Life Is Good is the album Illmatic fans have browbeat Nas into making while undervaluing an astounding number of achievements over a dozen "other" albums where he taught rap to do it backward ("Rewind"), brought his blues-seasoned dad to the club ("Bridging the Gap"), took UPN to task for minstrelsy ("Coon Picnic [These Are Our Heroes]"), and Rupert Murdoch for everything else ("Sly Fox"). You'd never know the astounding breadth from crime noir to cleverer Kweli to rap-roots-reggae that the man trod from the way people speak of his other work while collectively gasping with relief that he did a murder song with Rick Ross. So take this alternate history with a grain of salt if you don't think Illmatic announced a talent with more to say than street fortune cookies like "sleep is the cousin of death." Thankfully, on Life Is Good, he's lyrically and musically rich as he's been for years now, to small recognition, poking his '90s puritans on "Loco-Motive" while acting his age on "Daughters." But Ill junkies are kidding themselves if they think he was rhyming like the pyrotechnic "The Don" in 1993 — or that "Accident Murderers" signals a non-gangster's "return" to anything but gorgeous production.