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Nas | The Lost Tapes 2

The rap vet's latest outtakes & outliers are every bit as good as some artists' hits.

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WHO IS HE? Nasir Jones, the Queensbridge rap legend who kicked off his recording career 25 years ago with the groundbreaking debut Illmatic — and went on to deliver landmarks like 1999’s Nastradamus, 2002’s God’s Son, 2006’s Hip Hop is Dead and last year’s eponymous Nasir.

WHAT IS THIS? The eagerly awaited sequel to his 2002 collection of leftover tracks and musical orphans, this instalment reportedly includes unreleased fare from Hip Hop is Dead and Nasir, along with 2008’s Untitled and 2012’s Life is Good.

WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Nas at his loosest and most creative — over the course of this 16-song set, he dips his beak into everything from soul and R&B to jazz, welcoming an all-star cast of collaborators that includes Kanye West, Pete Rock, Hit-Boy, Swizz Beatz, RZA, Alchemist, No I.D., Statik Selektah, Pharrell and even Al Jarreau.

WHAT WOULD BE A BETTER TITLE FOR THIS ALBUM? Lost But Not Least.

HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? On a playlist with the tracks’ erstwhile albums.

WHAT 10 WORDS DESCRIBE IT? Varied, freewheeling, adventurous, intriguing, playful, intelligent, poetic, collaborative, layered, superlative.

WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? My vote goes to Jarreau of Rap (Skatt Attack), which retools Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk with the aid of Al Jarreau and trumpeter Keyon Harrold. Of course, the eccentric Royalty featuring singer RaVaughn is another standout, along with War Against Love, Highly Favored and the Kanye-produced alt-ballad You Mean the World to Me. But really, the most impressive thing about this disc is how consistently strong the lineup is overall. Just because these cuts were outliers, don’t think for a second that anything is sub-par; some of Nas’s castoffs are better than other artists’ hits.

WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY SAY? ‘Hopefully he won’t make us wait 17 more years for Lost Tapes 3.’

HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO THIS? Frequently — it’s every bit as good as a brand-new Nas release.

IF THIS ALBUM WERE A STORE, WHAT KIND OF STORE WOULD IT BE? A secondhand shop full of buried treasures and rare finds.

SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL? Pony up. You can’t lose.