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This is, quite obviously, the 10th anniversary since the release of Nas' debut album, "Illmatic", widely-regarded as the greatest Hip Hop album of all time. In this special 'Platinum Edition' there is a second disc of remixes and never-before heard unreleased tracks.
1. Genesis (Intro)
2. "NY State Of Mind"
This is a perfect example of a time when Nas is able to force the listener into his way of thinking, along with DJ Primo, an atmosphere is created, which can only be described as a New York State of Mind, making you see things in a different light. It is made most apparent when he says "I don't sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.", and it des actually make you wonder if you should continue to do what you thought was normal, it suddenly has more depth to it. This is a hardcore rap track and especially in the first verse of the track Nas' talent for writing rhymes is displayed, it was very different to anything else at the time and it's complexity would mean that it wouldn't really fit in too well today, but that's what makes Nas so great, he comes with something original and persists, instead of copying popular trends.
3. Life's A B***h
This track was ground-breaking lyrically, especially in the chorus, which was provided by former member of The Firm, AZ, in which it is stated that "Life's a bitch and then you die, 'cause you never know when your gonna go", because nothing similar to this had ever been put forth by an artist, not to mention this early in career. Initially I couldn't relate to the words, but as time has passed, I understand how it would have been a struggle to stay alive for that long whilst living such a lifestyle in New York. With his father's backing on the cornet and L.E.S.'s imaginative composition using samples by The Gap Band and Grover Washington Jr. there was a very jazzy feel to this one even though the topic was so dark. I really enjoy listening to it as you get to know how Nas grew up on the streets, and when his way of life seems so unlike what I'm used to, it seems fun, but from his tone and delivery, you can tell it was far from it.
4. "World Is Yours"
Here you find use of the Old School Hip Hop musician T La Rock's "It's Yours" as a sample played in the background, but the legendary Pate Rock has manipulation it slightly for this one, which has similar themes to the original. Pete Rock goes for a Jazzy style, as you hear quite a bit in the album, so Ahmad Jamal's "I Love Music" also has a part in creating the beat too.
This was Nasty Nas' debut single from way back in 1992, and it featured on the soundtrack to "Zebrahead". If you've seen the Spike lee film "Jungle Fever", then you will notice similarities between that and "Zebradhead", and Nas managed to encoraporate this theme of interracial relationships into his rhymes, even though the majority of it has little relevance to the movie. The best sentence to show this is: "You couldn't catch me in the streets without a ton of reefer/That's like Malcolm X, catchin' the Jungle Fever." You get a strong feeling or influence from his father's music, as he was a Jazz musician, and Nas does this in a Jazz rap style, most clear with acts such as De La Soul. There are a lot of horns and brass wind, and Nas seems to just flow to this with ease, it's a shame we don't see much more of this, but it's completely out of fashion now.
6. "Memory Lane"
This one has a beat which you are able to just nod along to in a laid-back way, but as it's a Nas rap, you are unable to simply sit back and feel the beat, you must also feel the rhymes, because he is so deep that they go to waste if you fail to pay attention to each word he comes out with, because there are so many ambiguous lines that you must analyse everything which is said. Nas seems to be talking you down "Memory Lane" in this track with a dreamy, hypnotic hook and instrumentals; all increasing the power which Nas is able to exert through his lyrics, as he sounds as if he's recalling past events gradually as he goes along.
7. One Love
This is a track which took me some time to get into, but as it is considered one of Nas' all-time greats and so I knew that it would take some time to get into, but once it was slept on, it would come out as a clear killer joint, and this is what came of it as he is backed by the the-A Tribe Called Quest member Q-Tip who he takes heavy influence from to transform it into a jazzy track.
