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Nas is viewed as one of the greatest poets that rap has ever seen. Illmatic marked his first splash into the speakers and the ears of people worldwide as a 21 year old who would go on to attain legendary status within hip hop.
On first note, you will notice that there are only 10 songs on here, in fact there is only 9 because one of them is not actually a song. Therefore it became difficult to perceive that I could ever truly appreciate an album with such a limited number of tracks.
Nontheless I listened to the album and was blown away by the quality of it. The words truly enthralling perhaps encapsulate my thoughts towards this album. The album begins with the truly epic New York state of mind which sees Nas flowing effortlessly over a forceful bass piano beat. He paints a wonderfully poetic picture of his New York borough and no words say this better than "i never sleep because sleep is the cousin of death"
Memory Lane is another musical gem on this album and sees him reminiscing about his life, his friends and everyone around him. His rhymes are so intricate, detailed and sharp that you can't help but be captivated by the lyrical wizardry.
The consistency of the rest of the album does not let up at any stage and seems to cover almost every angle of his mind. Nas ia a poet, he isn't apologetic about the pictures he is painting, nor the street life which he has embraced, but likewise he isn't celebrating it or glorifying it. This is the world according to someone who has only seen it through his own narrow focus and as a result both wonderfully captures the dark, gritty tone of the album.
The production is absolutely perfect for this album because while it is quite simple in it's structure, it is the perfect backdrop. There is a great cohesion to the production and always seems to fit the theme of the song.
The lyricism is some of the best you will ever hear in rap, the production although not outstandingly technical, is spot on for the type of album this was supposed to be and the vocal delivery of Nas is sublime. His rhymes are so impressive that they are hypnotic and whichever journey he travels, you inevitably follow.
However the niggling gripe I have, is that I want to hear more of it, it's too short and another 3 or 4 tracks would certainly not have gone amiss. Fortunately the songs have such a golden quality to them they somehow mask and compensate for this and it is not enough of a gripe to prevent me from awarding this a 5 star.
If you are not a fan of hip hop, this album might not change your mind but it will give you an appreciation of a truly talented lyricist.
The Illmatic IS Nasir Jones' debut album and as a statement of intent it is one of the greatest rap albums of all time. Nas is a New York native and this album allows him to rap about growing up in a New York project, however what makes this album stand apart from the competition is the eloquence and hope in Nas' lyrics.
The album comes across as a mix of street poetry and uplifting rap, Nas talks about the struggles of life on the street and his experiences of shootings and death, but he doesn't glorify the violence or make it sound like he is a player, he talks about the violence, why it has happened and the effects and devastation it leaves. This is a wonderful counterpoint to the mindless gangster rap which was prevalent at the time, mindlessly apeing the superior NWA and Public Enemy but with less imagination.
Nas takes rap back to its roots with some fantastic samples and the use of Jazz musicians such as his father (who he uses to wonderful effect on the evocative 'Lifes a Bitch'.
This album was critically acclaimed and songs like New York State of Mind with its horrible slice of ghetto life provide a truly realistic slice of the big apple. Samples of Michael Jackson on It Ain't Hard to Tell and 'One love' is all about the guys who never made it and includes Q Tip from a Tribe Called Quest are highlights.
The samples on the album are delicious and thumping, the dj provides a solid beat throughout, whilst Nas is intelligent, thoughtful and utterly real in every sentence, the album includes 'Represent' a fantastic rap battle, other great tunes include 'The World is Yours' and 'Half Time', the album is a great counterpoint to Jay-Z albums of the time which are all about the money and women and glamorise the lifestyle much more seriously.
Nas took music back to rap and has since created a genre which is inhabited by more intelligent rappers, this album is thoughtful, heartfelt and honest and deserves all of its plaudits.
It has been widely stated that Illmatic is one of the finest albums to ever be made, it may only have sold 59,000 copies upon release in 1994, but over time, people's opinions have been kinder to the album than initial sales figures. The young Queensbridge, New York emcee penned Illmatic between the ages of just 18-20 which adds a real rawness and rough diamond feel to the album, something I think everyone has come to love about it.
1. The Genesis (1:45) - While only a skit to set the scene for the album, it is still listenable with the sample's used, most notably the "Live At The Barbeque" sample from Nas' first song in 1991 which mellows in the background. Lasting just under 2 minutes, this intro runs smoothly with the backdrop samples while Nas and featured guest AZ converse about the roots of Hip Hop. I won't rate this as it's simply a skit/intro but it's a pleasant relaxing opening to Illmatic's upcoming 9 tracks.
2. N.Y. State Of Mind (4:54) - The opening track for Illmatic features dark jazzy production from DJ Premier as he utilises wonderful piano notes sampled from Joe Chambers's 1978 piece "Mind Rain". Ultimately though, Nas glistens on this song with some of his finest lyricism, flow and amazing wordplay, combined with the philosophical portrait of the grimey New York environment in which he's become all too familiar with. Nas depicts in depth the mindstate acquired through growing up in New York in fascinating fashion. I genuinely find it difficult reviewing N.Y. State Of Mind because my words cannot do it justice. In my opinion of course, quite possibly one of the greatest songs of all time, a timeless classic. "Life is parallel to Hell, but I must maintain." Song rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
3. Life's A B**** (3:31) - This song features unarguably the most famous guest verse in the history of Hip Hop, that of unsigned (at the time) East New York rapper AZ. While L.E.S provides production for this track, it's the vocals which take centre stage definitely with a truly superb bombshell verse from AZ and excellent follow up from Nas depicting the achievements of life in unique style. Father of Nas, the legendary Olu Dara contributes also with trumpet production playing out the song's conclusion. Every self-proclaimed Rap fan will be able to reel off AZ's classic verse, as he opens: "Visualisin' the realism of life and actuality/F*** who's the baddest a person's status depends on salary." Song rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
4. The World Is Yours (4:50) - The fourth track on Illmatic has Nas taking a more optimistic viewpoint on life and how he perceives the world we live in. With production laced wonderfully from Pete Rock including a sample of "It's Yours" by T La Rock to fit the theme and hook of The World Is Yours, it's no surprise that this is yet another quality song. "My strength, my son, the star, will be my resurrection." Song rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
5. Halftime (4:21) - The mid-way point in the album now, and the consistancy doesn't disappoint, Nas approaches the song with his trademark raw yet smooth style. Large Professor takes the reigns in production here with subtle background samples before kicking in with sharp crisp horns and brasswind as the hook bellows out. It's a great contrast and the two artists gel perfectly here on this halfway record. As far as the first half of albums go, Illmatic is flawless. "I got it goin' on, even flip 'em on this song/Every afternoon, I kick half the tune." Song rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
6. Memory Lane (Sittin' in da Park)(4:08) - DJ Premier couldn't have done a better job on production it has to be mentioned, with a perfect blend of soft background vocals, subtle guitar strings, organs and percussion. Ultimately it's the Reuben Wilson sample of "We're In Love" that really sets this song off though. Memory Lane is quite possibly the most relaxing song on Illmatic, which makes it all the nicer to listen to. Nas won't be outshined though as he lays down exquisite nostalgia for the two verses with some more philosophical thoughts and reminisces on his past. "True in the game, as long as blood is blue in my veins/I pour my Heineken brew to my deceased crew on memory lane." Song rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
