Nas -Illmatic

Nas released his first studio album “Illmatic” on April 19, 1994. The album was produced by DJ Premier, Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip and L.E.S. The production was flawless as well as the lyrical content.  Many consider  this album to be the best LP released in the 1990’s.  It is 10 tracks that do not need skipping and can all be considered singles.

The first track is the instrumental track “Genesis” where Nas samples the train sequence from one of the greatest Hip Hop movies of all time, “Wild Style“.  As soon as Nas says “Representing is Illmatic” at the end of the track, we are sent directly to one of the greatest track on the album “New York State of Mind” produced by DJ Premier.  The lyrics puts you right in the action as he walks through Queensbridge with lines like,

Rappers, I monkey flip ’em with the funky rhythm I be kickin’
Musician, inflictin’ composition of pain
I’m like Scarface sniffin’ cocaine
Holding an M16, see with the pen I’m extreme, now
Bullet holes left in my peepholes
I’m suited up in street clothes, hand me a 9 and I’ll defeat foes
Y’all know my steelo with or without the airplay
I keep some E&J, sitting bent up in the stairway
Or either on the corner betting Grants with the cee-lo champs
Laughing at baseheads tryna sell some broken amps

He later goes on and says what Heads have repeated over and over again, “I never sleep/cause sleep is the cousin of death“.  Nas has a bunch of these one-liners throughout this classic album.

Life’s a Bitch” is the only track that features someone other than Nas on the mic.  Queens native AZ gets on the mic and give us one of his nicest bars on wax. Nas’s lyrics are equally dope and don’t cast a shadow over AZ’s lyricsm.

“Visualizin the realism of life and actuality
Fuck who’s the baddest a person’s status depends on salary
And my mentality is, money orientated
I’m destined to live the dream for all my peeps who never made it
Cause yeah, we were beginners in the hood as five percenters
But somethin must of got in us cause all of us turned to sinners
Now some, restin in peace and some are sittin in San Quentin
Others such as myself are tryin to carry on tradition”

The World Is Yours” gives us the first Pete Rock produced track.  Nas uses the “Scarface” tagline to empower us to be whatever we want and not give up.  The lyrics are once again visually stunning to the ear with lines like these,

I sip the Dom P, watchin’ Gandhi ’til I’m charged
Then writin’ in my book of rhymes, all the words past the margin
Behold the mic I’m throbbin’, mechanical movement
Understandable smooth shit that murderers move with
The thief’s theme; play me at night, they won’t act right
The fiend of hip-hop has got me stuck like a crack pipe
The mind activation, react like I’m facin’
Time like Pappy Mason, with pens I’m embracin’
Wipe the sweat off my dome, spit the phlegm on the streets
Suede Timbs on my feet makes my cipher complete
Whether cruisin’ in a Six cab or Montero Jeep
I can’t call it; the beats make me fallin’ asleep
I keep fallin’, but never fallin’ six feet deep
I’m out for presidents to represent me (say what?)
I’m out for presidents to represent me (say what?)
I’m out for dead presidents to represent me

We all know these tracks by heart and can recite every song on this album, line by line.  “Halftime” was the first single released almost 2 years earlier and appeared on the “Zebrahead” Motion Picture Soundtrack.  The Large Professor track also contains the memorable lines,
“Before a blunt, I take out my fronts
Then I start to front, matter of fact, I be on a manhunt
You couldn’t catch me in the streets without a ton of reefer
That’s like Malcolm X catching the Jungle Fever”

On “Memory Lane” he gives us his explanation of why Nas was called to get on the mic and “represent”.  This is where Nas shines and showed us that he has going to be around for a long time.  So who does he do it for you ask?
“I rap for listeners, blunt heads, fly ladies and prisoners
Hennessey holders and old school niggas,
then I be dissin a unofficial that smoke woolie thai
I dropped out of Kooley High, gassed up by a cokehead cutie pie”

As soon as you hear “One Love” come on, you know immediately that Q-Tip was producing this track.  He even begins the track by saying that he got a letter from Nas, right before Nas reads us his letter he wrote his incarcerated friend about what’s going on in this neighborhood. He keeps him updated with lines like,
“What’s up kid? I know shit is rough doing your bid
When the cops came you should’ve slid to my crib
Fuck it black, no time for looking back it’s done
Plus congratulations you know you got a son
I heard he looks like you, why don’t your lady write you?
Told her she should visit, that’s when she got hyper
Flippin, talk about he acts too rough
He didn’t listen he be riffin’ while I’m telling him stuff
I was like yeah, shorty don’t care, she a snake too
Fucking with the niggas from that fake crew that hate you
But yo, guess who got shot in the dome-piece?
Jerome’s niece, on her way home from Jones Beach”

One Time For Your Mind” is the second of three Large Professor tracks but the following track “Represent” is probably Nas’s dopest track on this album!  It is probably the greatest Nas track ever.  These lyrics are insane and should be printed and displayed in a museum.
“Yo, they call me Nas, I’m not your legal type of fella
Moet drinkin, marijuana smokin street dweller
who’s always on the corner, rollin up blessed
When I dress, it’s never nuttin less than Guess
Cold be walkin with a bop and my hat turned back
Love committin sins and my friends sell crack
This nigga raps with a razor, keep it under my tongue
The school drop-out, never liked the shit from day one
cause life ain’t shit but stress fake niggaz and crab stunts
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
Somehow the rap game reminds me of the crack game
Used to sport Bally’s and Gazelle’s with black frames
Now I’m into fat chains, sex and Tecs
Fly new chicks and new kicks, Heine’s and Beck’s”

As we get to the finale, we get to the “rhythmatic explosion” of “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” with Large Professor sampling Michael Jackson’sHuman Nature” and making it perfect for Nas to bring in his lyrical assault when he says,
“It ain’t hard to tell, I excel, then prevail
The mic is contacted, I attract clientele
My mic check is life or death, breathin a sniper’s breath
I exhale the yellow smoke of buddha through righteous steps
Deep like The Shinin’, sparkle like a diamond
Sneak a uzi on the island in my army jacket linin
Hit the Earth like a comet, invasion
Nas is like the Afrocentric Asian, half-man, half-amazin
Cause in my physical, I can express through song
Delete stress like Motrin, then extend strong
I drank Moet with Medusa, give her shotguns in hell
From the spliff that I lift and inhale, it ain’t hard to tell”

The album is perfect from start to finish.  Event though it sits at 40 minutes long and composing of 9 lyrical tracks, it still shook the foundation of Hip Hop and brought us something we have never heard before.  Nas’s lyrics are those of a poet and can be heart on everyone of these tracks!

-Al E.

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