In 1994 a teenager from Queens, New York decided it was time to make his presence felt in Hip-Hop. Back then it wasn’t about the money, cars, women, okay, yes it was but not like it is today. Back then it was about the soul of the music, the lyrics had to mean something, and the beats had to make you want to sit and write a rhyme yourself. This was the ’90’s, this was Hip-Hop at it’s finest before it became watered down.
At the forefront of it was the kid with the half-moon and chipped tooth, and the one that Hip-Hop was clearly not ready for. We heard the demo’s, the features on Main Source and MC Search but we were about to get a whole album of lines like ” when I was 12, I went to hell for snuffing Jesus” or ” I’m waving automatic guns at nuns”. It was Nasty Nas’ time to shine and when you first heard that train in the intro, it took you there.
There will always be debates on what was the best Hip-Hop album of All-Time. Was it Illmatic, The Chronic or Reasonable Doubt? The list could go on for ages. I will give you my three reasons why I believe Illmatic was the greatest of them all.
As I stated earlier when you heard that train in the into you knew we were heading down memory lane. Before Illmatic, Hip-Hop was either women, dancing or drug dealing, but Nas gave you the portrait of a neighborhood from a teenagers point of view. It was as if Nas was looking outside his window and took a journal of everything, and while at the dinner table he told us all. When the album dropped I was attending college in North Carolina but I felt where his rhymes were coming from. This wasn’t about rappers hitting the club and popping bottles. This was me rapping on the corner with my friends. It was New York but in a different light. He gave out-of-towners a visual of the city within the city. If you didn’t belong here, don’t come here. Plain and simple.
I dare you, I double-dare you, hell, I triple dare you to name a better-produced album than Illmatic. I will give Dre, Marley, RZA and Premo their respects with their earlier or later works but Illmatic set the bar in Hip-Hop. Illmatic was like the All-Star of producers. There was Search, Premo, Q-Tip, Pete Rock, L.E.S. and Large Professor. How is this not the best-produced album of All Time? The same producers that every artist has given respect to are on this album.
This third reason alone could take this article in the 3,000-word range. So, what I will do is drop the one verse that sums up Illmatic.
This rhythmatic explosion
Is what your frame of mind has chosen
I’ll leave your brain stimulated, niggas is frozen
Speak with criminal slang, begin like a violin
End like Leviathan, it’s deep; well, let me try again
Wisdom be leaking out my grapefruit, troop
I dominate break loops, giving mics men-e-strual cycles
Street’s disciple, I rock beats that’s mega trifle
And groove even smoother than moves by Villanova
You’re still a soldier, I’m like Sly Stone in Cobra
Packing like a Rasta in the weed spot
Vocals will squeeze Glocks
MC’s eavesdrop, though they need not to sneak
My poetry’s deep, I never fail
Nas’ raps should be locked in a cell; it ain’t hard to tell
Take into account this is the early 90’s before rappers were putting together syllables like this. Nas is mention with Rakim for a reason. Illmatic was ahead of its time.