7. One Love (5:26) - The album's seventh song has a more mystical and rhythmatic soundscape to it with Q-Tip's producing efforts, unfortunately the production lets Nas down. In One Love, Nas is writing letters to jailed comrades and friends detailing the occurances that have unfolded since their departure behind bars. In the final and third verse, Nas almost reverses the role playing and depicts himself as the leader of wisdom directing a young jailbound street goer into more straight and narrow paths. Despite such an amazing concept, personally for me, the production is very questionable and I'd even go as far as saying I wouldn't mind hearing an acapella of this. While One Love is still a good song, it's an unfortunate blip in the album. "Shorty's laugh was cold blooded as he spoke so foul/Only twelve tryin' to tell me that he liked my style." Song rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
8. One Time 4 Your Mind (3:19) - On the back of a few more laid back and reflective songs, One Time 4 Your Mind springs a dark energy back into Illmatic. A deep underlying bassline dominates the background of the song wonderfully, sampling Gary Burton's "Walter L". While it's a relatively short track, Nas delivers as usual, most prominantly with his sublime flow as he stays on beat as good you'll get. "I'm still writin' rhymes, but besides that I'm chillin'." Song rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
9. Represent (4:13) - Coming towards the closing of Illmatic now, and Represent is a heavy yet upbeat pound-smashing song with blurts of "represent, represent" filling the hooks from assumed street friends. Nas has the license to let loose on this track with Queensbridge behind him, and indeed he does. A no holds barred in depth peer into the life of Nas with brutal honesty and shocking tales of drug dealing and robbery all regular occurances for young kids growing up in the streets of New York. DJ Premier backs another track of Illmatic, but this time samples Lee Erwin's "Thief Of Baghdad" which dates back all the way to 1924, an unexpected inclusion but a genius one too. "They call me Nas, I'm not your legal type of fella/
Moet drinkin', marijuana smokin' street dweller." Song rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
10. It Ain't Hard To Tell (3:23) - One of the first things you'll notice is the sample of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" which adds a nice mellow techno backdrop, a well utilised sample from producer Large Professor. For the final show of Illmatic, it's as if Nas is piecing together all his experiences and skills which he's obtained and is extravagently boasting in such superb creative fashion. Even the song title exuberates a certain cockiness. The use of flow and wordplay displayed is superb as Nas delivers short but sweet verses. "So analyse me, surprise me, but can't magmatise me
Scannin' while you're plannin' ways to sabotage me." Song rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Overall I think it's pretty clear that I find, among millions of other people might I add that Illmatic is an absolute classic album. The pinnacle of New York rap, kicked with immense flow, wordplay and philosophical thoughts and complexity to make you believe that Nasir Jones might just be one of the greatest artists to ever pick up a pen. It's absolutely no surprise that as years go by, Illmatic gains recognition as one of the finest albums ever made, and rightly so as the only blip in the album comes courtesy of bad production, not because of Nas's lyrical ability.
For any Hip Hop fan not to physically own this album is a crime, and for Nas to create this album between the age of 18-20, it's an unbelievable feat that probably won't ever be conquered. Nas and his Illmatic effort have inspired a countless number of artists today, ranging from Eminem to Lupe Fiasco, and it's no wonder when you hear Illmatic. Some say the only downfall of Illmatic is that it's just merely 10 tracks long, personally it's perfect, all too often albums have filler tracks in, however here, from start to finish, Nas performs, and immensely at that.
If I was pushed into giving this album a rating, it would have to be 9.5/10.
Released in 1994, "Illmatic" is a classic Hip Hop album by the rapper known then as Nasty Nas. It is regarded as one of the greatest Hip Hop albums of all time, which is incredible considering it was the debut of a 21 year old MC from Queensbridge, New York.
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 sould 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 coyping popular trends.
3. Life's A Bitch
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 lifestlye in New York.
With his father's backing on the cornet and L.E.S.'s imaginative compostion using samples by The Gap Band and Grover Washington Jr. there was a very jazzy feel to this one eventhough 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 sems 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
The Old School Hip Hop musician T La Rock get a sample of "It's Yours" played in the background, but the legendary Pate Rock has manipulation it slightly for this one, which has simialr 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 is an early Nas tune as it was made in 1992. Nas tells us to stop wasting our time doing things to bring the community down when we have the potnetial to overturn the governemne t and make a better life for everyone. Theses are the type of conscious lyrics which have only been revisited recently by backpack Hip Hoppers, and it's amazing that such an young MC could come up with these theories on his debut album.
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 brasswind, 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 completly 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 exhert through his lyrics, as he sounds as if he's recalling past events gradually as he goes along.
7. One Love
I hate to hate on Nas, but I just didn't feel this one, it didn't have enough energy to draw me into like most of the rest of the tracks on the album, for this reason I blame Q-Tip as this is the other record he produced on the album. i also feel bad for complaining because i like the concept of him speaking out the words from a letter he has written to his incarcerated friends, and if you knew the context then you would be likely to enjoy it, but this is where it lost me.
In my opinion, Q-Tip took Nas' laid-back sombre style and turned it into something boring and I certainly do not approve of this, so if the beat was a bit more funky and less dry, then it would have been a decent 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 responce 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 oppotunity 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 sellin drugs, but if there waqs 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 oppertunity 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.
I think I need to grow a bit more before I can truley feel all the lyrics in this album because he just goes so far, and it is regarded a classic by all true Hip Hop heads, so I'm just not satisfied that it's the music which is was slightly weak, it's the listener, and so if you aren't fully into Hardcore Hip Hop, there's no way that you will get that much in what he says.
So much is compacted in to these ten tracks, and it's amazing he was able to say so much is so much depth with so few, but that was how Nasty Nas did it. There is so much range in it too, which can't really be explained as he goes into many different modes of getting a bit jazzy at itmes, and then performing some Hardcore rhymes which comment on the state of society.
Nas was backed up by producer which are still seen as amongst the best from the East wth Pete Rock, L.E.S. and DJ Premier all included, and they really allow for the potential of Nas to come out here.
THE QUEENSBRIDGE ALBUMS (Columbia Records): ILLMATIC
The Nas Album Collection - Part II
Published by Blackman_Isaac for DIJEH inc. / Works of Art
(Note: I originally posted this review on Ciao.co.uk in my ID name, DJ_primo ©)
Welcome Dooyoo readers to part II of my Nas album series, where I shall enlighten you all with a classic tale of my experience of listening to 'ILLMATIC'. Illmatic' is the magnificent record created by Nas the prophet (a.k.a Nasty Nas), the wonderful, East-coast lyricist who hails from Queensbridge, the dungeons of New York.
In part I, I wrote a review script about 'Stillmatic', the album which returned Nas (real name: Nasir Jones) to his roots and recovered his King of New York status. 'Stillmatic' thus represented Nas' triumphant comeback to form as a great lyricist and the King of knowledge after Nas himself slumped to whackness on 'Nastradamus'.
