In February 1999, just before the mp3 era reached its peak, 13 tracks from Nas’ forthcoming double LP I Am....The Autobiography leaked onto the internet. With the core of the album in the wild almost two months before the scheduled release date, Nas and his team at Columbia panicked, scrapping the original tracklist and pushing back the album release date.
I Am....The Autobiography was intended as a concept double-album, with one disc recounting his life from birth to death by suicide and the second dedicated to his afterlife. The leak blew up that grand scheme, and the album was officially released as the haphazardly assembled single-disc I Am, without most of the leaked songs. Some would be released as part of the career nadir that was late ’99’s Nastradamus, but the rest circulated for years in varying fidelity, creating an aura of mystique around these “lost” tracks. When they finally saw an official release in 2002 as The Lost Tapes, it solidified the resurgence sparked by 2001’s Stillmatic and the legendary beef with JAY-Z.
But The Lost Tapes 2 is a sequel in name only. Originally meant for a 2003 release, the project was delayed by his signing with Def Jam and their subsequent disagreements, and it’s unlikely this compilation is the same as the one he intended to release back then. Miles away from the leaked gems on The Lost Tapes—considered some of Nas’ best work—this sequel comprises detritus from the last decade or so of Nas’ storied career.