Review Summary: Nas is burdened with burnt out beats and horrible horrible hooks. Shame cuz at least he SOUNDS good.
Illmatic featured a wise street ‘poet’ Nasir Jones, and classic productions from DJ Premier, Large Professor, Q-Tip, and Pete Rock, and is considered as a great classic in hip hop. Every other release by Nas is generally considered easily forgettable and boring. How did a man who created a memorable classic not be able to write records that follow up that album in any way? Was it the pressure? It must have been the beats, or the hooks, how could it be anything else? For my dollars, it was all of these reasons and more. Stillmatic is claimed as some by as a return to the quality control of Illmatic, but it’s far from it, in fact, it’s a purely average Post-Illmatic effort: lack of quality control, lackluster beats, horrible hooks, and not enough highlights to make it entirely worth listening to.
Stillmatic is only a comeback in the fact that Nas came back lyrically, and even then, it’s usually what we’re expecting from Nas. Street tales, paranoia, conspiracy, and even then, only a few tracks allow that lyrical ability to shine bright. “Ether” has a beat that is so low key that many wonder if Nas was actually rapping to a beat when he completely ripped Jay-Z and his crew a new one, while on “You’re Da Man” Nas takes introspective look at the ten years and fame over cool pianos and violins. The albums highlights, perhaps, is the fast moving crime tale “Rewind” with another ignorable bad beat like “Ether”, and the album’s only Premier beat “2nd Childhood”, in which Nas takes and lays us with clever punch lines over a smooth slap bass track.
However, there would be a lot more of these moments if it weren’t for the horrid beat selection and bad hook writing. Beats try their hardest at everything, whether it’s the rock inspired “Destroy and Rebuild”, the warbling building nature of “One Mic”, the Sopranos sampling bounce of “Got Ur Self A…”, or the off kilter island tempo of “What Goes Around”, but a large majority of the time they utterly collapse under the fact that they’re nothing. The producers utterly laziness behind the boards is abundantly clear, with the blurry bass sounds, weak drum programming, and incomplete feeling in the beats coming through your speakers and ruining Nas’s lyricism. The hooks are only to be expected of any Nas record (yes, even Illmatic), that is, truly bad. Whether it’s repeating the same words in a similar fashion over and over again, having Nas dull monotone singing voice attempting to croak out something, or a mismatch of samples making what is the best hook of the album (“2nd Childhood”). Oh and the Bravehearts are here to ruin “My Country” after the pseudo-Spanish guitars already buried Nas’s attempt at consciousness.
Stillmatic just speaks volumes of an artist in his own circle of failure. No matter how much he tries to shed his name from his fantastic street smart debut, nothing will ever carve that away, and his albums suffer much because of that. But looking at his albums even with the notion of Illmatic being stripped away, Stillmatic is just an average rap album from a lyricist who should know better with beats at this point. Not worth your ears time.
i disagree, and will for the first time neg one of your wonderful reviews. i think stripped-down
production suits a rapper like nas. (biggie, obie, noreaga too).
i think that in no way should it be a bad thing for a rapper to outshine his production. in fact, i
can't even imagine how someone would make an argument otherwise. Lyrical content and delivery on
Stillmatic is just so well-done. Raw =/= bad, and its a sad state of affairs in rap today where
what sells is what gets hummed into a computer. Also, and I totally respect it if you just don't
like the CD or think its overrated, but this:
Beats try their hardest at everything, whether it’s [song names], but a large majority of the
time they utterly collapse under the fact that they’re nothing.
is not a valid criticism. i don't understand how muted/blurred bass and weak drum production could
overshadow nas's "lyricism" ... I mean logically, that doesnt click. Nas could throw 'One Mic' over
dead silence and it would be butter, because the gradual build ups, the rise and fall, the rage and
grace doesn't come from flashy beats or cookie-cutter hooks- it's all him.
also, a passing mention for "Ether" in a Stillmatic review is insulting, man. That song is
again, FIRST neg for your stuff. it's not personal.
also, a passing mention for "Ether" in a Stillmatic review is insulting, man.
my mention of it wasn't passing, i just didn't feel like expanding the review overly. Besides i felt the other reviews expanded enough on how good Ether was.
I believe bad production can ruin a fantastic lyric effort. Look at all of Ras Kass's records, his beats are almost uniformly bad, and it just doesn't help get his points across. If Ras Kass had a good selection of beats, he would be one of the most notable rappers on the rap tip.
It's cool you disagree, i just don't think it deserves a neg for it. That's all.
"I believe bad production can ruin a fantastic lyric effort." - hydeyomoney
This, this, this. I'm a HUGE fan of great lyrics, they are so vital to rap songs. And, not saying it's more important, bad production can screw up awesome lyrics, just as great production can assist superb lyrics.