However, Nas was a much more awesome and conforming lyricist when he released his debut album, 'ILLMATIC, in April 1994. Two years before the release date of 'ILLMATIC', Nas began the legendary prophecy of his rap career by creating his magnificent, debut single, HALFTIME in 1992. Nas' idea of becoming the musical creator of the HALFTIME song came about when executive producer, MC Serch (real name: Michael Berrin) recognised Nas' potential to become a great lyricist. MC Serch requested Nas to contribute a soundtrack for the Zebrahead movie. Thus, Nas the Queensbridge poet concurred by writing complex rhymes to form a rap song that he named Halftime and this eventually became a video single. The young street poet used this Hip Hop single to take his first magical steps into the rap game at just 19 years old. The music video for HALFTIME displayed Nas rapping in underground fashion, delivering his subject matter with great passion and executing his wordplay with fine precision. Like many timeless songs from Nas' first album, HALFTIME is a source of divine, powerful street poetry that will blow any rap listeners' STATE OF MIND! Therefore this classic single has wowed a lot of rap listeners in New York and like its parent album, 'Illmatic', it will always be remembered in cherished tones. With this interesting theory at hand, it's already becoming obvious to many Dooyoo readers that Nas' debut album holds a marvellous treasury of exemplary, rap tracks.
I first acquired the 'ILLMATIC' album in summer 2002 from a HMV store in Bond Street. That was a few weeks after a brief Hip Hop discussion with a PhD student at Northwick Park Hospital regarding the lyrical potential of Nas the prophet. The idea of the discussion was that if I were already an avid fan of 'Stillmatic' then I would love 'ILLMATIC', based on the PhD students' own prophecies. Thus, the PhD students' predictions eventually became true now that 'ILLMATIC' is among the most commonly played rap albums in my collection of CDs. As it was written in the PhD. students' bible, I have grown to venerate 'ILLMATIC' more than 'Stillmatic' or any other 5 star rap album for that matter.
So how does a rap fan like me start a track-by-track review on what could arguably be the most TIMELESS record in Hip Hop history. In other words, how do I start this sh*t? In order to proceed to the next section, I must grab the book of 'ILLMATIC' written by Nas the prophet, from my bookshelf of rap CDs. This will involve reading the story lines of Nas' ghetto life experiences in the form of complicated rap lyrics, street poetry and wordplay and translating them for your simple understanding. Nas' complex lyrics are generously enriched in advanced metaphors, multi-syllables and clever similes according to the prophecies of 'ILLMATIC'. Each track within 'ILLMATIC' has it's own story line, poetically told by Nasty Nas. But when the tracks are put together to form a music album, they sound like Nas is writing a classic novel about his lifetime in New York. Each track also has its own production theme delivered by some of the greatest rap producers in the history of mankind (e.g. DJ Premier, Pete Rock etc.).
Right, it's time to get ILL with this review, now that I am ready to describe the contents of the Illmatic CD. I am taking a trip down MEMORY LANE to explore how Nas uses his N.Y. STATE OF MIND to think up the most intelligent street poetry. So let us make a musical entrance into the next section, WHAT I EXPERIENCED.
WHAT I EXPERIENCED
In 2002, I opened up Nas' rhyme book in the form of the 'ILLMATIC' album case. Inside was a shiny compact disc (CD), made of precious platinum that glistens like reflection on an ocean and shines white like angels from heaven. Printed on the valuable CD were ten chapters in the form of tracks from GENESIS to IT AIN'T HARD TO TELL. Nine of the ten chapters are REAL music tracks. In one side of the 'ILLMATIC' CD case, was a roll of parchment that represents the album's cover, written by Nas the Queensbridge prophet. Again, this listed ten chapters along with various characters in the form of guests and producers who feature in the story of 'ILLMATIC'. As I played the CD and checked out each track of 'ILLMATIC, the sparkling magic begun and this is where the classic tale begins....
1. THE GENESIS (1:45 min)
(Not a music track)
Representing the first chapter to Nas' album is THE GENESIS that is technically not a real rap music track but the intro track. As it was written in THE GENESIS', I heard clattering sounds of underground trains come rushing along the railway in the New York subway. Soon the rattling noises that I listened to, fade into oblivion as the train passes by, heading towards a mysterious destination. The sound of the subway train, gives way to a scene extracted from the Wild Style film, a 1982 movie that represents the foundations of Hip Hop culture. The scene itself focuses on a brief conversation, exchanged between two characters, namely Zoro and Hector:
Hector: And you're sitting at home doing this sh*t? I should be earning a medal for this.
Zoro: Stop f*cking around and be a man.
While all this simple Hip Hop talk takes place, my eardrums caught faint, background sounds of Nas flowing like a hungry emcee at low volume. I believe the background freestyling represents a sample of Nas' verse abstracted from Live at the Barbeque, a music track invented by the Main Source (a Hip Hop group from New York and Toronto). According to the scriptures, Nas made a guest appearance on Main Source's Live at the Barbeque in 1991, spitting phenomenal lyrics at the tender age of 17. In doing so, Nas contributed his debut verse for the first time of his life. At this time, Nas was a virtual unknown, but his AWESOME verse alone brought magical touches of gold and silver to Main Source's Live at the Barbeque song. Consequently, 'Live at the Barbeque' instantly became a favourite Hip Hop record for the vast majority of people living in New York City. Nearly every rap fan were inclined to find out who that dude was on 'Live at the Barbeque' until they finally encountered him as Nasty Nas (or Nas) on HALFTIME!
In my opinion, it was a highly creative and innovative idea for Nas to use 'Live at the barbeque' as the background sample for THE GENESIS. Just as GENESIS was the formal beginning to the bible's Old Testament, 'Live at the barbeque' marked the Testament to Nas' lifelong career as a miraculous rapper. After all, that was precisely the track where Nas landed his debut verse on wax, before this Queensbridge prophet crafted his solo, debut single at HALFTIME!
Right and on that note, lets back to reading THE GENESIS....
After approximately 21 seconds into THE GENESIS, an introductory piece of music takes place in old school fashion. The introductory musical theme is sampled from "Wild Style" and marks one of the earliest sounds of the Hip Hop culture, making it perfect for THE GENESIS. It serves to represent THE GENESIS of classic Hip Hop as Nas the poet aims to teach us rap listeners at the beginning of his legendary 'ILLMATIC'. The "Wild Style" music possesses an underground jazzy vibe and is driven on old school drum snares and saxophones that relax my mind.
Over the splendid execution of saxophones, I heard a three-way communication take place between Nas and his fellow Queensbridge emcees, AZ and Cormega in New York City. The conversation is a long transcript of ghetto languages, profanity and street-wise talk and it ends with Nas making an announcement to AZ (real name: Anthony Cruz) and Cormega (Cory McKay):
'I'm saying man, ya know what I'm saying?
Ni**az don't listen man, representing
Overall, THE GENESIS track is a majestic eye opener to 'ILLMATIC', as it gracefully guides me as a rap listener into Nas' N.Y. State of Mind.
