"[These songs] were just sitting there and I always thought I would come back to them and finish them off later, but it never happened," Nas, who linked with Kanye West for a seven-tracker in the form of his 2018 album NASIR, told Trevor Noah of the project earlier this week. "So I'm sitting there with all these songs starting to pile up and I'm like, 'Oh, I did a Lost Tapes album 17 years ago, and I think it's time to make another one.'"
While fans will surely have plenty of additional highlights to pore over this weekend, Lost Tapes 2 closer "Beautiful Life" is getting special attention thanks to its deeply personal lyrical approach.
The track sees Nas (with some assistance from RaVaugn) use some No I.D. production to address, among other things, incidents in his life that have landed him in headlines over the course of his nearly three-decade career.
"My baby's mom made a book about me," Nas raps early in the track, a clear reference to It's No Secret author Carmen Bryan, with whom he had his first child, Destiny. Nas says here that Carmen was "looking for fame" by outing him "in Barnes & Noble's new release section."
Nas also brings up the rumor that Carmen played a role in his beef with JAY-Z, which is a claim Carmen used to promote her book. Part of its description reads: "From a clandestine relationship with Nas's biggest rival, JAY-Z, that stirred up the biggest feud in hip-hop history..."
Here, the rapper shoots down the significance of it: "Now the streets guessing the beef started over some woman/Couldn't be the furthest thing from the truth."
Later, Nas asks listeners, "How many been married, divorced, their ex-lady wildin'?" This apparent Kelis reference continues, with Nas rapping that a lawyer was hired to award the person in question $80,000 a month. He also claims here that Stevie Wonder reached out, noting that he is "blind but still sees the pain of a young performer." Nas adds: "She married again and I'm wishin' all the best to her."
Last year, Kelis alleged that Nas had been physically and verbally abusive to her during their relationship. Nas later denied this in an open letter and has famously included apparent references to his relationship with Kelis in previous releases. He also appears to mention his divorce from Kelis on Lost Tapes 2's "The Art of It."
Elsewhere on "Beautiful Life," Nas tackles his IRS issues and gives a shout-out to Akinyele, with whom he shares some early '90s history that includes a fateful run of shows with JAY-Z and his brief status as a go-between for JAY and Nas during their infamous public beef. (Incidentally, The Lost Tapes 2’s release day also sees JAY-Z muse on the Beyoncé-curated The Lion King: The Gift album, “I be feelin' like Prince in '84/Mike in '79, Biggie in '97, '94 Nas.”)
Explaining that his lifestyle is unpredictable to the point of once not being aware he could "lose it fast," Nas gets specific about signing "my own checks" and believing the IRS had been paid.
"Somebody stealing, I swear to God, for now I invest," he raps.
Hear the song in full below.