Illmatic (album) by Nas
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Illmatic is ranked as the best album by Nas.
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Illmatic track list
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|Rating||Date updated||Member||Album ratings||Avg. album rating|
|4 days ago||viddywell72||57||90/100|
|5 days ago||bermolder||366||77/100|
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This album is rated in the top 1% of all albums on BestEverAlbums.com. This album has a mean average rating of 84.0/100. The trimmed mean (excluding outliers) is 86.2/100. The standard deviation for this album is 18.1.
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This is hip hop's A Love Supreme. A ridiculous 40 minute onslaught that happened to be the sound of the future. Raw and visceral yet so beautifully calculated and crafted. Art.
Definitely my favorite rap album. Best lyrics, best production, everything is at it's best. The stories told in this album feel so real you can almost touch them.
Greatest HipHop record of all time.
Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones was 20 years of age in the early part of 1994. He had spent the last two years recording what would become his magnum opus and what's widely seen as the crown jewel of today's most preeminent music genre. He was still a minor but possessed the sagacious foresight of a storyteller that had lived five lifetimes. Born in Brooklyn but raised in nearby Queens, his experiences provided the narrative bedrock for 1994's Illmatic, incorporating his observations as a youth and synthesizing them with his reflections as a burgeoning adult. His insight provided social commentary that remains poignant and pertinent over 25 years later. The legendary-titled "N.Y. State of Mind" perhaps prophesied it best. This was the birth of "Nasty Nas" as an idea instead of a name and the beginning of a never-ending chase for genre peers to one-up his debut masterpiece. As of today, it has never been achieved.
After an establishing intro entitled The Genesis, Nasty Nas announces himself with N.Y. State of Mind, a stirring adrenaline shot that simultaneously cherishes (as a haven) and chastises (as a hellhole) the Big Apple. DJ Premier produced the track and provided the spine of the song with a daunting piano sample that is wonderfully dissonant behind Nas' silky delivery. Speaking of silky, Nas' philosophy and flow is on full display throughout the track. He spits, "I'm an addict for sneakers, 20's of Buddha and bitches with beepers, in the streets I can greet ya, about blunts I teach ya, inhale deep like the words of my breath, I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death." His first proper track on his debut LP remains one of the genre's defining statements. That's pretty quick work indeed. He collaborates with fellow New York native, AZ, on third track Life's a Bitch. AZ's verse nearly highlights the song with his mile a minute delivery. However, never to be outdone, Nas equalizes during the second half of the three and a half minute cut. He declares, "Got rhymes 365 days annual, plus some, load up the mic and bust one, cuss while I pus from, my skull, cause it's pain in my brain vein, money maintain, don't go against the grain, simple and plain." The track is delicately produced by L.E.S with Nas himself having a hand in crafting the backbone of Life's a Bitch. It's a restrained approach that recognizes the strength of the flows of the rappers involved and gives them ample space to breathe. It then fades out gorgeously with a cornet outro played by Nas' own father, Olu Dara. Fourth track, The World is Yours, is likely the finest representation of the supreme fluidity of its orator. It's often cited as the lynchpin that binds arguments for Nas' possession of the best flow in history. Take for example: "Yet I'm the mild, money-gettin' style, rollin' foul, the versatile, honey-stickin', wild, golden child, dwellin' in the Rotten Apple, you get tackled, or caught by the devil's lasso, shit is a hassle." The World is Yours is nothing less than a lyrical masterclass communicated with the precision of an expert marksman.
The midpoint of the album is appropriately titled, Halftime. In some ways, you can't even tell that The World is Yours has ended, given how effortlessly Nas vocally sails through the fifth track. "I used to hustle, now all I do is relax and strive, when I was young I was a fan of the Jackson 5, I drop jewels, wear jewels, hope to never run it, with more kicks than a baby in a mother's stomach," he details. The track was actually released in 1992 as Nas' first single, under the moniker Nasty Nas. This seems to play a role in the track's omission when talking about the spoils of Illmatic. Nevertheless, Halftime is impossible to ignore, even amongst the giants it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with. After a velvety trip down memory lane, Nas concocts what is likely the summit of his poetic genius. One Love is expertly told and beautifully chronicled. The track snakes along, documenting fictitious letters that Nas has written to his companions who are behind bars. He explains, "What up, kid? I know shit is rough doin' your bid, when the cops came you shoulda slid to my crib, fuck it, black, no time for lookin' back, it's done, plus, congratulations, you know you got a son, I heard he looks like ya, why don't your lady write ya?" Later letters warn his friend to be wary of the dangers of incarceration and his own desire to want to murder out of frustration. He then recants because of his devotion to "One Love". A beautiful and haunting contemplation. He finishes the mosaic by fearing a similar fate for a younger confidante, "Shorty's laugh was cold-blooded as he spoke so foul, only 12, tryin' to tell me that he liked my style, then I rose, wipin' the blunt's ash from my clothes, then froze, only to blow the herb smoke through my nose and told my little man I'ma ghost, I broze, left some jewels in his skull that he can sell if he chose, words of wisdom from Nas: try to rise up above, keep an eye out for Jake, Shorty Wop, one love." The lyricism is unbelievably profound as the Brooklyn-based bard paints a harrowing picture of the dangers of living in poverty and the effect of disenfranchisement and bias towards people of color. However, Nas promises to rise above the immense sociological disadvantages handed to him while hoping others will follow his lead. A sentiment that remains frighteningly relevant today. One Love is a landmark in hip-hop storytelling pageantry.
Nas' Illmatic remains entrenched in the pantheon of the lauded era of 90's hip-hop. On the other hand, it seems far ahead of its time. Its production and beats are some of the best that the era had to offer but it's the poetry on the LP that allows it to elude the aging process. Illmatic almost functions as a "Benjamin Button" of sorts, becoming more and more essential as time passes. Echoes of its excellence are heard in numerous hip-hop projects each and every year. In 2014, a documentary film, "Nas: Time is Illmatic", explored the album and its lasting legacy. Nas himself has even called the 25 years since the release as "a lifetime". It's perfectly understandable coming from the man who lived it, but the music never fails to be a product of the moment when it hits your eardrums and heart. If you listen closely, you can hear it reverberate off the brick walls of New York's compressed alleyways, rising above the sound of traffic, banter and the steam that rises from the streets.
"My intellect prevails from a hangin' cross with nails,
I reinforce the frail with lyrics that's real,
Word to Christ, a disciple of streets, trifle on beats,
I decipher prophecies through a mic and say peace."
- Memory Lane (Sittin' in Da Park)
1. One Love
3. N.Y. State of Mind
I need to hear it every year.
That being said, while the lyrics are a little deeper than the rap albums I've heard, that's not saying much. They still rely on the cliches of drug dealing/taking, gang-banging, self-praising, women and sex. Maybe it's more creatively said than most, but it's still the same nonsense a lot of the time. It's at its best when it goes on more about Nas' life experiences beyond the cliches, painting pictures of what it's like to live where Nas grew up.
I probably shouldn't rate this. I don't like hip-hop. This is one of three exceptions. What grabs me's the melodic loops in the background more than the rapping... so I'm definitely a casual listener. Still, this is a good album, with much better lyrics than I've heard from any other rap album, and the production is swampy and atmospheric as hell.
One of the best hip hop albums of all time
Life's A Bitch
It Ain't Hard To Tell
N.Y. State Of Mind
The World Is Yours
Memory Lane (Sittin' In Da Park)
I should've listened to this sooner. All I've got to say is, life's a bitch and then you die.