Ladies and gentlemen this is THE GENESIS, the magnificence, the zenith, the wonderful intro track conceived by Nas and Faith N. (executive producer).
Rating: not applicable
2. N.Y. STATE OF MIND (4:53 min)
As I read the second chapter to you Dooyoo readers, I now enter Nas' STATE OF MIND that details the aspects of life in N.Y (New York). The N.Y. STATE OF MIND track is the first genuine piece of rap music on 'ILLMATIC', miraculously written by Nas the poet. It sets a very high standard of Hip Hop music, both from a lyrical and production standpoint. Clearly remembered by Nas fans across the world, this track has become one of Nas' most popular, old school tunes as it was written in Nas' chronicles.
I will try my best to give my honest account of this music track from the MIND of a real street poet like Nas. But right now Dooyoo readers, I don't know how to start this sh*t....
The classic tale of this music track begins in majestic fashion, with an award-winning production scheme by DJ Premier (real name: Christopher Martin) for Works of Mart. DJ Premier commences his production by delivering a fine execution of mystical drum loops on the foreground and maniacal alarms in the background. The background alarms provide the urban sound of the dark streets of New York and grab my attention instantly, drawing me into N.Y. STATE OF MIND. The excellent execution of the discrete, drum loops enhance the street-wise feel to the instrumentals and this represents the introductory phase of DJ Premier's astounding production. This introductory phase of the production has duration of approximately 22 seconds. It takes place when Nas ad-libs over the microphone, trying to figure out the best way to use his poetry to express his opinions of New York. Hence, the famous Queensbridge poet utters, " I don't know how to start this sh*t."
After about 22 seconds, DJ Premier makes a wonderful transition from his intro beats to a phenomenal combination of sick bass lines, ILL drums and piano keys. My experience of listening to the way Primo switches up his instrumental like this is truly incredible and remarkable for my musical, STATE OF MIND. The single piano keys are confined to the background, but are highly noticeable to me, as they resemble the sound of light raindrops falling to the ground. Furthermore, Primo occasionally reverts to his initial uses of urban alarms and grimy drum loops when Nas pauses for a number of seconds between each verse. This temporary change in the instrumental occurs when the experienced producer, samples Rakim's voice that quietly utters, "....New York state of mind...." four times. DJ Premier's instrumental as a whole, sets up a DARK atmosphere for Nasty Nas to dangerously rap in, much like a lyrical performance under dimmed spotlights.
Speaking of Nas, the talented lyricist explodes his thoughts about all the criminal activities that occurred in the dark and humble projects all over New York City. In doing so, he comes 'straight out the f*ckin dungeons of rap' with complex rhymes and fantastic rapping poetry to get his messages across on wax. Nas combines his divine street poetry with a passionate delivery of facsimiles, metaphors, multi-syllables and wordplays, jam-packed into two verses. The number of extended metaphors incorporated into the verses, are so overwhelming, that it is a testament to how inspiring Nas was when he wrote this rap song. Here are some of the professional, metaphorical displays and magical wordplays that the Queensbridge poet speaks from his tongue:
[Nas - 1st verse]
'....Bulletholes left in my peepholes
I'm suited up in street clothes
Hand me a nine and I'll defeat foes....
....It drops deep as it does in my breath
I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death
Beyond the walls of intelligence, life is defined
I think of crime when I'm in a New York state of mind'
[Nas - 2nd verse]
'....The city never sleeps, full of villians and creeps
That's where I learned to do my hustle had to scuffle with freaks'
The bars (i.e. set of lyrics) listed above, are some of my favourite lines that I quote from Nas, the legendary prophet. I can easily to notice how the famous street poet uses his fountain pen to write advanced, multi-syllable rhyme schemes in poetical format.
Nas stays on his subject matter, chasing down it '....like a cheetah with thoughts of an assassin....' as he talks about gangsters whom he previously encountered on the streets. He stresses to us rap listeners that villains he met in N.Y., was part of a corrupt society in the chilly imagery of his street poetry. This is where the lyrics shown above become relevant in this context.
Overall, N.Y. STATE OF MIND will go down in history as one of the best pieces of music ever written by Nas in the New York prophecies. Therefore it ranks as one of my favourite Nas tracks. Keeping this in mind, it's a shame that Nas did not make a video for this breathtaking and timeless music track.
3. LIFE'S A BI**H (3:30 min)
(Note: Although AZ is not credited on this album, he is featured on this track.)
In the third chapter, I came across a familiar character named AZ (pronounced ay-zee, NOT ay-zed!) who makes his guest appearance on LIFE'S A BI**H and is a great skilled rapper. Besides being a highly talented lyricist and wordsmith like Nas, AZ hails from Brooklyn, New York just like Jay Z. AZ has had VERY little exposure to British Hip Hop fans but he has crafted the classic Doe or Die album that matches Nas' 'ILLMATIC' in high quality. With this theory at hand, Americans generally consider AZ to be an underrated emcee compared to the likes of Jay Z. My story of LIFE'S A BI**H below will explain why. LIFE'S A BI**H was the fourth single from 'ILLMATIC' but I haven't seen the video for this track.
Okay, as I cut to the chase, my experience of listening to the musical tale of LIFE'S A BI**H will serve to demonstrate AZ's talents more clearly....
The track begins pleasantly with gentle drum claps, accompanied with atmospheric sounds playing softly in the background like heavenly sounds of the poor streets. Meanwhile, I listened to Nas and AZ having ghetto talks, socialising like real childhood friends over the atmospheric sounds of New York. This introductory session of the track takes place for roughly 20 seconds and then from 21 seconds and onwards, .........BOOM!!!! AZ's voice explodes through my audio speakers, blasting away my eardrums with his BEST EVER lyrical performance so far in his 12-year long, rap career:
[AZ - 1st verse]
'Visualizin the realism of life and actuality
F*ck who's the baddest a person's status depends on salary....
....so, and to that day we expire and turn to vapors
me and my capers-ll be somewhere stackin plenty papers
Keepin it real, packin steel, gettin high
Cause life's a b*tch and then you die'
AZ covers the first verse to visualise his career ambitions of becoming a successful music artist and emphasise how his power would grow if he earns rap money. This is where the beginning of the first verse becomes relevant, especially where AZ spits '....a person's status depends on salary....' to refer to himself indirectly. But what really makes the first verse AMAZING, is the manner in which AZ expresses himself to inform rap listeners how he intends to succeed in the rap industry. He carefully constructs his lyrics on multi-syllables and uses an incredibly entertaining and scintillating delivery that immediately grabs my attention as a rap listener. In short the FORMAT of AZ's verse is absolutely brilliant. AZ follows up his awesome verse with an equally ASTOUNDING hook, shouting out '....Life's a b**ch and then you die' about 5 times. His chorus slowly fades into an echoing oblivion like effects of a vision slowly turning into a black scene, but even this seizes my full attention!