8. One Time 4 Your Mind
The one uses deep bassline and samples "Walter L" by the Jazz musician Gary Burton and it seems to create the atmosphere for you to listen to the track as it is quite dark and brings you down. Then once Nas gets going you feel more able to comprehend his words as you are already in the mind frame that he was when he wrote the words. Nas uses some Old School Hip Hop techniques of doing some call and response with the producer, Large Professor, and it really hasn't been heard since these days of Hip Hop, where it way still in touch with its roots, from the music genres which it came from.
This one is Nas' first opportunity to rep his ends of New York, in Queensbridge, where he talks about all of the troubles which he faces here. Nas doesn't do it like everyone else though, by just naming activities which may go down, he goes into great depth on the type of things which may horrify passers-by. It is interesting how he talks about two contrasting subjects at once to bring out a reaction in the listener, but he makes it seem so casual as he speaks on selling drugs, but if there was a dry stint, then he would resort to robbing from sweet shops; shocking, but real for people here, where they start off selling drugs so early that sweets are still seen to be on a similar level to them.
10. "It Ain't Hard To Tell"
It is one of the more up-tempo records as Large Professor chose to go for Michael Jackson's "Human League" rhythm to put a gentle backdrop on the nice Hip Hop beat, and it really fits in well with Nas' rhymes. Although it only just broke into the top 100 of the Billboard Charts, it would be considered to be a success for Nas at this stage because it was only his second single. This is Nas' first opportunity to brag about what he has accomplished so far in his career and he does it in such a way that you cannot complain because he still uses his amazing vocabulary and imaginative metaphorical phrases to form the track, many just state what they have done and received with little inspiration or creativity.
1. "Life's a B***h" (Remix)
We have a much funkier beat to the track, and it immediately gets into AZ's rhymes, there's no messing around with build-up, because this second disc is all about bringing fire; no time for any calm sections at all. Against the original, you cannot say it's close to being better than it, but it's nice to see that these lyrics can be adapted to some more up-tempo beats, and they offer a more light-hearted answer to the first recording.
2. "The World Is Yours" (Remix)
This one sounds completely different to the original recording with its new production, and with the modern beats adapted to it, it comes out as something completely different to what you expect from it. You have a kind of Gospel thing running through it wit the beats it was given and I would say it brings out the lyrics more, but loses its rawness.
3. "One Love" (Remix)
To me, I felt that the remix to this one gave it a massive boost, and as the original one took me some time to get into with its Jazz backing, i felt that it brought out the quality of it to a place where I could really enjoy it. It is a banger, and makes it what it should have been he first time around.
4. "It Ain't Hard to Tell" (Remix)
Nas appears to go much harder in this one as he is backed by beats which have him going back to a time a while before his breakthrough as he is given some beats straight off the debt Biz Markie album. I stands out with the newer composition, and appears to get the most out of it.
5. "On the Real"
You have him able to work with the legend that is Marley Marl ten years on from his debut on this one as he adds this one onto it, and it sees him attempting to take you back to that sort of time with the beats taking you back to that era and him flowing with rhymes he chose not to use for the original "Illmatic", but brought them back here to show what you could have got form it.
1. "Star Wars"
Here you have a track which, unlike the one prior to it, doesn't sound as if it could have been a part of the classic ten-track record of 1994 as this one has him doing something futuristic and modern in line with what he was doing in 2004 with political rap done in a manner far from his debut. I wasn't as keen on this, but it is still valued.
This release affirms the fact that Nas' debut was a classic and really can't be messed with, all the track from the original cut are pretty much perfect when it comes to hip hop, and in his release you have him add on some valued extras to give it just a little boost, and see the progression he has made.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Genesis
2 N.Y. State Of Mind
3 Life's A Bitch
4 The World Is Yours
6 Memory Lane (Sittin' In Da Park)
7 One Love
8 One Time 4 Your Mind
10 It Ain't Hard To Tell
11 Life's A Bitch (Remix)
12 The World Is Yours (Remix)
13 One Love (Remix)
14 It Ain't Hard To Tell (Remix)
15 On The Real
16 Star Wars