To reference his famed ex-foe, it's both a gift and a curse that Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones set the bar so high for himself a decade ago with Illmatic. The jewel of his catalogue has cast a shadow over the uneven topography of his career, serving as the inevitable point of comparison for everything he's created since. But golden-era rap is long gone, and in the context of today's politics, today's sounds, today's New York and his own personal life, Nas has released another flawless record. Even more impressive, it's a double album crammed with vulnerability, vivid narrative and profane humour in lieu of filler. There's an "unauthorized" Rakim biography, an ill polemic on U.S. black culture with his fiancée, Kelis, on the hook, a get-fresh Doug E. Fresh beatbox featuring Ludacris, all amid soul-stirring one-liners that lace together deep truths. Nas could retire now.