Nas covers the second verse and raps like a true poet, using biblical wordplay to describe his lifestyle like the holy prophet. My basic understanding of Nas' classic second verse, is that the renowned poet himself has been CROWNED a great emcee in his '....twenty years of blessing....'. But the layout of Nas' wordplay is highly advanced, built on complex street poetry and rhyme schemes that clearly flows like the River of Jordan. In contrast to AZ who uses a hungry, penetrating delivery, Nas' uses a fully relaxed, laid-back multi-syllable flow to execute his delivery of subject matter.
Some rap fans claim that AZ outperformed Nas, the master of street poetry. Other rap listeners state otherwise, giving a contrasting opinion that Nas was still the better emcee compared to AZ on LIFE'S A B*TCH. Personally from my own viewpoints, I think it's a bit of both assumptions depending on how I assess the abilities of these two rappers. AZ was clearly better than Nas with respect to his captivating delivery, made to activate the attention of a rap listener. But Nas was superior to AZ in his complex rhyme schemes and poetry, designed to stimulate the minds of rap listeners who like to think very deeply.
The splendid, musical production for LIFE'S A BI**H upon my listening experience is a reflection of L.E.S. hard work as a producer. Nas acts as the co-producer or production assistant to L.E.S. Production-wise, LIFE'S A BI**H starts off in old school style and takes the early 1990's vibe of the LIFE of grime in the New York projects. L.E.S. brings about this old school musical theme by using a mixture of drum claps, gentle bass lines and atmospheric sounds as his creative instrumental. The drum claps play discretely throughout the musical theme for the story of LIFE'S A BI**H. In addition, I heard jazzy samples of cornets playing in the background of L.E.S.' instrumental and I believe they are performed by Olu Dara Jones, the father of Nas. I am guessing that Nas as the co-producer, was responsible for the addition of cornets to L.E.S.' production. My speculation on this particular matter arises from the fact that Nas and Olu Dara have special bonds in performing arts. In short, hobbies and interests in music run in Olu Dara's and Nas' bloodline, like father like son.
4. THE WORLD IS YOURS (4:50 min)
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Nas kindly sends all of us a message to say that THE WORLD IS YOURS. As it was written in the fourth chapter of 'Illmatic', the Queensbridge poet grabbed his fountain pen and scribbled down messages in the form of poetic literature. But first lets begin with the marvellous instrumental laced by Pete Rock, one of my favourite underground producers in the rap sector. Yo, check this out....
The magic of Pete Rock's beats begins with beautiful clusters of piano notes, designed to represent the feel of politics on the streets. Pete Rock immediately follows up his assembly of piano notes with a wonderful symphony of piano keys and background bass, intertwined with dark drum snares. The decorative use of drum snares over the piano keys, contribute to a creative piano-driven melody and MAN does Pete Rock master those scratching effects well! The record scratches are jazzy. They serve to enhance the majestic, old school nature of the producer's musical composition and are very wonderful for me to listen to. The jazzy scratches are centred mainly on the hook where Pete Rock utters '....It's mine, it's mine, it's mine. Whose world is this?....' treble times. The manners by which this legendary producer speaks his chorus three times to my ears, relaxes my mind, drawing me further into his production scheme. With regards to feeling relaxed to the instrumentals, '....the beats make me fallin asleep....' in a positive way.
THE WORLD IS YOURS was the song that introduced me to the beat-making skills of talented Pete Rock for the first time through MTV Base. This event took place in 1997, when I watched Nas perform in the magnificent, music video for the track that was practically in black and white. Yes, the music video for THE WORLD IS YOURS was in various shades of grey and somewhat blurry at times. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most memorable and recognisable old school tunes from Nas to date, as it was released as the third single off 'ILLMATIC'.
Nas gets high-minded and noble to spit one of the most AMAZING pieces of personal poetry I have ever heard from his tongue. As the wonderful music writer, Nas paints a vivid picture of his life and relates it to the political nature of Queensbridge, his hometown. He describes himself as '....the young city bandit....' in New York, kicking his thoughts about people '....throughout Queens....'. In his written rhymes, he wishes to the people, "....God bless your life...." that will hopefully '....bust the problems of the world today....'. It therefore follows that Nas' lyrical concepts and subject matter are introspective with an extremely creative edge.
The musical poet adds a monumental (i.e. enormous) set of metaphors and similes in his '... book of rhymes....' and raps this over the piano-driven instrumental. His great use of extended metaphors, polysyllables and similes are arranged through interlocking chains of advanced in-rhyming and multi-syllable rhyming as demonstrated in one of his verses:
[Nas - 2nd verse]
'Dwellin in the Rotten Apple, you get tackled
Or caught by the devil's lasso, shit is a hassle
There's no days, for broke days, we sell it, smoke pays
While all the old folks pray, to Je-sus' soakin they sins in trays
of holy water, odds against Nas are slaughter
Thinkin a word best describin my life, to name my daughter
My strength, my son, the star, will be my resurrection
Born in correction all the wrong shit I did, he'll lead a right direction'
In this verse alone, there are so many excellent metaphors in Nas' book of rhymes that '....all the words pass the margin....', breaking the barriers of exceptional lyricism. Thus, it is very difficult for me to choose my favourite line in this awesome verse.
Nas' execution of flow over Pete Rock's production is immaculate and passionate, painting the true picture of a very inspiring rapper in the literature of 'ILLMATIC'. The poetical message that Nas strives to send to music fans, coupled with the artistic piano melody is like a timeless telegram posted through the letterbox.
Nas makes closing statements towards the end of his classic telegram by giving special shout outs '....to everybody....' in New York, especially Brooklyn and Queensbridge. In this context he sounds like the streets disciple preaching to various people as it was documented in the scriptures of the bible. His shout out comes in the form of messages that once again say THE WORLD IS YOURS.
To everybody in UK, y''all know THE WORLD IS YOURS! (It's yours)
5. HALFTIME (4:20 min)
Dooyoo readers, as I approach the fifth chapter of the 'ILLMATIC' album that details Nas' prophetic story line, we have reached HALFTIME! In other words, we are approximately HALFWAY through the ten chapters of the street poet's debut album.
At HALFTIME, Nas the young prophet continues his testament of writing impeccable lyrics rich in complex metaphors, similes and entertaining multi-syllables. The background information, detailing how Nas became the maker of this awesome HALFTIME song has already been covered in my Introduction. Note once again that this track was originally on the music compilation for the Zebrahead movie, but it has also made the cut to Nas' debut album. Technically, HALFTIME is Nas' first single representing Illmatic. If any Dooyoo reader will like to see the video for this memorable work of art, I suggest you go to Daily Motion or Youtube now and type 'Nas, Halftime.
The subject matter of HALFTIME is based on braggadocio lyrics and it revolves around Nas introducing himself to thousands of New York citizens. In this process, Nas uses braggadocio lyrics to tell New Yorkers that '....I'm a Nike head, I wear chains that excite the feds....'. In this context, his dress code is based on Nike brand, chains and other street-wise clothing that represents the Hip Hop culture within the black ghetto community. Thus, Nas adopts the Nasty Nas image as part of his profile in the rap game. Nas also emphasises that he has the qualities of being an intellectual and professional rapper who is versatile and can switch up his rapping style. In Nas' own opinion, himself claiming to be a clever lyricist, is his personal information that no one can question.
