Some dude once wrote of Nas: “he’s a great lyricist, but has never, ever had ‘it.’ Call it charisma, crossover appeal, marketability, whatever.” And if that’s true than it goes a long way to explaining why Az has never really come close to success.
I’m really surprised at how solid an album Az’s Aziatic is. I’ve always thought of myself as a fan of Az—I picked up and loved his debut—but I think it was somewhere around “The Firm” and birth of Nas Escobar that I saw Az as the messenger trying to take Nas to the dark side. Az was always the flashier of the two, so it seemed like Nas was trying to emulate him.
But Aziatic finds an almost humble Az striving to win back his fans. It’s that earnestness that makes the album worthy of a listen. “The Essence” finds Nas and Az rhyming with an in-and-out flow that’s reminiscent of simpler times. “Fan Mail” features Az rhyming from the perspective of folks fans writing to him about their slice of life. And “Paradise (Life)” features an Az who sounds atop his game.
Naturally, though, there are less than pretty parts of the album as well. Any guest other than Nas is less than impressive. “Take Care of Me” features a skim Neptunes bounce with a quirk. It’s a crass attempt at going for the popular sound and it doesn’t hold up well. The bonus track “Doing Me” is equally transparent in its desire to grab pop listeners.
But all in all, this album has sort of restored my faith in Az. It’s just too bad that I’m listening to it almost six years after it was released.