When it comes to reputation, there are many schools of thought, but I like to think that like most things, those schools can be boiled down to a straightforward binary.
Some people believe that once you have a reputation, it’s locked in for life, and therefore basically immutable. If you have a reputation as, say, one of the top five rappers of your time, subscribers to this view will never accept that you are anything but, and will have a hard time updating their lists to account for recent output or changing times.
Others believe that a reputation is only as good as its most recent proof. These folks wonder “what have you done lately,” and won’t hesitate to rewrite an artist’s perception in real time if they don’t believe that the artist’s latest work lives up their legacy.
If you’re one of the former, Nas’ latest album, the outtake collection called The Lost Tapes 2 is likely satisfactory to maintain Nas’ reputation as one of the all-time greats. If you’re the latter, you’ll likely see it as the latest link in a growing chain of evidence that Nas may have been great, his “all-time” status should be questioned.
For many fans, Nas’ reputation has been certified ever since Illmatic, which is all the backing they need to support their continued approval of the veteran rapper through his career ups and downs. Even his least-liked albums, I Am and Nastradamus, have undergone something of a reevaluation in the eyes of his staunchest supporters in recent years, causing some to refute Jay-Z’s “one hot album every ten-year average” claim against his onetime foe.
Meanwhile, for others, the beat selections and often wacky musings of the Queensbridge spitter on those albums — and on others, like Hip-Hop Is Dead and Street’s Disciple — have been used to fuel a narrative that casts Nas as a washed-up former superstar who is unable to come to terms with the modern trappings of hip-hop or the unpopularity of his odder beliefs.