Overall, for HALF of the TIME on this track, Nas is just freestyling throughout his verses. But his exceptional charisma over the microphone proves why he was considered the new master of rap voices on the streets at such a young age! The wonderful charisma is shown in Nasty Nas' ability to spit multi-syllable rhymes, backed by a hungry delivery that is a reflection of his passion for music. His wordplay and the way he verbally delivers these over the old school instrumental is simply breathtaking, groundbreaking, inspiring and in a word.... STUNNING! With respect to advanced rhyme schemes, multi-syllables and wordplay, my favourite bars said from the poet include:
[Nas - 1st verse]
'....King poetic, too much flava, I'm major
Atlanta and braver, I pull a number like a pager....'
'....These are the lyrics of the man, you can't narrate, understand
Cuz in the streets, I'm well known like the number man....'
There are so many other great lines to quote in Nas' verses at HALFTIME that it's just ridiculous! I would love to display more of my favourite Halftime lyrics before the eyes of Dooyoo readers, but this wouldn't be suitable for consumers. On a consumer site, the truth is, 'It's like that, you know it's like that....'
Well, as we are HALFWAY through the story of 'ILLMATIC', I will spend some TIME to talk about the musical production that the Large Professor creates with passion....
The Large Professor (real name: William Paul Mitchell), another of my cherished Hip Hop beat-makers, produces HALFTIME for Paul Sea Productions Inc. The legendary beat-maker stamps his authority on this track with a magnificent delivery of bass lines, drum loops, horns and trumpets. These instruments set up an animated atmosphere and excited feel to the old school, braggadocio track. The urban horns strike in the background, to animate myself as the rap listener, while the bass lines stamp heavily throughout the track to captivate my attention. The simple drum loops set my feeling of relaxation while the jazzy trumpets mentally stimulate my mind activation. In addition, I can hear jingle bells ring freely in the background of Large Professor's sick (great) production. With all of these musical instruments described, HALFTIME has an incredibly high replay value from a production standpoint. As I listen to amazing beats like this, dazzling through my eardrums '....every afternoon....', The Large Professor kicks '....half the tune....'. However, I must not forget that Nas kicks '....half the tune....' as well because his groundbreaking, lyrical performance garners the HALFTIME track with repeated listens.
Stay tuned for more miraculous tracks in my review where real rap comes at halftime! The legend of 'ILLMATIC' continues....
6. MEMORY LANE (SITTIN IN DA PARK) (4:12 min)
As I read the sixth chapter to you gentlemen and ladies, let's take a trip down MEMORY LANE and explore another of Nas' musical masterpiece....
The plethora of Queensbridge classics continue as Nas maintains his old school, street chemistry with, DJ Premier, the BEST rap producer in town! Unfortunately for rap fanatics who are lifelong Nas supporters, Nas did not release MEMORY LANE (SITTIN IN DA PARK) as a single. However, with Primo masterminding the production plot, this AMAZING track was made to display classic miracles to a standard rap listener, as it was written in the scriptures. According to the scriptures, I can mentally picture Nas '....coming out of Queensbridge...', to take a breath of fresh air in the PARK and '....rap for listeners....'. Jesus Christ! I feel like I am imagining a rap video, where there are people SITTIN IN DA PARK like spectators, watching Nas lyrically perform in front of them. Nas may not have released this track as a single, but the graphic effect the song has on me is what makes a TRUE CLASSIC!
The song opens up like a beautiful melody as DJ Premier welcomes me with the heavenly sounds of female voices, echoing passionately over lightly playing percussion. After about 10 seconds into the track, the instrumental takes another magical turn as I am SITTING by the audio speakers, listening to MEMORY LANE. Primo transforms his beats into a spectacular assortment of hard-hitting drum loops, dazzling record scratches, church organs and female vocals. The church organs are finely intertwined around professionally sampled female vocals in the background and they sound very underground to my eardrums. The hard-hitting and clasping drum loops are sick enough to refresh my mentality, encouraging me to listen to the astounding poetry within Nas' verses.
DJ Premier pauses his production scheme for a moment between Nas' verses to tell us rap listeners, ' Now let me take a trip down memory lane'. He doesn't just utter these words to us directly. As an experienced producer, he speaks though his trademark, scratching skills where he samples 'Biz Markie's' voice from the Pickin Boogers track. Primo quickly follows that up by sampling Craig G's vocals, where he abstracts the line 'Comin outta Queensbridge' from Droppin Science (a rap music track released on Warner Bros. Records).
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention the jazzy style of the record scratches that DJ Premier plays like a REAL master when he samples the male voices? That is another memorable listening experience of MEMORY LANE (SITTIN IN DA PARK).
Nas' delivery of poetic lyrics is a memorable showpiece, bursting full of clever in-rhyming, exciting vocabulary and multi-syllables. On this track, Nas raps for '....listeners, blunt heads, fly ladies and prisoners....' to give a retrospective subject matter based on what he remembers. He reminsces on all the events he has seen around him such as drug overdoses, foreign cars and his friend '....shot for his sheep coat....'. Nas basically tells a story of his MEMORY like true prophet trying to make a prognosis of what he will expect to encounter in the future. This is where the introspective line, '....I rap divine, God, check the prognosis, is it real or showbiz?....', becomes relevant. My favourite bar written by Nas the Queensbridge poet, probably includes:
[Nas - 1st verse]
'Sentence begins indented.. with formality
My duration's infinite, moneywise or physiology
Poetry, that's a part of me, retardedly bop
I drop the ancient manifested hip-hop, straight off the block
This set of lyrics, exemplifies the zenith of street poetry and underground Hip Hop at it's finest.
With the high amount of introspection combined with quality production that MEMORY LANE has to offer, it is widely regarded as Nas most creative work in his career. Overall, this music track represents my favourite Nas and Primo collaboration and is my favourite alongside N.Y. STATE OF MIND off Illmatic.
7. ONE LOVE (5:25 min)
According to the seventh chapter', Nas sends a letter to some of his friends who are incarcerated in the Rikers Island jail of New York City. The title of the letter is ONE LOVE and Nas uses this phrase to send informal regards to his incarcerated companions at the end of each verse. Because the ONE LOVE track is based on a letter, it is the most original and foremost kind of songs to be invented for Hip Hop. This originality reveals the creativity and variety in Nas' ability to craft a tangible rap song with a message. Many rappers in the modern years of Hip Hop, have tried to emulate the style of ONE LOVE, Nas' old school, music track. One lyricist known to attempt this was Eminem, as I clearly recall from the music video for Stan, the track off 'Marshall Mathers LP'. But even that amazing song couldn't match the legendary status of ONE LOVE.
For the attention of Dooyoo readers', the subject matter centres mainly on Nas informing his buddies about all the daily changes in Queensbridge projects. Thus, in the first verse, Nas tells one of his imprisoned friends that after his jail sentence, his ex-female partner has since given birth to a son. With respect to this lyrical concept, he congratulates his friend for becoming a father, though whilst being imprisoned, he is unable to see his son. In the letter, Nas wrote:
'....I heard he looks like you, why don't your lady write you? Told her she should visit....'
