AZ
Doe or Die


3.5
great

Review

by somberlain USER (64 Reviews)
March 2nd, 2011 | 34 replies


Release Date: 1995 | Tracklist

Review Summary: AZ may have matched Nas on his ‘Illmatic’ guest spot but his debut is nowhere near as good.

“My first album had no famous guest appearances
The outcome: I'm crowned the best lyricist”
-Nas from ‘Got Ur Self A Gun’

Sixteen years after Illmatic, that statement remains true since no one with guest appearances on that album can be considered famous. Nas and AZ’s careers took very different paths after that classic collaboration, Nas went on to have a very successful career while AZ was relegated to having every move he made be compared to Nas. Few things ever live up to the hype and the beginning of Nas and AZ’s careers were very similar, they created a major buzz due to guest spots and their first singles built anticipation for their debut albums. Illmatic lived up to and perhaps surpassed the hype but sadly Doe or Die, while a very good album will always be compared unfavorably to Illmatic.

AZ goes for more of a Mafioso angle on his debut, spinning tales about riches and cocaine. On opening track ‘Uncut Raw’, AZ comes out with guns blazing, with a surprisingly energetic, multi-syllabic flow:

Life is a struggle, that's why niggas I know stay on the juggle
Some hustle to double, others hug you to mug you
Poverty-stricken, they even turn a church kid into stickin
It seems sickenin, but what? Whatever makes the pockets thicken


Elsewhere, Nas shows up to do a very weak chorus on ‘Gimme Yours’, spoiling a good Pete Rock beat. On ‘Mo Money, Mo Murda’ however, Nas supplies a couple of outstanding verses, returning the favor for ‘Life’s a Bitch’ over some faint strings provided by underrated producer DR Period. First single ‘Sugar Hill’ may not be what you were expecting from AZ after hearing him on Illmatic but assisted by L.E.S. and a female chorus, this was AZ’s shining (solo) moment.

The one constant on Doe or Die, is AZ’s smooth flow and outstanding, intricate lyrics which are enjoyable even when the production is not. An all-star cast of producers got together for Illmatic and while a few of those same people contributed on Do or Die (Pete Rock, L.E.S.), the beats on here are very hit or miss. It’s a bit disappointing to hear AZ on the title track re-using the first two bars of his legendary ‘Life’s a Bitch’ verse, but besides that, his verses are very high caliber, only to be ruined by the hook.

When your fame is built upon one amazing verse, you’re held to a very high standard, one that is difficult to uphold and unfortunately, Do or Die doesn’t live up expectations as it is neither Illmatic nor does it show the quality of his verse on ‘Life’s a Bitch’. Those are near impossible levels to maintain and AZ has found that out through his career, he will never make another Illmatic but hey, neither will Nas. In a vacuum, Do or Die is a great album, even spectacular at times but it seems to be in the shadows as Illmatic’s forgotten little brother.


Recommended tracks:
Sugar Hill
Mo Money, Mo Murda
Uncut Raw



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Comments:Add a Comment 
somberlain
March 2nd 2011


2121 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's too bad that people always compare this to 'Illmatic' (much like I did for this entire review)

Hawks
March 2nd 2011


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice review man. Really like this album, but yeah, he'll always be compared to Nas.

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
March 2nd 2011


18882 Comments


His verse on Life's a Bitch is my favorite verse in all hip-hop i've heard thus far.

I really need to hear this.

Digging: Bee Mask - When We Were Eating Unripe Pears

BigHans
March 2nd 2011


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Ive always loved the title track. Samples Grandmaster Flash quite nicely.

Bulldog
March 2nd 2011


3796 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

tbh this could have been up there with illmatic, az just didnt have the budget

Inveigh
March 2nd 2011


25116 Comments


I've never actually heard this all the way through but I've always like Uncut Raw, Mo Money Mo Murder and Sugar Hill

nice review somb

Digging: Hail Mary Mallon - Bestiary

Hawks
March 2nd 2011


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Mo Money, Mo Murder is easily my favorite here. Whole thing is really solid though.

HalfManHalfAmazing
March 2nd 2011


613 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

That Nas quote is just fucked up

HalfManHalfAmazing
March 2nd 2011


613 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I actually like Nas's hook on Gimmie Yours, it's kind of catchy

qwe3
March 3rd 2011


21369 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great album

BigHans
March 4th 2011


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Just heard this in full for the first time, although Ive heard pieces of it several times before. It really is Illmatic-Lite, although that almost seems disrespectful to it, cause its a really fucking good album.

Hawks
March 4th 2011


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Shit, just read AZ is planning on releasing Doe or Die II this year. God damn this could be such a great year for hip-hop.

FearUs
May 10th 2011


4 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Am i the only one who think nas' verse on life's a bitch was better than AZ's?

Romulus
August 27th 2011


8447 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is awesome

Romulus
August 27th 2011


8447 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

he really does himself no favors when he quotes the life's a bitch verse though

Timeizillmatic9
August 27th 2011


256 Comments


I agree with FearUs, Nas's verse in Life's a Bitch is golden. Let that not take away from AZ's verse, that's a classic too.

xfearbefore
March 19th 2012


1246 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"Uncut Raw" is absolute fire, and always will be. That shit could rival anything Nas was doing at the same time. Such a classic album but it appears to even still be sadly underrated and unknown in general. If you love Illmatic (and who the fuck doesn't?), you need this album.

Digging: Negative Approach - Tied Down

qwe3
March 20th 2012


21369 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

beats are too cheesy for this to be classic

joelco92
May 3rd 2012


64 Comments


I just can't get over the oh so shitty production. I know this guy has talent his flow is tight as hell... but the production is not only shitty but cheesy as well and very annoying.

snoopdogg6969
October 6th 2012


419 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah its ok that yall aren't rating this 5 for production, but at the same time you rate kanye west
etc. 5 and his lyrics suck ass. which is more important to rap, lyrics or production? you tell me





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