Nas
Illmatic


5.0
classic

Review

by Zesty Mordant USER (24 Reviews)
January 16th, 2005 | 883 replies | 77,816 views


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist


11 of 17 thought this review was well written

Artist: Nas
Album: Illmatic
Label: Columbia
Release Date: April 19, 1994

#400 on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time"

Prior to the release of this now legendary and ground-breaking album, hip-hop had arguably developed into a very fragmented genre of music, both geographically and stylistically. Geographically, as with the rise of Death Row records, and several conscious rappers like Del, A Tribe Called Quest, and Pharcyde, L.A. had become the new hip-hop capital of the world. the industry in New York was left in its wake (for this review we are conveniantly ignoring the Wu's "36 Chambers" in 1993). Meanwhile in terms of style, commercial hip-hop, and specifically gangsta rap, had popularized a self-centered syle of narrative which relied on promoting oneself and blasting others on simple one-liners and rhyme schemes.

Enter Nasir Jones aka. Nas. 1994's Illmatic displayed not only some dangerous and grimy beats that reflected the violent nature of the NYC streets, but more importantly, a vicious poetic style that combined the hardness of gangsta rap, with the highly-detailed narrative, skillfull obeservation and deep self-analysis that was often the focus of conscious rap. Along with Wu-Tang, Nas helped firmly re-establish NYC/East Coast as the epicentre of rap, and nearly every rapper who strives to work beyond the now horribly rigid structures of commercial rap owe it to Nas and specifically this album- even Nas' arch-enemy Jay-Z.

1. Genesis - the intro begins with an obscure sample and a background of a subway rattling along the tracks. Enter a tight beat and a punchy sample and a very grimy and hardened setting is established for the album: you can almost picture the bleak NYC urban hell that Nas will often reiterate throughout the course of the album right here. 4/5

2. N.Y. State of Mind - The opening track is definately one of the hardest. a sinister & rolling piano sample dominates the course of the song, accompanied by another tight and punchy beat. simple buy very poignant. Nas' vocals here enter like a ton of bricks: He sounds ridiculously confident and hardened, yet his detailings of the everyday schemes of "crackheads","bitches", "freaks" and "black rats" hints at the intellectualism that his contemporaries could never fathom is their raps. lines like "life is parallel to hell but i must maintain" and of course the famous "I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death" provide an excellent and poetic account of life in the ghetto that was never presented in such a light. 5/5

3. Life's a Bitch - featuring AZ (?) who sounds very young, but confident and self-asured, features a smooth rhythm and poignant percussion which weaves wonderfully with Nas' smooth flow (contrary to Jay-Z's later claims on "The Takeover"). the trumpet solo sampled at the end adds wonderfully to the sparse production and the bleak images presented by Nas.
4.5/5

4. The World is Yours - With a dark, but mysteriously ascending (almost heavenly) piano loop, and dusted with a shimmering drum beat, this is another short hip-hop gem riddled with Nas' powerful narratives. His rhyming techniques are quite innovational (for the time) for the most part and he is able to maintain his gritty street persona while firing off lines like "I sip the Dom P, watchin Gandhi til I'm charged/ Then writin in my book of rhymes, all the words pass the margin", and "we box up crazy bitches aimin guns in all my baby pictures/ Beef with housin police, release scriptures that's maybe Hitler's". excellent track 5/5

5. Halftime - With a huge and imposing beat and an obscure soul-influenced vocal sample, Nas once again delivers more killer lines and observation. This song is more of a self-analyis sort of piece and Nas in this respect is able to fire off some gangsta-like self-bravado but with a level of intellectualism that trenscends simple tough-guy gestures. 4/5

6. Memory Lane - This song is a little more relaxed with a nice soul-heavy organ sample and some etheral vocal samples blended into the background. the beat is very upbeat and sounds amazing when being smothered by Nas' apt ability for description. lines like "A nickel-plate is my fate, my medicine is the ganja/ Here's my basis, my razor embraces, many faces/ Your telephone blowin, black stitches or fat shoelaces" grab the listeners attention in a powerful way. 4.5/5

7. One Love - This song almost has a feel similar to The Roots with by incorporating a loose beat and a catchy sample of an African Thumb Piano. Nas here spits off some optimistic rhymes of surviving in the ghetto and as usual, is spectacular. The vocal hook in the chorus is a little annoying and bland though. 4/5

8. One Time 4 Your Mind - With a grimy vocal hook and a very sparse beat, this song really emphasizes the confident flow of the lyrics. Lines like "My pen rides the paper, it even has blinkers/Think I'll dim the lights then inhale, it stimulates/Floating like I'm on the North 95 Interstate/Never plan to stop, when I write my hand is hot" captures Nas' poignant imagery. 4/5

9. Represent - this song mixes a tough and gritty beat and vocal hook with an obscure keyboard sample. Nas' flow here is very dynamic and in some points, sounds like its about to burst out of the speakers. Nas' hardened lifestyle is wonderously and intellectually glorified in lines like "So I guzzle my Hennesey while pullin on mad blunts/ The brutalizer, crew de-sizer, accelerator/ The type of nigga who be pissin in your elevator". 5/5

10. It Ain't Hard to Tell - a catchy vocal hook and trumpet blare mesh over a smooth, but upbeat, beat. the line, "Hit the Earth like a comet, invasion/ Nas is like the Afrocentric Asian, half-man, half-amazin", just kills. a short and simple delivery of solid rhymes in 3 minutes, this is a perfect closer to the album. 5/5