But as Nas clearly stresses in his letter, the woman flies of the handle, refusing to visit or write to her ex-boyfriend who is currently in jail. Now the good question is why? Well as the lady puts it, the prisoner, her ex-male partner '....acts too rough....' like a criminal and doesn't respect her as an individual. However, Nas criticises the woman for having affairs with his incarcerated friends' enemies, branding her a hypocrite and saying '....she a snake too....'. For the rest of the first verse, Nas uses advanced rhyme schemes to mention how '....little Rob is selling drugs on the dime....' and carrying nines (guns).
Another interesting aspect of the subject matter of ONE LOVE, is the third verse where Nas writes a letter about how his life as changed educationally. Nas tells his imprisoned mate that he dropped out of High School saying '....f*ck a school lecture....', feeling annoyed and vexed at the lies written in '....school text books....'. So Nas set off into the projects to educate himself about the streets. As it was written in the letter's song, he educates black men about the problems of dealing with crack (cocaine) and how it messes up family lives.
Furthermore, it should be noted, that while ONE LOVE is a highly original song, it is lacking considerably in street poetry. But as long as Nas' subject matter is tangible, this track is great from a lyrical standpoint and is ONE to capture the LOVE from Nas stans. In addition, ONE LOVE can easily be thought of as another classic telegram in the award-winning story of 'ILLMATIC'.
Production-wise, ONE LOVE is not particularly outstanding when I think about the groundbreaking, magical beats that I heard on the previous six tracks. According to the testament of Illmatic, Q-Tip (real name: Jonathan Davis) was the producer to bust the beat for ONE LOVE for a Tribe Called Quest, Inc. The beats that Q-Tip delivers are light on my eardrums, being composed of simplistic drum, light jazzy bass and gentle xylophone notes in the background. Q-Tip also provides his own chorus, directly speaking '....one love....' for more than eight times Whilst, I acknowledge the fact that the production is impressive to listen to, I personally think it is slightly overrated to be considered a classic beat.
To end the story of the seventh chapter, ONE LOVE was the fifth and last single that Nas released from 'LLMATIC'. The video for this track is partly in black and white and portrays a ghetto society of poor family ties.
Anyways boys and girls, ONE LOVE for each other brings our community closer together as the Queensbridge prophet teaches us in his written literature!
8. ONE TIME 4 YOUR MIND (3:18 min)
In the eighth chapter, Nas the poet continues his street chemistry with Large Professor, the old school rap producer. Based on my listening experience of ONE TIME 4 YOUR MIND, the Large Professor delivers another of his old school beats that is relaxing and slow moving. The instrumental is driven on slow percussion snares, single guitar flicks and bass lines playing faintly in the background. Large Professor's production for this track doesn't quite have the same impact as his other one for HALFTIME and the hook can get rather tiresome on my ears. Regardless of the dreary chorus that repeats '....one time 4 your mind, one time....' three times, I still find Large Professor's production pleasant enough to grab my attention.
Lyrically, ONE TIME 4 YOUR MIND is practically similar to HALFTIME, because Nas subject matter is based on braggadocio lyricism. In this context, Nas raps about his general status in life and all of his hobbies and interests to go with this. The level of poetry is not really profound on this track and Nas freestyles more than he did on HALFTIME and at a slower pace. With regards to the overall quality of Nas lyrics, this music track is not particularly ONE to blow MIND away on the first listen. However, Nas still throws in a highly impressive performance on his delivery as he flows perfectly over the laid-back beats crafted by Large Professor.
There is nothing else left on this track that is refreshing for me to talk about in the eighth chapter. So I'll just skip through the pages of the 'ILLMATIC' book to reach the ninth chapter for the benefit of you loyal Dooyoo readers.
As our prophet taught us.... ONE TIME 4 YOUR MIND, one time!
9. REPRESENT (4:12 min)
And so the legendary story of Nas' rap album still proceeds as I enter the ninth chapter to comment on a track named REPRESENT. Nas and Primo get together one last time in the brilliant story line of 'ILLMATIC' like Laurel and Hardy to make another classic song that showcases their chemistry. The results of Nas' workmanship with DJ Premier were truly astounding....
On this track, the subject matter that Nas aims to REPRESENT is quite similar to N.Y. STATE OF MIND but he presents a different twist to his rhymes. The same applies to the delivery and flow where Nas varies this over DJ Premier's beats. On REPRESENT, Nas adopts the character of a poet filled with emotion as to spits a story of all the dangerous events he has visualised with passion. The street poet also throws small dosages of harsh braggadocio about himself into his verses and his execution of street poetry is built on aggression. The first two verses appear to carry the highest level of harsh poetry as Nas stesses he is '....a rebel of the street corner....' and how he's '....not your legal type of fella....'
The production that DJ Premier delivers is a fantastic, entertaining piece of music to me. Although I do not consider it to be the best that he offers for his Works of Mart (I've heard a lot of better Primo beats), it REPRESENTS what real Hip Hop should sound like. Being driven on a fast-moving collection of sparkling piano keys and crisp drum snares, Primo's instrumental is magnificent enough to provide an animated feel to the atmosphere.
10. IT AIN'T HARD TO TELL (3:22 min)
At last I arrive at the last chapter of Nas' book of rhymes.... or let's say tenth chapter of this legendary rap album.
IT AIN'T HARD TO TELL was the second single to be released from 'ILLMATIC'. The video displays Nas rapping within a run-down environment, painted in graffiti and is a testament to the underground feel of the music track.
As I heard the underground, jazzy vibe of the beats, it was not too HARD for me TO TELL that Large Professor produced this wonderful track. What I found especially interesting about the innovation of Large Professor's production scheme, was the idea of sampling one of Michael jackson's records. In this context, the Large Professor extracts some bass lines from Michael Jackson's Human Nature, a 1983 song and combines it with cornets or jazzy saxophones.
As usual, Nas comes correct on his delivery of multi-syllable and polysyllable rhyme scheme, using AMAZING poetry to brag about his talents as a lyricist. Thus, as it was written in the final chapter, Nas is '_....half man, half amazing....'.
Due to Nas' spectacular performance, IT AIN'T HARD TO TELL this track is practically magnificent.
The full story of this AMAZING rap album now ends gracefully as I close the book of 'ILLMATIC'. With all the feeling of sanity I gained from listening to the prophecy in Nas' sensational poetry, IT AIN'T HARD TO TELL, Illmatic is magic and majestic!
'ILLMATIC' is not just a rap album, it is a musical creation of real life messages and relevant themes of production that anyone can relate to. Supplying everything from socially conscious lyrics to splendid instrumentals, Nas 'ILLMATIC' album will suit the CD collection of even fans of meaningful indie, pop or rock music. Not just fans of Hip Hop.
A few people may argue that Nas' lyricism on some tracks like HALFTIME and REPRESENT portrays an immature side to Nas' street-wise character. Nevertheless, the divine rapping skills that makes Nas the King of poetry and multi-syllables, compensates for his relative immaturity.
To end the conclusion to the story line of 'ILLMATIC', my prognosis is that this album will continue to remain the best record in Nas' legacy.
FOR THE RECORD
I purchased this album for £10.99 at HMV handing over 10 gold Egyptian coins and 99 copper coins moulded by the Romans.
For a much cheaper option, go to Amazon.co.uk and order the 'ILLMATIC' for £4.21. As Nas the poet relaxes in his study, sending enveloped letters of poetry, his messages need to be heard. Peace
Best beats: N.Y. STATE OF MIND, THE WORLD IS YOURS, HALFTIME, MEMORY LANE (SITTIN IN DA PARK)
Worst beats: ONE LOVE
Best Video: THE WORLD IS YOURS
Worst Video: None
Overall rating for album: 10/10
Total marks = 88, 9 music tracks * 10 = 90
88/90 = 9.9/10 = 10/10 = 5/5 = 5
Well well well, how the hell do you review the album that most true purest hip hop fans percieve to be the greatest album of all time lol, no review can do this album justice but ima just break down the songs of this short 10 song classic 5 mic album of perfection nevertheless.
1 - The Genesis
A classic intro track that any real hip hop head should instantly recognise as a sample from the critically acclaimed 5 star film 'wilstyle', a film that perfectly documents the growth and roots of hip hop culture, from its humble beginnings in the south Bronx New York city (including graffiti break dancing djing and rap). A short conversation from nas and one of his associates leads nicely into the opening track.
2 - N.Y State of Mind
A dark piano loop beat from the best hip hop producer of all time, DJ Premier, is the backdrop to this dark tale as Nas takes us on a trip through any random day in the dingy dark corners of New York projects (housing estates/ghettos). Displaying any random day in NY and the thoughts that travel through a young thugs head as he is perceiving all that is in front of his eyes. Though being a street poet himself Nas does this better than any emcee you've ever heard or experienced before, using razor sharp lyracism and vivid imagery with a flow as smooth as water, gained only by structuring the perfect rhyme schemes. One of the best hood story hip hop tracks ever made..
'Rappers I monkey flip em with the funky rhythm I be kickin
Musician, inflictin composition
of pain I'm like Scarface sniffin cocaine
Holdin a M-16, see with the pen I'm extreme, now
Bulletholes left in my peepholes
I'm suited up in street clothes
Hand me a nine and I'll defeat foes'
Perhaps my favourite line includes, ' Beyond the walls of intelligence, life is defined, i think of crime when i'm in a New York state of mind', simply for the fact that so many scientists and religious fanatics state that they know and understand the meaning of life, but really its not for us to understand, we're not suppose to, its 'BEYOND the walls of intelligence'.
3 - Life's a Bitch
L.E.S laces this song with a very 90's sounding beat which turns out to be the perfect rhythm for a verse from (unknown talented Brooklyn emcee) AZ, who explodes onto the rap scene with this opening verse. The only featured artists on this classic lp (AZ) exposes his unique very strong NY accent as the duo talk of their thoughts as young black men in the rough city and display a mind frame that has overcome all other thoughts, a mind frame that is needed to survive, 'i woke up early on my born day, i'm 20 its a blessing, the essence of adolensence leaves my body now i'm fresh n'...'
4 - The World is Yours
The now hugely famous producer Pete Rock provides the production side of things here, as Nas once again displays just how good a 17 year olds english skills can be, allowing us to delve deeply into his mind as he talks of the problems of 'the world today,' while expressing his street poet/inner city troubled thoughts to us, 'Born alone die alone, no crew to keep my crown or throne.'
5 - Halftime
The first time Large Professor features on this album, providing a funky trumpet filled beat. This joint is featured in the film 'Zebrahead' therefore making it Nas' first single. Nas takes us back to when he was too scared to rap in front of people, however he then proceeeds to tell us WITH EVIDENCE just how good he has become.
6 - Memory Lane (Sittin in Da Park)
Probably my favourite song of all time from any genre of music. The Dj Premier/Nas collabo can not be matched by any other duo, as premo (premier) provides another unique beat containing organ chords this time, 'I rap for listeners, blunt heads, fly ladies and prisoners
Henessey holders and old school ni**az, then I be dissin a...'
Nas' flow is so good and his multi syllabic worrds so profound and intelligent thats its hard for a hip hop head not to get excited listening to this song. Even the scratches in the track seem perfect, on beat, funky sounding as Nas tells us random events that take place on a daily basis in front of him, 'my window faces shootouts durg overdoses, live amongst no roses...'
whats more as the song would suggest we are taken on a trip down memory lane, being given all the details of things nas used to get up to, furthermore, what his neighbours, all 10,000 of them in Queensbridge projects, used to get into.
'Trifle on beats i decipher prophecies through a mic and say PEACE!!!'
This song exemplifies what it was to be 'comin outta Queensbridge' during the classic 90's hip hop scene.
7 - One Love
The concept to this song is very original as Nas rhymes through a letter he has written to his friend at Rikers Island (infamous NY prison). Though within this punchy song Nas makes reference to alot of slang and information that could only be understood from knowing the background knowledge, and if you do not know your NY emcee's (cormega) and Nas' situation, then you will struggle to understand the song and keep up with the story.
Nas is explaining to his friend how things have changed in Q.B (queensbridge), younger kids are holding guns, families messed up, and the mans girl has had his baby though is cheating on him while he is locked up. Although fictional this story perfecty displays the story of many young black living at the present time within NY, and what goes through their mind as they are living this like of peril and struggle.
'The streets have me stressed up and terrible'
'I be ghost (leave/disappear) form my projects, take my pen and pad for the weekend'.
8 - One Time For Your Mind
A laid back beat is the perfect setting for this funky song with a nice kick to go with Nas' lyracism stating things he, does, thinks, and see's on the reg, with the street fenesse and swagger every rapper has on their first album coming straight from the block.
9 - Represent
One of my favourite beats from the whole short album, presented to us by that man premo again.
This song is more up beat than most others on the album as Nas raises his street cred line by line, 'They call me Nas i'm not your legal type of fella, Moet drinkin marajuana smokin street dweller.'
As the song suggests, nas represents himself, friends and his deceased friend 'Ill Will' within this song.
10 - It Aint Hard To Tell
Large Professor surprised everyone here coming with the Michael Jackson sample, Nas rhymes how 'it aint hard to tell' he's born to be an emcee, 'my poerty's deep, i never thought nas' rap should be locked in a cell, it aint hard to tell'
'analyse me surprise me but can't magmatise me, scanning while your planning new ways to sabotage me.' 'grammatic explosion.'
What makes this album so special, is the fact that no, Nas is not as mature socially as he is today, he is a street kid (when this was written), but no one can deny, he is highly intelligent and few can match his english skills, being an A* student. So we gain the street stories through the mind of a thug though it is delivered in such as intelligent way that it is hard not to class this 10 track perfection as CLASSIC.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 N.Y. State of Mind
3 Life's a B****
4 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
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Life's a B**** [Remix]
2 World Is Yours [Remix]
3 One Love [Remix]
4 It Ain't Hard to Tell [Remix]
5 On the Real
6 Star Wars