Covering the Bronco Nation.

The Rider Online | Legacy HS Student Media

Covering the Bronco Nation.

The Rider Online | Legacy HS Student Media

Covering the Bronco Nation.

The Rider Online | Legacy HS Student Media

Final Blog
Final Blog
Photo Gallery: Varsity Baseball Regional Quarter Final
Advertisement
Final Blog
Final Blog
Photo Gallery: Varsity Baseball Regional Quarter Final
Advertisement

Album Review: Illmatic by Nas

Illmatic by Nas released on April 19, 1994. Photo by Columbia Records.
“Illmatic” by Nas released on April 19, 1994. Photo by Columbia Records.

On April 19, 1994, the 20-year-old rapper, Nas, released “Illmatic.” Nas was born in New York and grew at the height of rap’s popularity in the 80s and 90s. “Illmatic” is already widely considered to be one of the greatest rap albums of all time. With all of the music I have listened to in my life, “Illmatic” tops the list of my favorite albums. Many different people and publications have already discussed this album at length, but I want to add my opinion and perspective on this classic record. 

This record just turned 30 years old and aged terrifically. A couple of lines in this album don’t hold up with today’s societal norms, but it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the album. DJ Premier, from Gang Starr, produced numerous tracks on this album, further adding to it. “Illmatic” falls under “true rap and hip-hop” label and, as I’ve alluded to, is my favorite rap album of all time. 

The intro track, “Genesis,” is the perfect start to the immersion into Nas’ world. The first sounds you hear are subway trains racing over the tracks and immediately you’re placed in New York, specifically Brooklyn, which Nas concludes with “They don’t listen man representing is Illmatic.” Hey, that’s the name of the album!

The first “real” song is “N.Y. State of Mind.” And this song is perfect. Perfect rap. The grimy instrumental came to fruition through the production of the aforementioned DJ Premier. Premier nailed this beat and arguably holds a place atop the best beats in rap. Nas opens this song with the biggest lie ever, “Yo I don’t know how to start this,” then immediately starts with the craziest series of bars. Nas builds on the immersion, detailing what life is like for him in the underground rap scene along with the life that he is living in the streets. While his bars tell a story, they are enhanced by his effortless flow throughout the entire runtime of this five-minute track. This song immediately displays that this is not some ordinary rap. This is a story. This is Nas’ story. There’s almost no better way to open an album in my opinion. 

The follow-up song/track is “Life’s a B***h”  featuring AZ and Olu Dara, over a calmer beat. Nas and AZ justify their way of life with the simple line, “Life’s a b***h and then you die.” In his verses, Nas doesn’t say this in a “nothing matters I don’t care about anything” way but more of a “nothing matters, I’m gonna make the best of the time I have” way. There are some brass horns mixed into the beat, only adding to Nas’ story, as he’s talked about growing up listening to jazz. 

The World is Yours’ bats cleanup. I flip-flop between whether this song or N.Y. State of Mind is my favorite song off “Illmatic”. “The World is Yours” motivates me when I have bad days and boosts me even higher when I’m having good days. Nas and producer, Pete Rock, curated an extremely beautiful song through the beat, which I can only describe as gleaming to go along with Nas’ continued genius bars. Another thing I love about the album is how Nas still appreciates the people he grew up with throughout “Illmatic”. At the end of the track, Nas gives shout-outs to everyone in different areas of New York telling them, “the world is yours.”

Halftime” marks the halfway point through the album. The rhymes and lines in this song are unmatched. The bars on “Halftime” highlight Nas’ lyrics perfectly. The double entendres and smart lines create one of the best lyrical rap songs of this era. “Cause when I blast the herb, that’s my word I be slayin’ ’em fast, doin’ this, that and the third./But chill, pass to Andre, and let’s slay I bag ****** up at John Jay and hit a matinée”. This series of bars encapsulates the skill that Nas possessed as just a 20-year-old in the rap game. 

The sixth track, “Memory Lane (Sittin’ In Da Park),” grew on me exponentially throughout my numerous listens to this album. “Memory Lane” sees Nas reflect on his upbringing more in-depth, opening the song with who he’s rapping for and the fact that he dropped out of high school. He continues his impressive bars with sleek lines like, “My man put the battery in my back, a difference from Energizer.” DJ Premier once again brings in a smooth beat for Nas to effortlessly flow on. 

One Love” is the seventh song on this album, with the hook done by Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest. “One Love” is probably my least favorite song on this album, but it’s still genuinely a good song. Q-Tip’s voice works well off of Nas which still makes it an enjoyable song, it just isn’t my favorite on the album.

One Time 4 Your Mind” follows, with Nas putting emphasis on his rap and coming up in the new rap scene. More lyrically sound bars are sprinkled throughout the track with lines like, “well, a cappella rhymes’ll Make me richer than a slipper made Cinderella, fella.” “One Time 4 Your Mind” is the shortest song on “Illmatic”, and every time I listen to it I expect it to kick into third gear, but it never does. I still enjoy this track a lot, but I’ve always thought something was missing from it.

Represent” represents (pun intended) the penultimate track on this album, and Nas doesn’t lose any steam on these last couple of tracks. “Represent” has an almost eerie beat, produced by none other than DJ Premier, sampling Lee Erwin’s “Thief of Baghdad” that once again lets Nas’ rapping capabilities shine while also being a great beat on its own. After this gem plays, it gets into one of the greatest outros ever.

It Ain’t Hard to Tell” is as good as it gets when it comes to representing (no pun intended) why I adore this album. Nas comes straight out the gates with, “It ain’t hard to tell, I excel then prevail. My mic is contacted, I attract clientele,” THAT’S THE FIRST SET OF BARS ON AN OUTRO. Nas has no intention of letting off the gas at any point in this album if you couldn’t tell. The beat feels joyous and appropriately final, making me feel as if Nas already knew he curated the greatest rap album ever. 

I re-listened to this album while writing this review, and after all the years I’ve listened to this I am still not tired of it. These 10 tracks are perfect rap. Anyone who appreciates music should listen to this album. Nas’ biggest mistake was releasing this album first. It’s perfect. It’s a 10.

About the Contributor
Cameron Hooper
Cameron Hooper, Staff Writer
It's all about the details.
Leave a Comment
Donate to The Rider Online | Legacy HS Student Media
$0
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Mansfield Legacy High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs and travel to media workshops.

More to Discover
Donate to The Rider Online | Legacy HS Student Media
$0
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Rider Online | Legacy HS Student Media Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *