas' consistency on God's Son:
God's Son peaked at number 12 on the Billboard 200, a chart position that Nas had not fell to since his first album, Illmatic. God's Son remains Nas' poorest charting album in relation to his other eight full-sized album releases. Nevertheless, it reached #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and was certified platinum on January 14, 2003. Additionally, its three singles performed well on the charts. "I Can" was a Rhythmic Top 40 and Top 40 Mainstream hit that reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Made You Look" reached #32 on the Billboard Hot 100 while "Get Down" peaked at #76 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. These singles allowed God's Son to obtain platinum certification from RIAA just as all of Nas' previous albums did.
Feud with Jay-Z
After the release of the song "Ether" and its album Stillmatic, Nas gained acclaim as the best rapper in New York, also known as the "king of the New York". God's Son was a chance for Nas to either reassure his prolific status or prove to be an inconsistent artist. In a review of God's Son, Joseph Jones of PopMatters says:
On God's Son, Nas referenced his feud with Jay-Z on various tracks. Most notably, Nas references Jay-Z's attacks on Nas "Last Real Nigga Alive" as "sneak attack[s]" while he was caring for his mother. This track also revealed roots of his feud with Jay-Z including his feud with Jay's friend and now-deceased rapper, The Notorious B.I.G.. In fact, Nas ends the first verse of "Last Real Nigga Alive" by saying, "There's more shit than wanting to be this King of New York shit." Similarly, on "Mastermind," Nas says: "This King Of New York shit only last 15 minutes."
Additionally, on "The Cross," Nas explained how he was the old king of New York rap, but later sold out, and soon reinvented himself to reign again as New York's king.
- Contains samples from "Funky Drummer" as performed by James Brown
- Contains samples from "The Boss" as performed by James Brown
- Contains samples from "Rock Creek Park" as performed by The Blackbyrds
||"Made You Look"
||"Last Real Nigga Alive"
||Jungle, Nas, Wiz
||Claudette Ortiz, Kelis, Nas
- Contains Interpolations from "Risin' To The Top Bill" as written by Allan Felder, Keni Burke and Norma Wright
||"Book of Rhymes"
- Contains samples from "For the Dollar Bill" as performed by Tommy Tate
||"Thugz Mansion (N.Y.)"
|2Pac, J. Phoenix, Nas
||Alicia Keys, Nas
- Contains samples from "We Made It" as performed by Black Ivory
|Chucky Thompson for The Hitmen
|Jully Black, Nas
- Contains samples from "I Love You" as performed by Eddie Holman
Early pressings of God's Son
included a bonus disc with three extra tracks.
||"Thugz Mirror (Freestyle)"
|Chucky Thompson for The Hitmen
- Contains samples from "My Hero Is a Gun" by Diana Ross
|U.S. Billboard 200
|U.S. Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums
Singles Chart Positions