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The Queensbridge legend’s fifth project with Hit-Boy shows it may be time to introduce new tricks to the act.

Nas and Hit-Boy have been rap’s most impressive duo for the last three years. The new Gang Starr, in their own words. Starsky and Hutch. Inseparable for four albums straight, one of which led to the QB icon’s first ever Grammy win. Every time you think they’re done, the run continues. The run now stretches to five projects, taking off the King’s Disease crown and putting on the magician’s top hat for a sequel to their 2021 Christmas present.

This time round, the rabbits are stuck in the top hat as Nas and Hit-Boy search for new inspiration.

Hit-Boy has done Nas justice with the production across all their projects, improving with every album. Magic 2 is the first sign of beat regression, offering only a couple up to the standards shown before. The highlights come through “Office Hours”, although the phoned in 50 Cent feature leaves much more to be desired, and “Motion”, which matches the dark sound of the first Magic, reaching a stellar climax with its string outro. Other tracks struggle to bring the best out of Nas, who ends up channelling cookie-cutter flows rather than the energetic, aggressive flows from the Christmas offering.

Beats aside, Nas doesn’t offer much substance topically. Few raps grip you, making it tough to pinpoint a purpose to songs like “Bokeem Woodbine” or “Earvin Magic Johnson”. They carry the essence of freestyle tracks that punch in casual hooks around the verses. An exception is “Slow It Down”, which brings that reflective tone found on the best songs across Magic and King’s Disease trilogy. More focused cuts like these would have Magic 2 fulfilling its true potential.

It may be over-reactionary to say, but Nas should start seeking a new challenge removed from Hit-Boy, or at the very least challenge each other with the production and song ideas. Some novel guest appearances would also spice things up. The series has shown the duo work in a small circle, particularly during the latest efforts. Is Nas not open to working with the Griselda crew? What about a song with more New York peers? There’s plenty ways Magic 2 could have reached for the stars.

At this point in their partnership, the stakes aren’t high. It’s a creative exercise for a rapper who’s thirty years deep, and a producer who’s finally earned a stable name for himself. If the lyrics on “Abracadabra” are to go by, the partnership will be stretching to a sixth effort. Let’s hope they have new tricks up their sleeve coming.

6 / 10

Best tracks: “Office Hours”, “Motion”