12. Nas, Life Is Good
Label: Def Jam
Released: July 13
The best gifts are always surprises. That's not to say no one believed Nas could deliver an album as focused and bountiful as Life is Good, it's just that no one expected him to deliver such a project on his 13th go-around. But unlike his previous three albums, which dealt with external issues, this project had the Queensbridge native looking inward: towards his failed marriage, his daughter wildin' out on Twitter, and a rap game in the midst of a massive sea change.
The result is an album wherein Nas dusts off the faculties of his past to deliver an emotionally honest look at what it's like to be Nas in 2012. Despite all the hardships, shortcomings, and mockery from fans and rappers alike, we learn that not only can Nas still rap better than most, but his life is pretty damn good. Surprise, surprise. —Damien Scott