The Classic: "Doo Rags"

While other rappers are content to churn out simplistic remembrances of “back in the day,” a song like “Doo Rags” showed that Nas refuses to revisit the past without including the essential underlying sorrow that flavors nostalgia. It’s not just the gently melancholy tone of this beat. It’s that Nas can’t simply reminisce on bygone hairstyles without allowing his mind to wander to other thoughts: about how “we were lied to, buying hair products/Back before my generation, when our blackness started disintegrating/Til awareness started penetrating.”

The Stinker: "Everybody's Crazy"

How does an agile rapper come up with a song as brain dead as “Everybody’s Crazy”? Perhaps Rockwilder’s beat is to blame. It feels like the song wants to run but it’s wearing sneakers with cement embedded in the soles. Even the clumsiness of the beat can’t excuse what may be the most blockheaded hook of Nas’s career: “Ladies love thugs and my thugs love hip hop/Thugs love ladies and ladies they love hip hop.” Those two lines alone were enough to threaten the memory of every nimble rhyme Nas had created in the preceding ten years.

The Buried Treasure: "U Gotta Love It"

By definition, The Lost Tapes was a collection of buried treasures. The qualities that forced these songs off of I Am… and Nastradamus are the qualities that make them worth revisiting. Take “U Gotta Love It.” It could never have been a single. It doesn’t demand attention; it has no flash. And yet it might the most compelling song of the collection, if only for the way the cloudlike beat appears to drift around the ironclad intensity of Nas’ prose: “Preposterous foes, finicky foul niggas/See niggas and blacks, there goes a loud difference.”