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There's something similar going on throughout Life Is Good; the more we hear Nas repeat that titular refrain, the less convincing he sounds." The song's subject matter ranges from lifestyle boats to revolutionary ideals: "Hood forever, I just act like I’m civilized / Really what’s in my mind is organizing a billion Black muthafuckas / To take over JP and Morgan Goldman and Sachs / And teach the world facts and give Saudi they oil back".
Killian Fox of The Observer writes that Nas' observations on his ex-wife's "hefty childcare payments" and his 18-year-old daughter "dating unsuitable men" are resonated by his "recollections of his early years as a Queensbridge hustler – just the kind of unsuitable young man he's warning his daughter about these days".
The album's production incorporates orchestral elements and musical references to both contemporary and golden age hip hop, including boom bap beats and old school samples.
When Life Is Good was released on July 13, 2012, by Def Jam Recordings, it received widespread critical acclaim and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 in the United States.
MTV ranked him at number 5 on their list of "The Greatest MCs of All Time".
In 2012, The Source ranked him number two on their list of the "Top 50 Lyricists of All Time".
At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 81, based on 30 reviews.
Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times called it a "thoughtful, fierce, honest and – most important – heavy-duty work" and stated, "Nas has gotten better at rolling with the punches – and you can hear it in every verse".
As a teenager, Nas enlisted his best friend and upstairs neighbor Willy "Ill Will" Graham as his DJ.
Nas' follow-up It Was Written debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, stayed on top for four consecutive weeks, went double platinum in two months, and made Nas internationally known.