I’m gonna keep it real, I didn’t check out for Nas until well after this album was released. The first Nas album I ever bought at the time was It Was Written and thought it was a classic. Nas proved to be one of the best and most potent story tellers in hip hop with that release but a lot of people kept on complaining about how it didn’t measure up to his debut Illmatic. I remember how people were always going on about this album(Well many hip hop heads) and I felt that I was missing out on something special.
Many claim that this album is the greatest hip hop album of all time, I figured I see what the hype was about this album so I copped it one day and gave it a thoro listen throughout that whole day. Even though I don’t agree with the Source on their flawed mic system, I agree with them when it comes to Illmatic. This album was and still will remain a Hip Hop Classic!
There’s not a million guest appearances, There are no bullshit Electric/techno/club Lady Gaga style of beats or snap music on here. There are only 10 TRACKS(well 9 if you discount the introduction)
This album showed that Nasir Jones aka Nas poured his heart, blood, sweat, and Tears on this project. You can feel the hunger in Nas’s voice as he’s tearing through these tracks like a savage with his superb delivery and in-depth lyricism. The production on this album is mostly gutter and while many may complain that it sounds a bit New Yorkish, You cant front on hot songs like NY State of Mind where Nasty Nas paints a picture of street life in the Big Apple.
There are also other gems that are standouts such as The World is Yours, Halftime, and It aint Hard 2 Tell where he flips the Human Nature beat from Michael Jackson into a classic hip hop banger.
The only track that can possibly get some radio airplay is Life is a A Bitch which may have a radio friendly beat being that its sampled from Yearning from Your Love, The lyrics alone still make this track very realistic but at the same time a bit depressing to listen too. The track also features the albums only guest appearance and that be from AZ as he delivers one of the tightest debuts ever from the emcee:
The album’s best track to me is One Love where Nas pens letters to alot of his friends and family members that are incarcerated. Whats really impressive about this song is Nas is actually breaking down the letter in a very vivid descriptive manner which makes him one of the best prolific writers in Hip Hop:
Dear Born, you’ll be out soon, stay strong Out in New York the same shit is goin on the crack-heads stalking, loud-mouths is talking hold, check out the story yesterday when i was walking the nigga you shot last year tried to appear like he hurtin’ something word to mother, i heard him fronting and he be pumping on your block your man gave him your glock and now they run together, what up son, whatever since I’m on the streets I’ma put it to a cease but I heard you blew a nigga with a ox for the phone piece Whylin on the Island, but now with Elmira better chill cause them niggaz will put that ass on fire Last time you wrote you said they tried you in the showers but maintain when you come home the corner’s ours On the reels, all these crab niggaz know the deal When we start the revolution all they probably do is squeal But chill, see you on the next V-I I gave your mom dukes loot for kicks, plus sent you flicks Your brother’s buck whylin’ in four maine he wrote me he might beat his case, ’til he come home I play it low key so stay civilised, time flies though incarcerated your mind [dies] I hate it when your mum cries it kinda wants to make me murder, for real-a I’ve even got a mask and gloves to bust slugs for one love
Lyrically This album has lyrics to quote for days, Nas comes through with so many poetic ill verses tha many rappers to this day have at least copied or duplicated one of them. Nas really set the bar for lyricism at a time for NY when everybody were looking for a savior in the midst of West Coast dominance during the mid 90s. If You don’t have this album then you’re certainly missing out on something special.