This is without a doubt, an exceptional album. where much of gangsta rap embodied old funk samples and stagnant beats, this album is a dark, brooding masterpiece in terms of production, characterized by smooth beats, and a plethora of jazz, soul, and obscure vocal samples. the lyrics, as mentioned repeadtly is the real focus here however, as there is pratically no filler in this regard- each line was written with a prior intention to leave a mark on the listener and are all successful in doing so. a masterpiece.

final rating: 5/5

Recommended Tracks
N.Y. State of Mind
The World is Yours
Represent
It Ain't Hard to Tell



Recent reviews by this author
J Dilla The ShiningGhostface Killah Fishscale
DJ Shadow The OutsiderStrike Anywhere Dead FM
Johnny Cash At Folsom PrisonDrive-by Truckers Southern Rock Opera
user ratings (2198)
Chart.
4.6
superb
other reviews of this album
1 of

Comments:Add a Comment 
Iai
Emeritus
December 6th 2004



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I heard this a while back and wasn't impressed. Strange, because I'm a NaS fan, and I usually love albums that are generally regarded as classics. I guess it's time I took this one out for another whirl.

Led_Zep_Bonham
December 7th 2004



16 Comments


I think I'll have to check this out some more. I've heard various tracks from this album in the past, but never as one collective work.

Good job on the review, by the way. Convincing, if nothing else (I enjoyed other aspects, of course).

Zesty Mordant
December 7th 2004



1196 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i find that it was one of those albums that you have to listen to again. you have to consider, that since this album's release the style of narrative has really progressed since, as many artists and rappers have drawn on Nas' style and approach in this album. when i first heard it i didn't see what the big deal was, but on a repeated listen(s), you can really identify the uniqueness of this album.

Iai
Emeritus
July 31st 2005



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I take the first post back. I've come to love it.

LF96
September 4th 2005



97 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This is one of the best hiphop-albums ever recorded imo. Every single song on this is 5/5, the perfect combination of great lyrics and the best production of that time (all of the producers on the album were at the top of their game at that time).

NuMetalMania
December 29th 2005



325 Comments


Nice review! Nas i can remember did a song with KoRn off TALITM, it was Play Me. Sounded alright, quite a heavy song, he did a good job.

slashjunior
February 11th 2006



5 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is one of my favourite albums of all time.

Great review.

Zebra
Moderator
February 13th 2006



2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Wow, I can't beleive this only has seven comments. I'm not to big on hip-hop but this is a classic. I love the piano in some of these tracks, Nas is so smooth and the music just makes me feel so good and sort of rebellious.

Killtacular
February 13th 2006



1314 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I love how dark the production is. Lovely.

Kingofdudes
February 13th 2006



294 Comments


I love this album. I really like driving with it on.This Message Edited On 02.13.06

Illmatic
February 18th 2006



38 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Rolling Stone screwed this album over.

Then again, this record never had the crossover appeal some of the other great rap albums had.

Doesn't matter though because this one is absolutely perfect.

pulseczar
February 18th 2006



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I want to hear this, even though Nas' new single is utter garbage.

Robert Crumb
Emeritus
February 18th 2006



165 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

An obvious classic. The only negative thing I can say about this review is that it doesn't mention DJ Premier at all. I don't think his importance can't be stressed enough when it comes to talking about 90's hip hop and, in particular, almost anything that came out of New York in that same time frame. It's a little mindboggling.This Message Edited On 02.18.06

Zesty Mordant
February 18th 2006



1196 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

[QUOTE=Crumb] The only negative thing I can say about this review is that it doesn't mention DJ Premier at all. [/QUOTE]
I agree entirely. I was just gonna say that I don't really like this review as it was done way back in the day before Sputnik and more importantly, before I really developed a more comprehensive knowledge of hip-hop (at the time of the review I wasn't too aware of the importance of DJ Premier).
Also the general structure of reviewing the album in itself is pretty crappy.

Robert Crumb
Emeritus
February 18th 2006



165 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I didn't mean to knock the writing or anything, I think it's a pretty good review otherwise. I'm just on a Premo kick. This Message Edited On 02.18.06

Illmatic
February 18th 2006



38 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

You think? Along with 2001 and MMLP, it was the the first rap album I ever liked, coming from my retards attempting poetry roots.


Well I meant mainstream crossover appeal

Thor
February 18th 2006



10170 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I decided to start listening to more hip hop and rap so I decided to pick this up because of all the hype about it. This album is amazing.

Zesty Mordant
February 18th 2006



1196 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I didn't mean to knock the writing or anything, I think it's a pretty good review otherwise. I'm just on a Premo kick.

I know, but I always feel a little unnerved when I look back at my early reviews. You just took the words out of my mouth.

But I've definitely been feeling the DJ Premier vibe much more lately, on this album and on some of the guest spots he did on the whole experimental neo-soul/hip-hop dynasty a few years ago with D'Angelo, Common, etc.This Message Edited On 02.18.06

Iai
Emeritus
February 21st 2006



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Heh, my rating has gone up again. This record just keeps getting better and better for me.

"Freshly Baked"
March 11th 2006



583 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Nas has succesfully captured the vibe of the streets onto an album.

#3 on my all time list



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2013 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy