Following his mother’s death from breast cancer in early 2002, Nas retreated to the studio to create his most personal album yet. Far from the grandiosity of his late-Nineties period, Nas uses the tracks on God’s Son to speak directly to the listener. Built from a reconfigured Beethoven sample, “I Can” is a sincere song of encouragement, directed towards black children: “Nobody says you have to be gangstas, hoes / Read more, learn more, change the globe.” As Nas bares his soul about the death of his mother on “Dance” and “Warrior Song,” he becomes more introspective about his poisonous feud with Jay-Z, confessing in “Last Real Nigga Alive” that “I was Scarface, Jay was Manolo / It hurt me when I had to kill him and his whole squad for dolo.” Working primarily with producer Salaam Remi, God’s Son brings Nas back to basics with a sample-based musical palette. “Made You Look” has all of the fire and excitement of classic Kool G Rap or EPMD, while the posthumous Tupac duet “Thugz Mansion” is one of the sparest, most poignant rap songs to ever chart. Leaner-than-lean and more coolly confident than he had been in years, the James Brown-rooted “Get Down” sets the tone for Nas’ return to form.